Saturday, May 26, 2012

Free Syrian Army abandons Annan's peace plan – report

The bodies of people whom anti-government protesters say were killed by government security forces lie on the ground in Huola (REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout)

Source: Russia Today

The Free Syrian Army has declared that it will no longer honor the UN-brokered ceasefire unless the Security Council takes urgent steps to protect civilians. Meanwhile, UN monitors have arrived in Houla to investigate a recent massacre.

“We announce that unless the UN Security Council takes urgent steps for the protection of civilians, Annan's plan is going to go to hell," a statement by the FSA said, as cited by AFP.

The announcement comes after the deadliest act of violence since the implementation of the UN peace plan in Syria.

At least 90 people, including dozens of children, were killed in the city of Houla on Friday night. Some reports put the number of dead at more than 110, saying that at least 50 of them were children.

A team of UN observers that arrived in Houla to investigate the killings have confirmed at least 90 casualties, including 32 children under the age of 10 and dozens of women. UN mission head Maj-Gen Robert Mood said the killing in Houla was "indiscriminate and unforgivable," and called on both government forces and the opposition to immediately stop the violence “in all its forms.”

Initially the massacre was reported by opposition activists, including the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who claimed that the city was shelled by government forces during an anti-regime demonstration. Reports also suggested that troops entered the city and butchered dozens of people.

Syrian state TV meanwhile reported that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups who exterminated several families in the Homs province.

They also burned several houses in order to push blame on the army, SANA news reported.

So far, there were no official statements blaming any particular party for the deadly attack.

Several amateur videos posted on YouTube show dozens of bodies, including many children, crippled by shrapnel. The videos were widely distributed by the media, but the source of the footage could not be independently verified.

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on May 25, 2012, allegedly shows the bodies of Syrian children who were killed in a deadly shelling by regime forces in Houla in the central province of Homs.(AFP Photo/YouTube)

International condemnation

Although there was no confirmation of the Syrian government's involvement in the attack, international media and world leaders rushed to accuse the Assad regime of being behind the bloodshed.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was the first to condemn the massacre, saying that "with these new crimes, this murderous regime pushes Syria further into horror and threatens regional stability." He also urged the Friends of Syria working group to immediately arrange a meeting on the issue in Paris.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague meanwhile is calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council. "There are credible and horrific reports that a large number of civilians have been massacred at the hands of Syrian forces in the town of Houla, including children," Hague said as cited by the BBC.

The Arab League also condemned the attack, with Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi urging the UN to take immediate steps to stop the killings being perpetrated by both armed gangs and army soldiers in Syria.

On May 25, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a report blaming the Assad government for the majority of the crimes in Syria, the magnitude of which he said have reached an “unacceptable level.” He added, however, that “significant parts of some cities appear to be under the de facto control of opposition elements,'' calling on all opposition members to also stop the violence and respect human rights

REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

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