Sunday 27 May 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Syrian forces bus bombed in Reef Dimashq

Reef dimashq province: Several Syrian troops were killed, and many injured, when an explosive device targeted their bus in the Sayyid Zaynab neighbourhood of Ma’adamiya, heavy gunfire followed. Loud explosions were heard in the city of Dareyya tonight, followed by gunfire. An explosion was also heard in Douma.

Hasakeh province: The body of a Kurdish activist from Deireik was found after weeks of his forced disappearance.


Hama province: The number of those killed in the recent brutality in the city of Hama has risen to 28: 7 of them children under the age of 16, 5 women, and four defected soldiers. They were all gunned down by syrian regular forces automatics or heavy machine-guns or killed by the mortars dropping on the areas of Msha’ Alfrousieh, Msha’ Jnoob Almala’b, Msha’ Alarb’een and Gharb Almashtal. It is likely that several others will die since many of the 150 injured are in a severe condition.

This raises the total number of people killed in the province, and documented by SOHR in name and cause of death, to 33.


Hama Province: More than 150 civilians were wounded, some of them at serious risk, as a result of shots from heavy machine-guns, bombardments and gun fire by regime forces in the neighbourhoods of Masha’ Al-Frousieh, Masha’ Jnoob Almala’b, Msha’ Alarb’een and Ghard Almashtal. Information was also received about the deaths of nine civilians in the neighborhood of Jnoob Almala’b, their names haven’t been documented yet.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  22:23 Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations cast doubt Sunday on the culpability of Syria’s government for a massacre of more than 100 people in the central town of Houla.
 21:56 UN chief observer in Syria Major General Robert Mood said on Sunday that there were 116 dead and 300 hurt in Syria’s Houla.
 20:42 Britain will lean on Russia to get Syria to implement the Annan peace plan and will consider other measures to stop the violence if the proposals fail, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday.
 20:00 The UN Security Council will on Sunday hold a meeting on Syria, AFP reported diplomats as saying.
 19:28 Russia blocked a UN condemnation of the Friday massacre in Syria’s Houla, AFP reported diplomats as saying Sunday.
 17:52 Syrian opposition head Burhan Ghalioun called on Sunday for a “battle of liberation” against the regime until the United Nations takes action under Chapter Seven which allows military intervention.
 17:44 The Syrian army on Sunday opened fire to prevent monitors from visiting houses in Houla, which were part of the Friday massacre, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 14:44 More than 13,000 have been killed in Syria since the start of uprising, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
 14:34 Syrian security forces killed four people in Damascus’ Nahr Aysha, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:45 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Syria on Monday, AFP cited the Syrian Foreign Ministry.
 13:51 The Syrian army raided the Edleb village of Balshun and burnt several houses, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 13:33 The Syrian army raided the Damascus town of Baraza and conducted several arrests, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 13:33 Britain is to haul in Syria’s top diplomat in London following the killing of 92 people – a third of them children – in the shelling of the town of Houla, the Foreign Office said Sunday.
 12:38 The Syrian government is “not at all” responsible for the massacre of at least 92 people in the central town of Houla which has sparked an international outcry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad al-Makdissi told a news conference Sunday.
 11:20 Iraqi security forces were on high alert for several hours until Sunday morning following clashes between the Syrian army and rebel forces near the border, officers said.
 10:37 The Syrian forces attacked the neighborhood of Al-Nasriya in the Homs town of Houla, and have reportedly burnt several houses, activists told Al-Arabiya.
 10:14 The administration of President Barack Obama is considering working with Russia on a plan calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in Yemen, The New York Times reported Sunday.
 9:00 Arab League foreign ministers are to hold an emergency meeting on a massacre in Syria in which UN observers say government forces killed 92 people, the bloc’s current president Kuwait said on Sunday.
 7:44 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday condemnedthe “atrocity” of the deaths of 92 people in the Syrian town of Houla, joining global calls for world action to end the bloodshed.

Reuters: U.N. Security council meets to discuss Syria massacre

The U.N. Security Council met on Sunday to discuss the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla, a sign of mounting outrage at the massacre that the government and rebels blamed on each other.

Images of bloodied and lifeless young bodies, lain carefully side by side after the onslaught on Friday, triggered shock around the world and underlined the failure of a six-week-old U.N. ceasefire plan to stop the violence.

Western and Arab states opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put the blame for the deaths squarely on the government.

Russia, which along with China, has vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for tougher action, said the “tragic” events in Syria deserve condemnation and called for a U.N. assessment of the violence there.

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexander Pankin told reporters Moscow was skeptical about suggestions that the Syrian government was behind the massacre, saying it appeared most of the victims were killed with knives or shot at point-blank range.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant disagreed.

“It seems quite clear that the massacre in Houla was caused by heavy bombardment, by government artillery and tanks,” Lyall Grant said.

The United Nations believes that at least 108 people were killed, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.

Moscow rejected a British and French proposal for a Security Council statement on the Houla massacre on Saturday, demanding a briefing from the head of the U.N. observer mission, General Robert Mood, first.

Security Council diplomats said on Sunday they hoped to agree on some kind of condemnation of the massacre, though Russia was clearly at odds with the Western powers regarding who was to blame.

In his public comments so far, Mood called the killings “a very tragical expression” of the situation in Syria, but refrained from apportioning blame.

“For myself, I have had patrols on the ground all the day yesterday afternoon and today we are gathering facts on the ground and then we will draw our own conclusions,” Mood told the BBC in a telephone interview on Sunday.

