Massive Explosion in Hama Threatens Syrian Ceasefire
As many as 70 people, many of them children, have been killed in the central city of Hama in Syria today in what is described as a “massive explosion.” Activists posted videos of bodies being pulled from the rubble and said that 13 children and 15 women had been killed, despite a ceasefire called for by an April 12 peace proposal negotiated by Kofi Annan, special envoy to the United Nations and the Arab League.
Syrian state TV has said that 16 people had died in a blast that occurred at a house that “armed terrorist groups” were using as a bomb factory. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said it was not sure what caused the blast; the opposition group, the Local Coordinating Committee, said that security forces had fired a rocket.
It is impossible to ascertain exactly what is going on now in Syria as the government bars foreign journalists from reporting from within the country. Videos have surfaced online not only of injured children in the hospital but a horrific one of a man, said to be a media activist, being buried alive by security forces, says the BBC. Residents in Hama describe people dying because the city lacks medical equipment and supplies.
Hama a Long-Time Center of Rebellion
Hama has been an epicenter of the uprising in Syria and a small team of U.N. observers has been there. The SOHR has asked the monitors to investigate the deadly explosion which indeed threatens Annan’s peace plan, says Al Jazeera‘s Rula Amin. Activists said that Syrian forces had shelled a different area of Hama two days ago and killed at least 20; 60 more were wounded.
30 years ago, Hafez al-Assad, the father of President Bashar al-Assad, suppressed an armed uprising in Hama by killing thousands — some say as many as 40,000 — and razing parts of Hama’s old city.
Red Crescent Worker Shot Dead
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed on Thursday that a volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had been shot dead and three workers wounded near Douma, a suburb of Damascus. Mohammed al-Khadraa was in a vehicle clearly marked as belonging to the Red Crescent when he was shot and killed on Tuesday.
France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppé, has demanded that the U.N. Security Council invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and consider military action in Syria if the violence continues. He also called for 300 more U.N. observers to be deployed in the next fifteen days. Annan is to give a report on the state of the ceasefire on May 5; Juppé says that this will be a “moment of truth” about the situation in Syria and whether the peace plan is working, or not.
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