By Al Arabiya with Agencies
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday laid out arguments against a military intervention in Syria despite calls for the West to take action after last week’s massacre in the town of Houla.
Speaking to Danish students, Clinton got tough questions on what might motivate the United States and other nations to take military action in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is battling a 14-month-old anti-government uprising.
Friday’s massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of them children, in Houla has triggered calls for the West to take more robust action in Syria, despite Russian and Chinese opposition.
However, Clinton rehearsed U.S. arguments against armed intervention for now in contrast with Libya, where Western-led air strikes last year helped bring an end to Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.
Clinton said Syria had a more diverse society with greater ethnic divisions, no unified opposition, stronger air defenses and a much more capable military than Libya’s.
Above all, she stressed there was no international support because of Russian and Chinese opposition at the U.N. Security Council, where they have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria.
“A lot of people are trying to figure out what could be an effective intervention that wouldn’t cause more death and suffering,” she said, arguing Syria’s population density increased the odds of civilian casualties in any armed action.
“We are thinking about all of this. There’s all kinds of both civilian and humanitarian and military planning going on but the factors are just not there,” she said.
Clinton said she had not given up on the possibility of persuading Russia to support stronger action against the Assad government, saying she had made the case that the chances of a full-blown civil war were higher if the world failed to act.
“The dangers we face are terrible,” she said, saying the violence between government forces and pro-Assad militias against the opposition forces would turn into something much worse.
“(That) could morph into a civil war in a country that would be riven by sectarian divides, which could then morph into a proxy war in the region because remember you have Iran deeply embedded in Syria,” she said.
“We know it could actually get much worse than it is.”
Clinton criticized Russia’s resistance to U.N. action on Syria, warning that its policy could contribute to a civil war.
The Russians “are telling me they don’t want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war,” she told a mainly student audience on a visit to Copenhagen.
“We have to bring the Russians on board,” said Clinton, who is in Denmark on the first leg of a Scandinavian tour.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — International efforts to pressure Syria intensified on Monday, as the United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan began negotiations in the capital, Damascus, and the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that continued atrocities could make military intervention more likely.
By Al Arabiya With Agencies
The leaders of the Syrian regime will have to answer for their “murderous folly,” the French president’s office said Monday, adding that Paris will be hosting the next Friends of Syria meeting.
“The Houla massacre and the events of the these last days in Syria and in Lebanon illustrate, once more, the danger of Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s actions for the Syrian people,” said a statement.
“The murderous folly of the Damascus regime represents a threat for regional security and its leaders will have to answer for their acts,” it added.
France will host a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, the statement said, a day after President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks on the crisis.
The two leaders had agreed to work closely together to increase pressure on Assad, the statement said.
And Hollande will discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visits Paris on Friday, the statement added.
While Russia signed up to Sunday’s U.N. Security Council resolution, it has been condemned for having vetoed two rounds of sanctions against Assad’s regime and continues to supply arms to its Soviet-era ally.
On Sunday, the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the Syrian government for using artillery in the massacre at Houla, central Syria, where 49 of the victims were children.
Syria has denied any responsibility and said it will launch an investigation into the carnage that took place on Friday and Saturday.
The statement from the French president’s office did not say when the Friends of Syria meeting would take place.
The United States, France, Britain, Germany, and Arab nations Saudi Arabia and Qatar are leading members of the Friends, which has held several meetings calling for tougher action against the Assad regime.
Syria’s main opposition coalition called on Monday for countries that support the anti-regime uprising to honor their promises by helping Syrians defend themselves.
“The Syrian National Council calls (on) brothers and friends of the Syrian people to help before it’s too late,” the exiled group said in a statement, calling for effective means of “self-defense to stop the demolition of Syrian society.”
(CNN) — International envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Syria on Monday amid growing fury over a gruesome massacre that killed 108 people in one town.
He vowed “serious” discussions with President Bashar al-Assad and said he had a message for “everyone with a gun”: to halt the violence.
Rebel leaders have said Annan’s six-point plan is already “dead” following the killings in Houla, a suburb of the anti-government bastion of Homs. U.N. monitors in Syria said 49 children were among those slaughtered there Friday.
