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U.N. observers in Syria visit scene of Houla ‘massacre:’ state media
Saturday, 26 May 2012
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES
A team of U.N. observers visited an area where Syrian government troops killed more than 90 people, including dozens of children, the official SANA news agency reported on Saturday as the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to consider a response to what it called a “massacre” committed by the regime forces.
The U.N. mission chief in Syria Major General Robert Mood condemned the “brutal tragedy” in Houla, where he said 92 bodies, including those of more than 32 children, had been counted.
Mood said he condemns “in the strongest possible terms the brutal tragedy” that took place in Houla, in central Homs, adding that U.N. monitors visited the area and counted 92 bodies, including “more than 32 under the age of 10.”
“Those using violence for their own agendas will create more instability, more unpredictability and may lead country to civil war,” Mood added in remarks to reporters in Damascus.
Britain said Saturday it was consulting urgently with its allies on “a strong international response.”
“We will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement after United Nations monitors confirmed reports of the killings in Houla.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.
The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of Houla were fleeing in fear of more shelling.
The reports of the carnage, which could not be confirmed independently, underlined how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria’s political opposition said Assad’s forces had killed “entire families” in Houla in addition to the shelling.
“The Syrian National Council (SNC) urges the U.N. Security Council to call for an emergency meeting ... and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings,” SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said.
Opposition activists said Syrian forces had opened fire with artillery on Friday after skirmishing with insurgents in Houla, a cluster of villages north of the city of Homs, itself battered by shelling.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence as a “massacre,” and said he wanted to arrange a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group that brings together Western and Arab countries keen to remove Assad.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has blamed the Syrian government for much of the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” occurring every day in violation of a U.N.-backed peace plan.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited the government’s continuing use of heavy weapons, reports of shelling and “a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by government forces and pro-government militias.”
Ban lamented that there has been only “small progress” on implementing the six-point plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Wednesday.
Ban called on the government to keep its pledge to immediately stop the violence, pull heavy weapons and troops out of populated areas, allow humanitarian workers to help needy civilians and end human rights abuses.