“The sight like the one that now has been played out in Houla, it hits the stomach, it’s really an attack on the future of the Syrian people. There are still those in Syria who believe the use of violence and quite deplorable use of violence serves their own self-interest,” Mood said.

The U.N. observers confirmed the use of artillery, which only Assad’s forces have, but did not say how all the victims died.

Syrian authorities blamed “terrorists” for the massacre, among the worst carnage in the 14-month-old uprising against Assad, which has cost about 10,000 lives.

“Women, children and old men were shot dead. This is not the hallmark of the heroic Syrian army,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told reporters in Damascus.


But U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of using artillery in populated areas.

“This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms,” they said in a joint statement on Saturday.

Annan’s views and the briefing by Mood are likely to be very influential at the Security Council.

Opposition activists said Assad’s forces shelled Houla after a protest and then clashed with fighters from the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency.

Activists say Assad’s “shabbiha” militia, loyal to an establishment dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect, then hacked dozens of the victims to death, or shot them.

Maysara al-Hilawi said he saw the bodies of six children and their parents in a ransacked house in the town.

“The Abdelrazzak family house was the first one I entered. The children’s corpses were piled on top of each other, either with their throats cut or shot at close range,” Hilawi, an opposition activist, said by telephone from the area.

A video distributed by activists showed an injured woman, who said she had survived the massacre, blaming shabbiha militiamen for the carnage.

“They entered our homes … men wearing fatigues herding us like sheep in the room and started spraying bullets at us,” the woman said. “My father died and my brother, my mother’s only son. Seven sisters were killed,” the woman said lying next to another injured woman and near a baby with a chest wound.

The White House said it was horrified by credible reports of brutal attacks on women and children in Houla.

“These acts serve as a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality,” a White House spokesman said.

The Gulf Cooperation Council of Sunni-led monarchies accused Assad’s soldiers of using excessive force and urged the international community to “assume its responsibilities to halt the daily bloodshed in Syria.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton spoke of a “heinous act perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its own civilian population” in a statement on Sunday. The head of the European parliament said it could amount to a war crime.

On Sunday, at least 30 people were killed when Syrian army tanks shelled residential neighborhoods in the city of Hama that have been serving as bases for rebel attacks against loyalist forces, opposition activists said. The reports could not be verified independently.

Although the ceasefire plan negotiated by Annan has failed to stop the violence, the United Nations is nearing full deployment of a 300-strong unarmed observer force meant to monitor a truce.

The plan calls for a truce, withdrawal of troops from cities and dialogue between government and opposition.

Syria calls the revolt a “terrorist” conspiracy run from abroad, a veiled reference to Sunni Muslim Gulf powers that want to see weapons provided to the insurgents.

The United Nations has accused Assad’s forces and insurgents alike of grave human rights abuses, including summary executions and torture.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Avril Ormsby in London and Dubai Bureau; Writing by Matthew Tostevin and Jon Hemming; Editing by Louise Ireland and Eric Beech)

The U.N. Security Council on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for heavy-weapons attacks on the town of Houla, the site of a massacre of at least 108 people, including many children, the council president said.

“The Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of (Houla), near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood,” the non-binding statement said.

“The Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse,” said the statement, which was read out after the council’s three-hour emergency meeting by Azerbaijan’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Tofig Musayev.

“Such outrageous use of force against civilian population constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government under United Nations Security Council Resolutions,” the statement said.

BBC:Syria massacre: UK’s William Hague sickened by child deaths – BBC

Foreign Secretary William Hague summons the top Syrian diplomat in the UK to the Foreign Office, as pressure is 27 May 2012 Last updated at 13:17 ET

BBC News – Syria massacre: UK ‘no right’ to ban

Syrian officials say the UK government “has no right” to deny their athletes access to the London 2012 Olympic games. 27 May 2012 Last updated at 17:00 ET 

A Syrian official has said the UK “has no right” to deny their athletes access to the London 2012 Olympic games.

Mowaffak Joma, chairman of the Syrian Olympic committee, said the Olympic charter forbids host countries from banning athletes.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg has said Syrian delegation members with connections to the regime will be denied entry.

His comments came after Syria denied any involvement in the massacre of 108 civilians in Houla.

The United Nations (UN) say 32 of those killed, allegedly during and after clashes between Syrian security forces and “armed terrorists”, were children under 10 years old.

‘All support Assad’

Mr Joma told the BBC that “the authority of any host country is limited to organising and offering all necessary facilities to all participating athletes.

“If the British government has decided to ban anyone connected to the regime and to President Bashar-al Assad, I am telling you in advance they should ban all Syrian citizens, because we all support President Assad and support Syria.”

The Syrian official added that it had been agreed with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) two weeks ago during a meeting in Russia that Syrian athletes would compete under the country’s official flag of state, and not of the opposition and its army.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Clegg said that, in reference to the Syrian Olympic delegation, “as a government we have recently changed the rules about who we allow into this country and who we refuse entry to.

“If there is evidence that you have abused human rights and that is independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country.

“What I cannot do… sitting here is [provide] a list of the individuals to come, and are they coming as per the arrangements with the IOC.”

Speaking ahead of a flight to Moscow for talks with the Russian foreign minister, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all applications to come to the UK – whether during the Olympics or not – will be looked at “rigorously and vigorously”.

He added: “We have already made it clear that if people try to come in where there is information linking them to serious human rights abuses, then we have the power to prevent them coming into the country.

“We do have the power to prevent them entering the UK, even when the Olympics is on.”