Al-Assad’s regime insists it was not behind the massacre and blames terrorist groups. Throughout the uprising against the government, Syria has blamed violence on “armed terrorist groups.”
by Krishnadev Calamur
The U.N. Security Council is condemning the Syrian government for the massacre of scores of people, including children, in the town of Houla, a day after images of the mass killings shocked the world.
“The Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of (Houla), near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood,” the Security Council said in a nonbinding statement read out at the end of a three-hour meeting on Sunday.
The U.N. says at least 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, died in Houla.
The New York Times reports that the Security Council action is the strongest allowed by Russia, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the body, which has blocked past attempted to condemn President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Images of the killings shocked the world when they were released on Saturday. As the Two-Way’s Eyder Peralta reported yesterday, “it’s hard to look at” them.
“They show the bloodied bodies of dozens of children strewn on the floors of morgues. Some of them are just babies, their gazes frozen, still wearing the outfits they had on when they were killed by government forces,” he wrote. “In one image, there are so many dead children on a single rug, their limbs are overlapping. One of them is a little girl covered in blood. She’s wearing a pink shirt dress with a yellow duckling.”
Syria is denying it is behind the killings.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Sunday that Syrian security forces were in their bases when they were attacked Friday by gunmen armed with mortars, machine guns and anti-tank missiles. He said that in the nine-hour battle that followed, three soldiers were killed and 16 wounded.
“No Syrian tank or artillery entered this place where the massacres were committed,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “The security forces did not leave their places because they were in a state of self-defense.”
According to the AP:
“He blamed the gunmen for what he called a ‘terrorist massacre’ in Houla and accused the media, Western officials and others of spinning a ‘tsunami of lies’ to justify foreign intervention in Syria.”
But NPR’s Kelly McEvers, who is reporting from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, had this to say on Sunday’s weekends on All Things Considered:
“After midday prayers, residents of Houla went to the streets to protest. They say the army began shelling the protest from afar, and several people were killed. A group of rebels in the town who are known loosely as the Free Syrian Army fought back. They reportedly attacked Syrian army soldiers.”
Sunday’s nonbinding Security Council statement came after divisions among the body’s members on how to proceed.
The AP reported:
“Britain and France had proposed issuing a press statement condemning the attack and pointing a finger at the Syrian government, but Russia told Security Council members it could not agree and wanted a briefing first by Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. observer team in the country.”
Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. make up the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council. Russia and China oppose strong international action against Assad’s regime.
As McEvers’ reporting says, the violence continued Saturday:
“In [a] … video posted online by Syrian activists, a woman says the shelling resumed around two in the morning,” she reported. “Many people were killed when their houses collapsed on them.”
A second woman says the attack became worse, McEvers reported. Pro-government militias known as shabiha, derived from the word ghost, began going house to house, the second woman said.
“They knocked and asked who is in the house,” she said. “I said there are no men here. Then they started shooting. I lost seven grandchildren. Then they burned our houses.”
McEvers notes that the videos could not be independently verified.
The area of Houla is comprised of Sunni villages and Allawtie villages. Allawites support Assad’s regime, which is made up of members of the community. Sunnis oppose the regime. The villages are near the city of Homs, scene of the worst sectarian fighting since the Syrian uprising began last year.
“Some activists suggested to NPR the house-to-house massacres of Sunni families was revenge for the killing of Allawites. But this could not be independently confirmed. Either way, what happened in Houla was the largest number of killings in one single incident since the Syrian uprising began.”
The U.N. estimates that 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad regime began about 14 months ago. Since then, the international community has attempted to negotiate a cease-fire, but all of them — including the latest one brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan — have fallen short.
By Liz Sly, Saturday, May 26, 11:03 AM
BEIRUT —Syrian forces killed dozens of civilians in a village in central Syria, opposition groups and witnesses said Saturday, amid growing questions about the effectiveness of a U.N. monitoring mission that is supposed to be observing a cease-fire. U.N. officials said that at least 32 children were among the dead.
More than 90 people were killed and many more wounded when Syrian troops loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad shelled the village of Taldo in the Houla area northwest of Homs for several hours late Friday, according to the opposition groups and witnesses.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood offered conflicting accounts of what happened. The Observatory said that all of the deaths had occurred in the bombardment, but the Brotherhood reported that some of the victims had been killed when pro-government militias known as shabiha raided homes on the outskirts of the village, hacking and shooting civilians and setting fire to houses.
