Despite the presence of 271 United Nation monitors, despite a 6-point peace proposal negotiated by Kofi Annan on April 12, the violence in Syria has continued for 15 straight months. At least 90 civilians were killed in Homs on Friday when government forces shelled and attacked the town of Houla with mortars and machine guns. Al Jazeera also says that an entire family of six died when their house was shelled.
Activists say thirteen children were among those killed with the BBC’s Jim Muir describing an “unverifiable” video showing “the bloodstained and mangled bodies of many children huddled on a floor in the dark, with the commentator shouting that there were too many to count.” The video, which is here, is horrifying.
At least five people were killed in other parts of the country including Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, where at least 10,000 protested and were met with security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition into the crowd.
UN Secretary general Ban Ki-Moon blamed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” in Syria. In a letter to the UN Security Council issued on Friday, Ban said that, while the presence of the UN monitors on the ground seems to have a “calming effect,” Assad’s government must pledge immediately to stop the violence, withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas, allow humanitarian workers into the country and end human rights abuses. Ban said that there has been “small progress” in implementing Annan’s peace plan but “the overall level of violence in the country remains quite high” and thesituation “poses serious challenges” for the UN mission — whose leader, General Roger Mood, and his convoy narrowly missed being hit by a bomb last week.
In his letter, Ban also said that the “sophistication” of bombings earlier this month in Damascus suggested that they were the work of a terrorist group. The Syrian government has blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda. The explosions indeed occurred “amid mounting fears that the terrorist group was taking advantage of the conflict to gain a foothold,” says the BBC.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in the 15-month conflict whose effects on the region are becoming more apparent. The New York Times describes how Iran — aware that Assad, the leader of its ally and bridge to the rest of the Arab world, Syria, could fall — has undertaken an “ardent courtship” of the Lebanese government, by “financing public projects” including building “closer ties through cultural, military and economic agreements.”
Annan will be making a trip to Damascus early next week, according to diplomats in Geneva. But as has been said too many times during the past year, this attempt to end the conflict and the violence seems too little and too, too late.
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Photo by Freedom House