Saturday 26 May 2012

Syria: Houla children slain, Ban whines, Moscow ferrying arms

Slain children and woman (right) in Houla
The opposition Syrian National Council declared three days of national mourning and urged the UN Security Council to take deterrent measures against the Syrian regime under Chapter VII in reaction to a horrific massacre in the Homs suburb of Houla.
At least 88 people were killed in Friday’s outrage, almost 50 of them women and children.

BREAKING NEWS: UN mission chief General Robert Mood said in a statement the monitors had counted more than 92 bodies in Houla, and called the incident a "brutal tragedy." The statement said, 

"This morning UN military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children and over 60 adults killed."

The SNC “called on the Free Syrian Army to prevent regime militias from reaching civilian areas by blockading roads by all possible means.” It also pushed for an urgent Arab League Ministerial Council meeting to cut all residual diplomatic and economic ties with Damascus.
The SNC said some 300 were wounded in Houla, as government forces shelled and attacked the town. It said some victims were killed by mortar shelling, while knives slaughtered others.
It reported on its website Houla “was shelled for 12 consecutive hours. The shelling was followed by a massacre carried out by shabiha thugs and regime mercenaries… (who) slaughtered women and children. Some families were able to escape with the help of activists, while the fate of other families remains unknown.“
The SNC’s acting-president Burhan Ghalioun told reporters, "What happened in Houla is a systematic crime intended to stoke sectarian fires in the country. UN envoy Kofi Annan must head to Houla as soon as he arrives in Syria so he can witness firsthand what happened there. He said, "I told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the monitors I spoke to that Kofi Annan cannot continue his mission after the massacres that have taken place, as he visits Damascus without batting an eyelash."
The army and security forces killed at least 20 other civilians elsewhere in Syria after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers.
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon warned Friday the risk of all-out conflict was growing in Syria where groups fighting President Bashar Assad now control "significant parts of some cities.”
"There is a continuing crisis on the ground, characterized by regular violence, deteriorating humanitarian conditions, human rights violations and continued political confrontation," he said in his 13-page report dated Friday, which is to be debated by the UN Security Council next week.
He said UN monitors noted “continued Syrian army troops concentrations and heavy weapons in population centers…
“There are continuing reports of a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by Government militias, including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearance and summary execution of activists, opponents, and defectors…
“There are continuing reports that thousands of Syrians are being detained in a network of Government-run facilities of different kinds… The pace and scale of access to, and release, of detainees is unacceptable given the commitment of the Government…
“There has also been some, but not enough, improvement in entry and freedom of movement of journalists in Syria… However, the Government still requires that journalists seek specific permission in advance for in-country travel, which is often not forthcoming. They are often only permitted short stays that do not facilitate in-depth reporting…
Anti-Assad demonstrators in Binnish near Idlib yesterday
“The obligation of the Syrian government to respect the freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully is clearly not being observed… Credible information indicates that, after the observers left (the Aleppo University on 9 May 9, 2012, Government and irregular elements fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air, raided the campus and killed between two and five students in addition to arresting up to 200….
“While demonstrations are carried out in many other parts of the country, many have reportedly been broken up with the use of live ammunition and lethal force, and arbitrary arrests of protesters. It is clear that the broad context of intimidation and human rights violations does not constitute an environment in which citizens can express their opinions or demonstrate freely…
“Most elements of the (Annan) six-point proposal have yet to be implemented.”
Ban said UN efforts to end the conflict had seen only "small progress", adding that the "overall situation in Syria remains extremely serious".
"Professor Katsman" is said to be carrying Russian weapons to Tartus
On the day Ban also urged Member States not to arm either side in the conflict, a Russian cargo ship loaded with weapons was reported to be en route to Syria and due to arrive at Tartus port this weekend.
One diplomat told Reuters a Maltese firm, which is owned by a Cypriot company that is owned by a Russian firm, owns the vessel, which is called “Professor Katsman.”