Syrian regime commits new massacre in Homs; opposition calls for U.N. meeting


Syria’s main opposition group on Monday called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting following reports that some 50 women and children were massacred in the central city of Homs.

“The Syrian National Council is making the necessary contacts with all organizations and countries that are friends with the Syrian people for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting,” the SNC said in a statement

The massacre was committed by the Syrian regime in the Karm al-Zaitoun and al-Adaweya neighborhoods of Homs, Al Arabiya reported earlier Monday citing activists at the Syrian Revolution Commission.

The massacre was carried out by the security forces and the regime’s ‘shabbiha’ (thugs), who killed the victims inside their homes, activists told Al Arabiya. The victims were killed by horrific methods; including burning, breaking their bones or slaughtering, according to activists.

A physician from Homs told Al Arabiya that as many as 16 cases of rape were reported on Sunday. He said that there are around 95 injured people in the city.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, meanwhile, has ended talks with President Bashar al-Assad and left Syria with little sign of progress on halting the country’s growing political bloodshed.

Annan is optimistic

“I am optimistic for several reasons,” Annan said in Damascus on Sunday. “The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail.”

There was no clear response from Assad to Annan’s “concrete proposals” for a ceasefire, dialogue and humanitarian aid. Assad told Annan opposition “terrorists” were blocking any political solution, according to Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York on Monday when the U.N. Security Council holds a special meeting on Arab revolts.

Russia, long an ally of Syria, and China have blocked attempts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning Damascus for its attempts to crush a year-old rebellion by force, in which thousands have died.

Moscow and Beijing want any international blame for the violence to be apportioned more evenly. China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said in Riyadh on Sunday both Syrian sides should stop fighting and aid should be sent to strife-torn areas -- but he also warned other states not to use aid to “interfere.”

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a hawkish line against the Syrian government.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Sunday repeated calls for the Syrian opposition to be provided with weapons. This was the only way to end the conflict without foreign intervention, he said.

“The regime in Syria is committing a massacre of its own citizens,” he added, after talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Riyadh.

“We cannot accept the completely unreasonable continuation of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Assad regime against its own people,” Westerwelle said.

The United Nations says Assad’s forces have killed more than 7,500 people in their crackdown on protesters and insurgents. Authorities say rebels have killed 2,000 soldiers.

Annan’s mission coincided with a Syrian military offensive against opposition strongholds in the northwest.

Activists said several people were killed in the town of Idlib on Sunday after troops and tanks moved in a day earlier. A number of soldiers and civilians were also killed in fighting in the village of Janoudiya in Idlib province on Sunday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

State news agency SANA said “terrorists” shot dead a former boxing champion, Ghiath Tayfour, in the city of Aleppo and also killed a leading Baath Party member in Homs province.

The exiled opposition Syrian National Council ruled out talks while Assad is in power.

“Negotiations can never take place between the victim and torturer: Assad and his entourage must step down as a condition before starting any serious negotiations,” it said.

“Fierce fighting has been raging between deserters and regular army troops since (Sunday) morning in the Idlib province village of al- Janoudiya,” the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, told AFP in Beirut.

After seizing Idlib city on Saturday, troops fanned out into rural areas of the province on Sunday, notably the Jisr al-Shughur district, Abdul Rahman said.

“The army is also preparing to launch an offensive against the rebel district of Jabal al-Zawiya,” a range of hills close to the Turkish border, where fighters of the Free Syrian Army have been particularly active, he added.

A Turkish government official said in Ankara that dozens of Syrian refugees were fleeing the assault on Idlib.

At least 189 Syrians have crossed into Turkey since Saturday, the official told AFP, adding the figure tended to increase.

The military crackdown in Idlib came after the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amro was stormed on March 1 after a month-long blitz in which hundreds of people died.