Xinhua – May 26, 2012
Top UN officials on Saturday strongly condemned the killing of more than 90 civilians in Syria, and stressed that those responsible for the deadly attack must be held accountable.
Observers from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) confirmed the killing after having viewed the bodies in the village of Houla near the central city of Homs, where they also confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighborhood.
“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,” said a statement issued here on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the joint special envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan.
“Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account,” the statement said.
General Robert Mood, the head of UNSMIS, issued a statement in Syria in which he said that UN observers went earlier Saturday to Houla, where they counted bodies of more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults who had been killed.
“The circumstances that led to these tragic killings are still unclear,” the statement said, adding that whoever is responsible should be held accountable.
“This indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is unacceptable and unforgivable. The killing of innocent children and civilians needs to stop,” the statement said.
Also on Saturday, Sarah Crowe, the spokesperson for the executive director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the UN agency is outraged at the latest killing of 32 children and the wounding of hundreds more.
“This outrageous crime against such young children who have no part in these battles points to a new urgency in finding solutions to the Syrian conflict,” Crowe said. “Such a massacre cannot go unpunished.”
“Our deepest condolences to the Syrian families who have suffered so much over the past 15 months of turmoil,” Crowe said.
The reported massacre took place just about one day after Ban wrote to the UN Security Council on Friday, saying that “established terrorist groups” may have been behind the recent bombings in Syria, where “the overall situation remains extremely serious.”
Ban made the statement in his 12-page letter to the president of the UN Security Council, Agshin Mehdiyev, Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN who holds the rotating council presidency for May. The UN Spokesperson’s Office said on Friday that the letter, which reported the latest situation in Syria, was distributed to all the 15 council members.
“There has been an increase in the number of bombings, most notably in Damascus, Hama, Aleppo, Idlib and Deir-Ez-Zor,” Ban said in the letter. “The sophistication and size of the bombs point to a high level of expertise which may indicate the involvement of established terrorist groups.”
“The (Syrian) government asserts that such groups are active in the country, as do some opposition groups. The al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for at least six of the recent bombings,” Ban said.
The recent attacks include the twin bombings in Damascus on May 10, when two vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices estimated to weigh over 1,000 kg each were detonated in proximity to government security installations.
Referring to the implementation of the six-point plan proposed by Annan, who negotiated a ceasefire in Syria in a bid to put an early end to the crisis that broke out in March 2011, Ban said: “The overall situation in Syria remains extremely serious and there has been only small progress on some issues.”
The six-point plan, which has been widely backed by the international community and accepted by the Syrian government, calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, a daily halt in fighting for the delivery of humanitarian aid and treatment for the wounded, as well as talks between the government and opposition.
In response to the deadly attack, all three officials, Ban, Annan and Mood, demand that the Syrian government immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers, and called on all parties to halt violence in all its forms.
Annan is contacting the Syrian authorities to convey the expectations of the international community, and he himself will also do so during his forthcoming visit to Syria.
The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began some 14 months ago.
The violence prompted the UN Security Council to establish UNSMIS, with up to 300 unarmed military observers, to monitor the cessation of violence and support the full implementation of the six-point plan.