Ahmed Kassem, a resident of the town, said the villagers all died in the shelling inflicted after clashes erupted during the weekly anti-government protest Friday.
Syrian forces opened fire on the protesters when they spilled out of a mosque after Friday prayers, prompting local armed civilians to fire back, Kassem said, speaking by telephone from the village.
During the exchanges of fire, two Syrian officers and “several” soldiers were killed, he said, and Syrian forces withdrew. At 8 p.m., they began bombarding the village using tanks and artillery, with shells falling at the rate of one a minute until well past midnight, he said.
The account could not be independently confirmed because of reporting restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities. Activists posted gruesome footage on YouTube of the limp bodies of children and of a mass burial of some of the victims Saturday.
UN observers have counted at least 90 bodies, including 32 children, after a Syrian government attack on a town.
UN mission head Maj-Gen Robert Mood told the BBC the killing in Houla was “indiscriminate and unforgivable”.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would seek a strong global response to the “appalling crime”. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said it was a “flagrant violation of international law”.
Syria’s government has blamed the deaths on “armed terrorist gangs”.
This is one of the bloodiest attacks in one area since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The United Nations‘ observers in Syria on Saturday confirmed that more than 92 people, including dozens of children, were killed in what activists said was an artillery barrage by government forces in the town of Houla, in the province of Homs.
“This morning U.N. military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed,” the head of U.N. team monitoring the ceasefire – which has yet to take hold – said.
“The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells,” Major General Robert Mood said in a statement, without elaborating. “Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible.”
In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded “the Government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers.”
Ban condemned the Houla carnage as “appalling and brutal” breach of international law.”
Britain said Saturday it was consulting urgently with its allies on “a strong international response.”
“We will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement after United Nations monitors confirmed reports of the killings in Houla.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.
The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of Houla were fleeing in fear of more shelling.
The reports of the carnage, which could not be confirmed independently, underlined how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria’s political opposition said Assad’s forces had killed “entire families” in Houla in addition to the shelling.
“The Syrian National Council (SNC) urges the U.N. Security Council to call for an emergency meeting … and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings,” SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said.
Opposition activists said Syrian forces had opened fire with artillery on Friday after skirmishing with insurgents in Houla, a cluster of villages north of the city of Homs, itself battered by shelling.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence as a “massacre,” and said he wanted to arrange a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group that brings together Western and Arab countries keen to remove Assad.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has blamed the Syrian government for much of the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” occurring every day in violation of a U.N.-backed peace plan.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited the government’s continuing use of heavy weapons, reports of shelling and “a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by government forces and pro-government militias.”
Ban lamented that there has been only “small progress” on implementing the six-point plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Wednesday.
Ban called on the government to keep its pledge to immediately stop the violence, pull heavy weapons and troops out of populated areas, allow humanitarian workers to help needy civilians and end human rights abuses.
Wikipedia: The Houla Region, or the Houla Plain, (سهل الحولة), is is made up of several villages in the Syrian Homs Governorate, north of the city of Homs. →
By Al Arabiya With Agencies
Suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen have posted a video on the internet for a Saudi diplomat kidnapped nearly a month ago in Yemen’s south appealing to King Abdullah to meet Al-Qaeda demands to secure his release.
“I appeal to King Abdullah… and the Saudi government to save me and release me from al-Qaeda organization in return for releasing the sisters detained in (Saudi) general investigation prisons and fulfilling the remaining demands of the organization,” Abdullah al-Khalidi said in the video, posted late on Friday and published by SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula abducted Khalidi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in Yemen’s main southern city of Aden, on March 28 in a bid to secure the release of prisoners and collect a ransom.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — More than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to an Afghanistan hospital Wednesday after being poisoned in their classes with a type of spray, a Takhar provincial official said.
The incident occurred in the provincial capital of Talokhan, in the Bibi Hajera girls school, said Dr. Hafizullah Safi, director of public health for the northern Afghanistan province.
Forty of the 122 girls were still hospitalized, he said, with symptoms including dizziness, vomiting, headaches and loss of consciousness.
Blood samples have been sent to Kabul in an effort to determine the substance used, he said.