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Syria grimly enters 2013 as tortured corpses found in Damascus

Published: Updated:
Violence ravaged Syria into 2013 with the gruesome discovery of what activists said were dozens of tortured corpses in Damascus, clouding end-of-year efforts to end 21 months of bloodshed.



The government of President Bashar al-Assad said it welcomed any initiative for talks to end bloodshed in the country, after U.N.-Arab League envoy Brahimi said he had a peace plan acceptable to world powers.



The government's position, expressed by Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi, came amid a flurry of diplomacy led by Brahimi to halt the conflict that monitors say has now killed more then 45,000 people.

“The government is working to support the national reconciliation project and will respond to any regional or international initiative that would solve the current crisis through dialogue and peaceful means and prevent foreign intervention in Syria's internal affairs,” Halaqi told parliament, as quoted by AFP.

Meanwhile, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground, reported the discovery of 30 tortured bodies in a flashpoint district of Damascus, while a shocking video emerged of a separate slaying of three children in the capital.

“Thirty bodies were found in the Barzeh district. They bore signs of torture and have so far not been identified,” the Observatory said.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission activist network gave a higher estimate of 50 bodies, saying “their heads were cut and disfigured to the point that it was no longer possible to identify” them.

The video posted online by activists showed the bodies of three young boys with their throats slit open and hands bound behind their backs. Their bodies were discovered on Monday in Jubar.

The authenticity of the footage could not be verified. However, the Observatory also reported the killing of the boys, who activists said were kidnapped the day before at a checkpoint on their way home from school.

In Syria's northern city of Aleppo, a Reuters television cameraman was shot in the leg and wounded while filming on the front line on Monday.

Ayman al-Sahili, a Libyan citizen working as part of a Reuters multi-media reporting team, was hit by a rifle bullet fired from a distance. He was treated in Syria and then driven across the border to Turkey. His life was not in danger.

Earlier on Sunday, U.N.-Arab League envoy Brahimi warned Syria was facing a choice between “hell or the political process” after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his end-of-year bid to accelerate moves to halt the conflict.

The talks came amid emerging signs that Russia was beginning to distance itself from Assad’s government and urgent efforts by Brahimi to resurrect a failed peace initiative that world powers agreed to in Geneva in June.

Lavrov said both he and Brahimi agreed there was hope for a solution as long as world powers put pressure on both sides.

Russia and China have so far vetoed three UN Security Council draft resolutions seeking to force Assad's hand with the threat of sanctions.

Brahimi warned that Syria’s civil war could plunge the entire region into chaos by sending hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring nations, but his talks in Moscow produced no sign of progress toward settling the crisis.