7 Jun 2012

UN monitors ‘shot at’ in Syria

A new plan for addressing violence in Syria is to be considered by the UN on the day its monitors in Syria were shot at while trying to reach the site of the latest “massacre” near Hama.

With the six-point Annan peace plan now being declared “clinically dead” by diplomats around the world, the United Nations is believed to be considering establishing a new contact group, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and – controversially – Iran, in the hope of re-energising the search for an end to the ongoing violence in Syria.

Background briefings on Thursday indicated that the new contact group would aim to draw up a solution acceptable to Syria’s allies China and Russia – which have previoulsy vetoed United Nation Security Council resolutions – as well as the United States and Europe.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) the latest massacre of civilians was carried out at a farm by pro-regime militiamen armed with guns and knives, after regular troops had shelled the area.

UN monitors seeking to reach the site were shot at with small arms, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday. They were unable to reach the the village where the massacre was said to have happened, but a spokeswoman said they would try again the next day.

Speaking at the start of a special UN General Assembly session on the Syrian crisis, Mr Ban said the Syrian President had lost all legitimacy, adding:

“the trail of blood leads back to those responsible. Any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity”.

He condemned the reported massacre as “an unspeakable barbarity” and called again on President Assad to immediately implement international mediator Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.

Speaking at a conference in Istambul, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the latest reported killings as unconscionable and called on President Assad to hand over power and leave the country, saying “we are disgusted by what we see.” She told a press conference that the Assad regime should give way to a democratic government.

Read more: the failure of Annan's six-point plan for Syria

Deaths ‘include women and children’

Opposition activists said women and children were among the dead when al-Qubair came under heavy tank fire before militia moved in on the ground and shot and stabbed dozens of people to death.

“We have 100 deaths in the village of al-Qubair, among them 20 women and 20 children,” said Mohammed Sermini, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, who accused the regime of being behind the incident.

The local co-ordination committees (LCC), an activist network, counted 78 victims, 35 of whom were said to be from one family.

The Syrian state news agency quoted an official source in Hama describing the reports as “completely false”, saying security forces had intervened at the request of residents after a “terrorist group committed … a monstrous crime”, killing nine women and children.

Read more: Exclusive - Syrian doctors 'torturing' patients

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the “brutal and sickening” massacre of civilians in Syria and called for “concerted action” from the international community.

Elsewhere in Syria video has emerged (see below) on Al Arabiya of people in the town of Talbisah, north of Homs, being attacked from the air.

The footage shows a man shouting about one of the victims: “It’s a boy, it’s a boy.”