Over 80 massacred in Syria
DPA BEIRUT MORE than 80 people, among them women and children, were killed late on Wednesday in what Syrian activists described as a”massacre” committed by the forces of president Bashar al Assad in the central province of Hama.
The massacre took place in the villages of al Qubair and Maarzaf, in Hama, where women and children were stabbed to death and at least 12 bodies had been burned, activists in the area reported.
Rami Abdel Rahaman, the spokesman of the Londonbased Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the “new massacre” was committed by the regime Shabibha, or thugs, after the area was heavily shelled during the day.
“I can confirm that there are dozens of people dead, including women and children,” Abdel Rahman said. Footage posted on opposition websites showed bodies of children burned beyond recognition inside their homes.
According to the Dubai-based al Arabiya channel, only four residents of al Qubair survived the massacre. The alleged killing comes two weeks after Syrian troops killed 108 Syrian civilians in the central village of Houla, sparking outrage among the international community and prompting many to expel Syrian diplomats from their countries to denounce the killings. It also came a day before international mediator Kofi Annan, was to address the UN General Assembly and the Security Council on the progress of his six-point peace plan in Syria.
The plan which calls for an immediate halt of violence has so far failed to achieve a ceasefire in the country. Hours before news of the massacre, activists reported that violence across the country has killed 42. The surge in violence came as Western and Arab ministers and high-level envoys from 15 countries as well as the European Union met late on Wednesday in Istanbul to provide support for the Syrian opposition.
The meeting, which was attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, discussed coordination on an “effective and credible transition process” to lead to a “democratic, post al Assad Syria.
“The conferees agreed to send a representative to Istanbul on June 15-16 to attend a meeting of Syrian opposition groups working on ousting al Assad.
Earlier, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for economic sanctions against the Syrian government to force al Assad to stop violence against the Syrian people.
“As friends of the Syrian people, our task is to impose maximum financial pressure on the Assad regime and its supporters, as quickly as we can and as effectively as we can, to stop their violence,”Geithner said during a meeting in Washington of the Friends of the Syrian People.
“Strong sanctions, effectively implemented and aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people ... and strong sanctions can help hasten the day the Assad regime relinquishes power.
“With about 60 countries in attendance, the international working group on Syrian sanctions called for the world to “increase pressure on the Assad regime” to comply with a UN-brokered peace plan, in a statement issued by the US Treasury Department. The group said the regime’s “ongoing brutality” was the greatest threat to the Syrian people.
They voiced “grave concern over the growing threat” to regional security and “deplored” countries that have given financial, diplomatic or military support to Damascus.
The US, European Union and Arab states have all imposed sanctions on Syria. But the sanctions have failed to stop the violence.Rebels fighting to overthrow al Assad said this week they were abandoning a ceasefire announced by international envoy Kofi Annan on April 12, blaming government forces for disregarding the truce despite the presence of UN observers.
Arab countries said on Tuesday they were losing hope that Annan’s plan would resolve the 15-month crisis.
“We have begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution ... within this framework,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal said late on Tuesday in the city of Jeddah.
He urged the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have vetoed Westernand Arab-backed efforts to condemn al Assad’s crackdown on the popular uprising, to apply Chapter 7 of the UNcharter to Annan’s plan.Such a move could lead to authorising the use of military force in Syria. That possibility was also raised by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle during a press conference in Abu Dhabi with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.
Russia, Syria’s main ally, said it would work with China to ensure Annan’s plan works.