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UN Security Council holds urgent meeting over Houla massacre|
27 May, 2012
The UN Security Council has convened for an urgent session in New York to hear a report over the shelling in Syria's Houla, which killed at least 90 people on Friday. Britain and France are pressing for a statement condemning the Syrian government.
Norwegian General Robert Mood, who heads the UN observer mission in Syria, tells the Assembly 116 people were killed, 300 injured in massacre in Houla, reports Reuters.
There are concerns that most “civilians killed in Houla were victims of a blatant murder: they were either shot in the temple from a short distance, or their throats were cut,” Russia’s UN envoy deputy Aleksandr Pankin told journalists before the session began.
“Very few of the people who died in Houla were killed by artillery shelling,” he added.
At the same time, the 15 members of the UNSC are considering a French-British statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms, government forces for Houla massacre in Syria.” The press statement would say that the “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force” against civilians was in “flagrant violation” of international law, UN resolutions and the Syrian government’s own commitment to a ceasefire.
The statement would also demand the government cease the use of heavy weapons in residential centers and immediately pull back troops from such areas, reports Kuwaiti news agency KUNA.
UN Security Council statements are issued by consensus. These statements, presidential or to the press, are non-binding. Presidential statements are drawn if a resolution cannot be passed, and are meant as a warning that the Council is paying attention to the situation and further action may follow.
Russia opposes putting all the blame on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, say sources in the Council. Moscow wants to introduce references to “a third party,” implying terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda could be behind the attack in western Syria.
"The tragic events in Syria and the deaths of dozens of people deserve condemnation. However it is necessary to seriously examine the causes of what happened," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Twitter.
The Syrian government denies involvement in the massacre. Damascus condemned the attack Saturday, saying “terrorist” groups were behind it.
Initially the massacre was reported by opposition activists, who claimed that the city was shelled by government forces during an anti-regime demonstration. Reports also suggested that troops entered the city, butchering dozens of people.
A team of UN observers arriving in Houla to investigate the killings said the casualties included 32 children under the age of 10 and dozens of women. Russia hopes the Sunday report by General Mood will bring some clarity to the incident.
Syria is trying to implement a peace plan drawn by UN special envoy Koffi Annan. The plan is meant to stop bloodshed in the country, which has been trapped in a violent civil turmoil for over a year. The popular uprising against President Assad’s regime has taken over 9,000 lives, the UN estimates. Assad says he is a fighting foreign insurgency.
Annan’s plan demands a ceasefire from all parties to the conflict starting on April 10, 2012, and deployment of a UN observing mission. The massacre in Houla comes as the biggest incident since the observer mission began. Now the Free Syrian Army, the biggest opposition force fighting Assad’s troops, says it will pull out of the plan “unless the UN Security Council takes urgent steps for the protection of civilians.”