Syrian army ‘massacres hundreds’ in Homs, activists say
DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) — Syrian security forces have killed more than 200 people in the city of Homs, opposition groups claimed on Saturday. The killings occurred on the thirtieth anniversary of the Hama massacre which left thousands killed.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said at least 260 civilians were killed over the past day after government forces bombarded the city. However, Syrian state-run media denied the accusations, saying the reports were part of a media campaign to cover “the crimes and aggressions of the armed terrorist groups in Syria.”
“During the attack, residential buildings and homes were randomly and heavily bombed,” the SNC said. An activist identified as Danny said the assault on Homs started after a few dozen members of the Syrian army defected and fled to a part of the city.
“The civilians went down to welcome (the defectors) to thank them for their bravery,” Danny said, as quoted by CNN. “When the army found out, it started randomly bombarding with tank shells, mortar bombs. It’s like they’re killing animals.”
For its part, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SABA) said the reports were part of “the ongoing distortion, falsification and instigation media campaigns by some satellite channels.” “Such campaigns are viewed by many observers and analysts as a sinister bid to negatively affect the ongoing UN Security Council discussions about Syria,” it added.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the “brutal killings” and urged the international community to protect the Syrian people. “Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity,” Obama said.
“Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now,” he added in a statement released by the White House. “He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the violence, adding that he was “horrified” at the reports. “I condemn unequivocally the use of tanks, mortars and artillery in civilian areas,” he said in a statement. “It is all the more chilling that these events occurred on the thirtieth anniversary of the Hama massacre, in which it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed.”
The UN Security Council on Saturday voted on a draft resolution to end the situation in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past 10 months in a government crackdown against a popular uprising. The resolution called for an immediate cessation of violence by all parties and progress towards national dialogue that leads to a peaceful political resolution of the crisis.
However, Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council and a trade partner with Syria, has been reluctant to sign on to any plan that could be seen as a mandate for regime change in Damascus. Russia, joined by China, have opposed previous draft resolutions on Syria and used its veto on Saturday, drawing worldwide condemnation.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russian TV that a “scandal” would arise at the UN Security Council if the draft resolution went for a vote on Saturday. Russia, which counts Syria as a major weapons client, has said it is concerned about the prospect of a Syrian civil war and does not want al-Assad pushed from power.
According to the most recent figures released by the United Nations in January, at least 5,400 people have been killed as a result of violence during the uprising. Syrian human rights and opposition activists say the figure has since surpassed 7,000 and includes hundreds of children.
The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that violent acts against protesters have been carried out by ‘terrorists dressed as soldiers,’ although international observers have rejected these claims. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad previously admitted that mistakes were made, but claimed protesters were no longer being targeted.