UN Officials Finger Assad Thugs in Houla Massacre (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) By Gabe Kahn 05/29/12)
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UN human rights officials on Tuesday said most of the 108 victims of
a massacre in Syria last week were shot at close range “execution
The massacre on Friday in Houla – which included 34 women, 49
children, and in some cases entire families – generated new
international outrage after 14-months of bloodletting in Syria.
More than half a dozen countries – France, Britain, Germany, Italy,
Spain, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States – all
took action against Syrian diplomats in protest.
In most cases, Damascus´ envoys were given 48 hours to depart their
Russia has largely stood by Damascus and shielded it from
international action. However, Moscow is growing increasingly
critical — particularly over the Houla massacre.
On Tuesday, despite reports of a second massacre that left at least
41 dead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused unnamed
countries of trying to use the Houla killings "as a pretext for
taking military measures."
Lavrov´s comments seemed to be in reference that officials in
Washington are now mulling whether to begin arming the Free Syrian
Army rebels fighting Assad´s regime.
Western European nations, most notably France, have been lobbying for
the West to arm and train the poorly organized and equipped FSA – but
few want to go on record to say the UN-backed Annan plan is failing.
"We are at a tipping point," UN envoy Kofi Annan told reporters
Tuesday in Damascus, following a meeting with President Bashar Assad.
"The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and
division," he said, calling on the government and the armed
opposition to stop all violence.
The UN report on Houla was based on reports from International
observers and indicated most of the dead were "killed execution-
style, with fewer than 20 people cut down by regime shelling."
UN observers cited survivors and witnesses blaming the house-to-house
killings on pro-government thugs known as shabiha, who often operate
as hired enforcers for Assad´s regime.
Shahiba thugs are known to frequently work closely with soldiers and
security forces, but the regime never acknowledges their existence –
allowing it to deny responsibility for their actions.
"What is very clear is this was an absolutely abominable event that
took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it was
summary executions of civilians, women and children," Rupert
Colville, spokesman for the UN High commissioner for Human Rights,
"At this point, it looks like entire families were shot in their
houses," he added grimly.
Videos posted online by dissidents show explosions in Houla,
dismembered bodies lying in the streets, then row upon row of the
dead laid out before being buried in a mass grave.
The Syrian regime denies any role in the massacre, blaming the
killings on "armed terrorists" who attacked army positions in the
area and slaughtered innocent civilians.
Damascus has provided no evidence to support its claims, or provided
its own death toll. Such claims by Assad´s regime are widely
dismissed as propaganda both in Syria and abroad.
UN observers investigating the scene said they found tank and
artillery shells in Houla after the attack, but stopped short of
directly blaming regime forces for the killings.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Colville said information from UN
observers and other sources indicated that many of the victims were
killed in the Houla village of Taldaw in two separate incidents.
He said a fuller investigation was needed before he could comment on
that, and called on Syria to allow unrestricted access to UN
In March, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay went on record
after a series of massacres in Syria saying there was more than
enough evidence to hold Assad responsible for the killings – going so
far as to say “There is no statute of limitations, so people like him
can go on for a very long time but one day they will have to face
The brutality of the killings and the high death toll raised new
questions about the ability of a UN-brokered plan to end the violence
in Syria, which began in March 2011.
UN officials say at least 9,100 have been killed since Assad began
his brutal crackdown in March 2011, but admit they stopped counting
earlier this year due to the pervasive choas in Syria.
Local rights activists say at least 12,000 have been killed – most of
them civilians. At least 1,000 have been killed since the April
ceasefire deadline passed. (IsraelNationalNews © 2012 05/29/12)
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