United Nations monitors report that the Syrian army is preventing them from reaching the village of Qubair where the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported that at least78 civilians — some say as many as 100 including some 20 children and 20 women — have been massacred. If verified, this would be the fourth mass killing in Syria in less than two weeks.
General Robert Mood, the leader of the UN observer mission, says that army checkpoints and civilians have been blocking access to Qubair. The civilians are apparently pro-government armed militiamen known as the shabiha and have indicated that the safety of the observers could be at risk if they week to enter the village.
Syria’s government has denied any role in the killings, attributing them to a “terrorist group,” the phrase it has used throughout the uprising to ascribe the violence to. Over 15,000 have been killed since the uprising started in March of 2011, with an apparent upsurge in violence in the weeks since the UN observer team has been in Syria under the terms of a cease-fire negotiated by UN envoy Kofi Annan. At the end of last week, the rebel Free Syrian Army indicated that it would no longer honor the cease-fire unless the regime of President Bashar al-Assad ended violence.
Instead, with the reports about Qubair, the violence seems to have increased. Mousab al-Hamadee, an activist in Hama, has told Al Jazeera that the attacks in Qubair recall those committed last month in Houla. Syrian troops had first shelled the village then brutally slaughtered people with “most of victims … burnt in their houses, many of them were slaughtered by knives in a very ugly way.”
With what the Guardian calls a de facto civil war overtaking the country, Western and Arab leaders have been meeting in Istanbul to discuss the crisis. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton increased her criticism of Assad on Thursday and insisted that a “full transfer of power” occur. More than 55 countries are demanding Assad’s resignation but Russia and China, Syria’s allies, have continued to block any demands that Assad step down. Russia has proposed that an international conference on Syria must include another key ally of Damascus, Iran; British foreign minister William Hague stated that “the inclusion of Iran in any such group would probably render it unworkable.” A full meeting of the group the Friends of Syria is to occur in Paris on July 6.
Al Jazeera reports that Syrian opposition activists belonging to the Qatar-based Syrian National Council (SNC) have created a $300 million fund to support the rebels fighting the regime’s forces. Wael Merza, secretary-general of the FNC, says that half of the funds raised has been used.
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