The horror in Syria grows. Yesterday, it was reported that thirteen children were killed in an attack on the rebel-controlled town of Houma in the central province of Homs. On Saturday, United Nations officials confirmed that at least 32 children under 10 years old had been killed. Amateur video footage shows rows of children — some toddler age if not younger — with what looks like bullet holes in their temples.
The UN specifically cited the Syrian government as to blame for an “appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force” that 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.”
Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, and Kofi Annan, special envoy to the UN and the Arab League, issued a joint statement condemning the attack which the New York Times says “appeared among the worst episodes of carnage since the uprising began 15 months ago.” UN observers visited Houma and confirmed that “artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighborhood.” The UN called for the Syrian government to immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and for all sides to end the violence.
Ahmad Fawzi, Annan’s spokesman, put the death toll at around 100 including a total of 50 children and UN observers said more than 300 had been wounded. As the New York Times commented, the UN statement “stopped short of accusing the government of responsibility for the entire toll.”
The Syrian government said that “terrorists” — the same term it has used throughout the 15-month uprising in regard to the violence — had caused the mass slaughter. The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) declared that it would no longer be committed to the UN truce which it said has prolonged the crisis and “merely [bought] time for the government to kill civilians and destroy cities and villages.”
The White House described the brutal killings as a “vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality.” The massacre has brought even more into question how effective, or rather ineffective, the truce and the presence of the 271 UN monitors are. As Fadi, a 25-year-old protester in Qaddam, a southern district of Damascus, said to the New York Times:
The regime kills thousands of Syrian citizens, and Annan’s monitors are watching and writing the number of killed people as if they were game scores.
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