Pro-government forces have launched another attack that claimed 78 lives in Syria, a week after it killed about 108 people in Taldou village, near Houla
Authorities in Syria are gradually losing grip of the situation and allowing the country to slip back to civil war. The United Nations, UN, envisaged this at the beginning of the year and appointed Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, as an envoy to mediate in the ongoing crisis in the country. As a result, Annan brokered a six-point peace plan, which involved a ceasefire that was supposed to be in place by mid-April. But despite the ceasefire agreement, the spate of violence has increased, confirming the fears of those who predicted that the country might be sliding into a full-blown civil war.
On Friday May 25, pro-government shabiha militia besieged Taldou village, near Houla, and killed about 108 people. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said 49 children and 34 women were among the victims. While citizens were still trying to absorb the shock of the massacre described as unprecedented since the crisis erupted in 2011, the militia stormed Qubair, a village of about 30 houses northwest of the city of Hama, on another killing spree last week. The Local Coordination Committees, LCC, an activist network, said about 78 people were killed, including 35 members of one family. According to the LCC, the Qubair killings brought the total number of people killed nationwide by pro-government security forces to 140.
Expectedly, the killings have attracted condemnation from the global community, the United States, US, in particular. Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, who described the violence in Syria as “unconscionable,” had urged President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Clinton believes that the Syrian crisis is caused primarily by the continuous holding on to power of president al-Assad. “…Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes,” Clinton stressed. Ban Ki-Moon, UN general secretary, shares Clinton’s view, stressing that al-Assad has lost all legitimacy as president.
Some members of the UN Security Council are pushing for stiffer measures against the Syrian regime. At the wake of the latest massacre, which he described as “brutal and sickening,” David Cameron, British prime minister, had called on the international community to do more to isolate Syria. “We need to do much more to isolate Syria, to isolate the regime, to put the pressure on and to demonstrate that the whole world wants to see a political transition from this illegitimate regime to actually see one that can take care of its people,” Cameron said. But much as some Security Council members support isolation of Syria, others oppose the idea. Russia and China in particular are against any regime change or military intervention in Syria. The two countries are said to have vetoed two Security Council resolutions against Assad’s regime, but support Annan’s blueprint to end the conflict through the involvement of some regional powers. That was their argument in a statement issued in China last week by leaders of a group led by Russia and China at the end of a two-day summit. In the statement, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, SCO, called for a “peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem through political dialogue. Member states are against military intervention into this region’s affairs, forcing a ‘handover of power’ or using unilateral sanctions.”
To booster the US position, Clinton has indicated interest to work with Russia and China to restore peace in Syria, but insists that regime change is the best option. She has sought to mobilise support in Turkey from where she called on the international community to freeze the regime’s economic lifelines. “We can’t break faith with the Syrian people who want real change,” said a US state department official who briefed reporters after Clinton’s meeting in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, with officials from 16 regional and European powers.
In the meantime, the Syrian government has denied responsibility for the recent killings, blaming anti-government forces whom it has branded terrorists instead. A statement from the government said, “A terrorist group committed a heinous crime in the Hama region which claimed nine victims. The reports by the media are contributing to spilling the blood of Syrians,” the statement said.
Since Syrian violence broke out in 2011, over 13,500 people have been reportedly killed. Although the crisis has been confined within its borders, it is believed to be part of a wider conflict popularly known as the Arab Spring. The crisis cut through the Arab world in 2011, sacking a number of governments in the region. In Syria, it started in form of public demonstrations on January 26, 2011 and gradually developed into a nationwide uprising, with protesters demanding for the resignation of al-Assad and an end to nearly five decades of his Ba’ath Party rule.