An 11-year-old survivor of the Houla massacre has described how he survived by smearing himself with his dead brother’s blood and pretending to be dead. Six members of his family — his parents, siblings and an uncle — were shot by gunmen in his house early Saturday morning, says the Guardian:
“My mum yelled at them,” said the boy. “She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’ A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.
“They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I’m dead.”
The gunman then looted the family’s possessions, taking televisions and a computer.
A town elder from the Syrian National Council is now caring for the boy and put him in touch with the Guardian. The boy stated that the gunman were al-Shabiha, the militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime; he was reportedly “calm and detached until he was pressed” about how he knew the identity of the gunmen.
Houla has been a stronghold of the rebel Free Syrian Army and army defectors have returned to their families there, says the Guardian.
While the UN itself has said the Syrian government is responsible for the massacre and that 85 people in Houla were “summarily executed, Assad’s regime has denied this and, following its standard line throughout the 15-month uprising, has insisted that “terrorists” are to blame. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also reported that, based on reports from the 271 UN monitors in Syria, fewer than 20 of the 110 killed in Houla were shot by artillery and that whole families had been shot inside their own homes.
Kofi Annan, special envoy to the United Nations and the Arab League, arrived in Damascus on Monday and said that he was “shocked and horrified by the tragic incident.” He is meeting with Assad on Tuesday. Annan’s spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, said that he had emphasized the “grave concern of the international community about the violence in Syria” and “conveyed in frank terms his view to President Assad that the six point plan cannot succeed without bold steps to stop the violence and release detainees, and stressed the importance of full implementation of the plan.”
Annan is apparently seeking to salvage what he can of the peace plan, which had called for a ceasefire between Assad’s regime and the armed opposition. As Al Jazeera says, that ceasefire seems to have broken down.
Should the US consider military action in Syria, as Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has said should be considered? Writing in The Atlantic, James Traub says that “in recent weeks, Assad had made Annan look like a naïve devotee of peace-at-any-price by first accepting the plannd then systematically trampling on its terms.” But when, asks Traub — citing the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995 and the genocide in Rwanda – ”do the risks of action become greater than the risks of inaction?” When does the world acknowledge that diplomacy, having been given more than a few chances, has failed in Syria?
The US, Canada, Germany, France, the UK and other countries are all expelling Syrian diplomats and/or ambassadors, in protest at the Houla massacre, a sign that Western nations are reckoning up how much, or how little, diplomacy has been able to do.
32 people have been killed so far today in Syria: One woman, five members of the Free Syrian Army and five children — five more children.
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Photo by Freedom House2