May 17, 2012
May 17, 2012
United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on Wednesday said U.N. observers monitoring the violence in Syria were evacuated from a tense town a day after a blast hit their convoy.
Syrian troops were accused by activists of another massacre when they opened fire on a funeral procession and reportedly killed 20 people on Tuesday in the town of Khan Sheikhun, in the northwestern province of Idlib.
During Tuesday’s funeral, a convoy of U.N. observers was struck by a homemade bomb, damaging three vehicles but causing no casualties.
Because of blast damage to their car, six members of the team were forced to spend the night with activists in Khan Sheikhun, which came under heavy regime shelling, an activist said.
Annan’s office said the U.N. mission had picked up the six military observers and that they were back at their team site in the central city of Hama.
It was the second roadside bombing involving the military observers’ vehicles in less than a week, after six Syrian soldiers escorting a convoy were wounded in a May 9 bombing in Daraa.
At least 32 people have also been killed by Syrian forces across the country on Wednesday, activists said, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists at the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) and the Syrian Media Center.
The United Nations, which accuses both sides of violating an April 12 ceasefire, reaffirmed its condemnation of any violence against the monitors.
“This mission is there to help the people of Syria, to help ensure that the six-point plan is implemented,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said, referring to Annan’s peace plan.
‘Executions’ in Homs
At least 15 civilians were “summarily executed” by regime forces in a neighborhood of the central Syrian city of Homs overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
“After regime forces raided the neighborhood of Shammas, 15 civilians were found summarily executed,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based watchdog told AFP, qualifying the killings a “massacre.”
He said a Muslim cleric who had six children was among those killed.
Earlier, the Syrian National Council (SNC) issued a statement accusing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of committing a “new massacre” in Khan Sheikhoun town in Idlib. The SNC underlined that the international peace plan has been violated in most of the Syrian cities “from Azzaz in Aleppo to Dael to al-Harak and Kharbat al-Ghazala in Deraa as well as Damascus suburbs, Baniyas, Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir Ezzor.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Lebanon, six people were wounded as new clashes erupted in Tripoli between the army and rival pro- and anti-Assad neighborhoods in the northern port city, a Lebanese security official said.
Three days of clashes between residents of the two neighborhoods that broke out last Saturday left nine people dead and some 50 wounded before the Lebanese army intervened.
Meanwhile, Syrian representatives stayed away from a United Nations anti-torture committee that raised allegations Wednesday of systematic and brutal abuses in the violence-wracked nation.
Committee Chairman Claudio Grossman had written to Syrian authorities to question them about reports of torture in the country where a bloody crackdown on protesters was unleashed in March 2011.
But the call for a special report on the situation went unmet and Damascus questioned the committee’s authority to request the document.
“No report was received and no delegation from Syria was present,” secretary Joao Nataf said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the committee highlighted reports of systematic torture in Syria, as well as summary executions, snipers picking off civilians and systematic arrests of the wounded in hospitals.
Other allegations included the torture of detainees and journalists as well as arbitrary arrests.
The reports came from inter-governmental groups, said Grossman.
Committee member Essadia Belmir said even children were being raped and tortured. She also noted that were mass graves in Syria and efforts were being made to locate them.
Grossman said Syrian armed opposition groups had also been accused of kidnap and torture.
Syria has previously said it would not discuss the reports because they deal with “allegations” rather than “facts.”
Since the March 2011 protests, observers estimate more than 12,000 people have died, including more than 900 since an April 12 cease fire supposedly went into effect.
Syria disputes the numbers, and has said about 6,000 have died, including more than 2,000 military and security personnel.