Syria Slaughter Reports Fuel Outrage (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By SAM DAGHER And JOE LAURIA 06/08/12)
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Detailed reports of a door-to-door mass killing by pro-government
forces in the Syrian countryside emerged on Thursday as unarmed
United Nations monitors were blocked and then shot at trying to get
to the scene, fueling international condemnation of the government of
President Bashar al-Assad.
Reports by the Syrian opposition of the slaughter of at least 78
people, including women and children, in Qubair, a farming hamlet on
the outskirts of the embattled central city of Hama cast a chill on a
session of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to the Syrian conflict.
Syria´s government rejected the reports. The regime´s news agency
SANA, quoting a Hama official, said only nine people were killed in
Qubair after it was attacked by an "armed terrorist group" from a
Special envoy Kofi Annan expressed "horror and condemnation" at the
reports and said "we cannot allow mass killing to become part of
everyday reality in Syria."
The White House accused the Syrian government of orchestrating "the
outrageous targeted killings of civilians, including women and
children," and said the violence shows Mr. Assad "has no credibility
and only further underscores the illegitimate and immoral nature of
There were also unconfirmed activist reports of mass casualties
resulting from helicopter gunship attacks on the town of Heffe in the
western coastal province of Latakia.
Syria´s U.N. representative, Bashar al-Jaafari, denied the report
from Heffe, as well as that from Qubair. "This is exactly what
inciting media outlets now routinely broadcast ahead of Security
Council and General Assembly meetings," he said.
In echoes of the massacre of 108 people in Houla in western Syria two
weeks ago, activists said the victims in Qubair belonged to the
country´s Sunni Arab majority while the alleged perpetrators—
government special forces, pro-regime militants and residents of
surrounding villages—hailed from the ruling Alawite minority.
"These killings are indicative of a pattern of widespread and
systematic attacks against civilian populations and may amount to
crime[s] against humanity," U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for
Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told the General Assembly.
Both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Annan acknowledged the
failure of a six-point peace plan and urged the international
community to begin exploring other options.
Mr. Annan told the assembly that he met with Mr. Assad after the
Houla massacre and he told him to "radically change his military
posture" and implement the peace plan that he had agreed to. "Since
then, shelling of cities has intensified," Mr. Annan
said. "Government-backed militia seem to have free rein with
Mr. Annan is exploring an initiative that would include Assad allies
Russia and Iran in diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria,
which the U.N. says has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people.
Mr. Annan, after addressing the Security Council on Thursday,
publicly called for Iran´s participation. But U.S. Ambassador Susan
Rice rejected the idea. "I think Iran is part of the problem in
Syria," Ms. Rice said.
Also on Thursday, Russia rebuffed calls at the Security Council to
move on economic sanctions against Syria.
Reports from Qubair were pieced together through telephone interviews
with opposition members, residents and activists. Pro-regime
militants known as Shabiha, and residents from Alawite villages near
Hama arrived by bus at Qubair at around 2 p.m. Wednesday, accompanied
by a contingent of government soldiers in tanks and trucks equipped
with antiaircraft guns, the people said.
The village, with 140 inhabitants, was surrounded from three
directions, said Maher al-Nuaimi, a defected Syrian army officer who
is from the same area.
At first homes in the village were hit with shells and a barrage of
gunfire and then pro-regime militants went door to door shooting and
stabbing residents and setting some homes on fire, according to two
residents of the area. They gave a toll of 86 killed.
A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition´s Shaam News
Network shows Syrian rebels posing for a picture during the funeral
procession of a man killed in violence in Silkin in the northwestern
province of Idlib on Wednesday.
Mr. Nuaimi, who gave a toll of 78, said the pro-regime attackers
remained in the area until about 9 p.m. He said about 40 bodies,
mostly of men, were taken back to the nearby Alawite town of Asilah
SANA, the state news agency said residents called in security forces
to intervene after terrorists attacked the village, and when they
arrived they clashed with the attackers.
Annan Pursues Talks on Easing Assad Out
After the attackers left, inhabitants of nearby villages rushed in
and took out 17 bodies, including six that were badly charred, to a
mosque in the region, where they were filmed by local antiregime
The footage, posted on YouTube, couldn´t be independently verified.
It shows bodies of children and women lined up on a floor. Some are
covered in blankets while others are shrouded in white sheets for
burial in accordance with Muslim tradition.
"Is this child a terrorist or an Israeli agent?" asks a male voice on
the video as the camera pans on the body of a child.
—Carol E. Lee contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones &
Company, Inc.) 06/08/12)
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