UN observers warn of Syria civil war after massacre

The head of a UN mission warned on Saturday of "civil war" in Syria after his observers counted more than 92 bodies, 32 of them children, in the central town of Houla following reports of a massacre there.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined a chorus of international condemnation amid mounting calls for world action to halt the bloodshed.

The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it was no longer committed to the UN-backed peace plan for Syria unless there was prompt UN intervention to protect civilians, and called for air strikes against regime forces.

UN head of mission Major General Robert Mood called what happened in Houla a "brutal tragedy."

"This morning UN military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children and over 60 adults killed," Mood told reporters in Damascus. A monitoring group said 114 people had been killed in Houla.

"Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible," Mood said.

"Those using violence for their own agendas will create more instability, more unpredictability and may lead the country to civil war," he added.

Ban and Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy who brokered a truce which has been flouted daily since it came into effect April 12, said the massacre is a "brutal" breach of international law.

"This appalling and brutal crime, involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, is a flagrant violation of international law," a UN spokesman quoted Ban and Annan as saying.

Condemnation also poured from Britain, France and Germany, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was making "immediate arrangements" for a meeting of the Friends of Syria group.

His British counterpart William Hague said "we will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "shocked and horrified" by the killings.

Mood confirmed that artillery and tanks had pounded Houla and called "on the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons and to all parties to cease violence in all its forms."

"Fighting in one of Houla's residential neighbourhoods started during the night. The circumstances that led to these tragic killings are still unclear," he said, adding that UN observers were investigating the deaths.

"As we speak now, I have other teams on the ground in Houla trying to establish more of the facts."

Amateur videos posted on YouTube showed horrifying images of dead children, with at least one child's head partly blown away.

The massacre will heighten the importance of a trip Annan is to make to Syria "soon," his spokesman said, while the Security Council is due to discuss Syria on Wednesday.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan called for an urgent Arab League meeting, saying the "massacre shows the failure of Arab and international efforts to stop the violence against civilians in Syria."

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member, urged the international community to "assume its responsibilities" to end the bloodshed.

-- Annan peace plan going to 'hell'--

--------------------------------------

An FSA statement said it could no longer commit to the ceasefire, saying that unless the Security Council takes urgent steps to protect civilians, "Annan's plan is going to go to hell."

Earlier the head of the FSA's military council, Turkey-based General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, urged the Friends of Syria nations to launch air strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Targeted strikes would be the "appropriate stance after the heinous crime committed by Assad's assassin regime in the Houla region," he said.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) demanded prompt UN Security Council action.

The Britain-based Observatory said the shelling of Houla began at around midday on Friday and continued until dawn on Saturday, and said 114 people were killed.

SNC spokeswoman Basma Kodmani said "some of the victims were hit by heavy artillery while others, entire families, were massacred."

"The Syrian National Council urges the UN Security Council to call for an emergency meeting to examine the situation in Houla and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in face of such mass killings, expulsions and forced migration from entire neighbourhoods."

State news agency SANA blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the killings, adding that "clashes led to the killing of several terrorists and the martyrdom of several members of the special forces."

Killings in Houla and elsewhere are taking place "under the eyes of the UN observers," the FSA said, urging the international community to "announce the failure of the Annan plan."

The UN-backed peace plan included the ceasefire that technically began on April 12, but the truce has been breached daily, with the Observatory saying nearly 1,500 people have been killed since April 12.

"Annan is singlehandedly responsible for the Houla massacre," read a sign held by a protester in the northwestern Idlib province town of Kfarnabel on Saturday.

A UN statement said Annan will convey to Damascus "in the clearest terms the expectations of the international community, and he will also do so during his forthcoming visit to Syria."

Regime forces also pounded rebel positions in Homs province on Saturday while helicopter gunships strafed rebels near the Turkish border, said the Observatory which reported 18 deaths elsewhere, including 13 civilians.

The Observatory says more than 12,600 people have been killed since the uprising demanding reforms and regime change began in March last year.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • 8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study
    8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study

    Eight of 10 world cities most exposed to natural hazards are in the Philippines and more than half of the 100 cities most exposed to earthquakes, storms and other disasters are in four Asian nations, according to a research. The study, published on Wednesday by risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, analyzed the threat posed by storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, volcanoes and landslides in more than 1,300 cities. The study found that the 10 cities most at risk are Port Vila in …

  • Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl
    Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found the Japanese Navy’s biggest warship at the bottom of the sea in the Philippines, 70 years after US forces sank it. Allen posted a photo on Twitter on Tuesday of the World War II battleship Musashi’s rusty bow, which bore the Japanese empire’s Chrysanthemum seal. The American billionaire, who has also pursued space exploration, said his luxury yacht and exploration ship, the M/Y Octopus, found the Musashi one kilometer (1.6 miles) deep on the …

  • Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile
    Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes granting Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile house arrest, while former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains under hospital detention, will violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. “That’s already a violation of the equal protection of the law,” she said. …

  • UNA hits PNP selection process
    UNA hits PNP selection process

    The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) hit yesterday the apparent machinations in the selection of the new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief. Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA interim president, said the administration and the ruling Liberal Party (LP) are perpetuating the bata-bata or patronage system in the selection process of the police chief. “They will start this by maneuvering the appointment of Gen. Garbo as PNP chief,” said Tiangco, referring to one of the top contenders for PNP …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • Pacquiao: Mayweather is the fight of my life
    Pacquiao: Mayweather is the fight of my life

    Manny Pacquiao called his boxing showdown with Floyd Mayweather “the fight of my life” as he got down to work pounding the streets and gym in Los Angeles. On Monday, Pacquiao ran two miles (3.2 km) and shadow-boxed for two rounds, followed by abdominal work and breakfast of steamed rice, scrambled egg, fish and chicken broth. Then he napped until noon and had lunch before heading to trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, which is strictly off-limits to fans and media during Pacquiao’s …

  • An ocean away, Pacquiao's trainer makes some noise from afar
    An ocean away, Pacquiao's trainer makes some noise from afar

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Armed guards patrolling the gym where Manny Pacquiao trains. Stealthy attempts to disrupt Pacquiao's sparring. And a bit of trash talking just to spice things up two months before the big fight. …

  • Ex-crew recognizes photos of sunken Japanese battleship
    Ex-crew recognizes photos of sunken Japanese battleship

    TOKYO (AP) — A former crewmember on a Japanese battleship that sank during World War II said Thursday he recognized photos of wreckage discovered this week off the Philippines by a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options