Dozens Killed In Syrian City of Hama Following U.N. Observers’ Visit
Dozens of Syrian people killed on Monday in central Hama by Syrian troops with heavy machine guns, a day after the U.N. observers visiting the restive city were welcomed by the people who demanded them to help them, like they did anywhere the U.N. observers have gone.
The move, which is the worst against the city of Hama in months, is sure to undermine even further the confidence of the western powers in the possible success of the U.N. mission in Syria. It also adds a new aspect to the crackdown as the Syrian regime seems determined to exact deadly vengeance on people who feel protected by the U.N. and took to the streets to protest against the regime.
So far the observance of the truce, which is said to have come into effect on April 12, was only partial, consisting mainly in halting the fire traded between the Syrian troops and the armed rebels of the defectors for the duration of the U.N. observers’ presence in different areas.
United Nations political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that Syria has failed to observe the ceasefire, adding that the fact that it complied with other elements of the six-point plan, such as releasing detainees and allowing peaceful protests, was clearly insufficient.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian troops attacked the city of Hama early on Monday morning, firing assault rifles and heavy machine guns until 33 people were killed.
An activist in the field said that the army shelled the neighborhood of Arbeen where it killed 27 people, while the families were still searching for the dead in the rubble of the destroyed houses. Another activist said that as many as 50 have been killed in the assault on Hama. He added that in his opinion this action of the Syrian army was a retribution for the fact that the people were very brave when they spoke to the U.N. troops yesterday.
The Syrian state-run news agency said that “terrorists” have killed a doctor in the south and two military officers in the province of Hama and other two in the south.
The latest developments come as the American president Barack Obama signed off on laws imposing new sanctions on people belonging to the Assad regime who use technology to violate human rights.
The move is directed against those who used Iranian technology to jam cell phones and block or monitor social networking sites used by the people to congregate and stage protests against the regime. The American president said that national security the Syrian regime invokes cannot be a license to kill people.
On Monday, the European Union decided to impose an embargo on the luxury goods the Assad family is using. It was not clear immediately which products were added to the list of goods that are under embargo. A diplomat said that from vehicles to fertilizers and other chemicals any product could be put on the list. The only precedent of the European Union imposing embargo on luxury goods was in 2007, when an embargo was imposed on the regime in Pyongyang, NKorea, as part of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council after the first nuclear test in 2006.
Last weekend the UNSC approved a 300-member mission in Syria, with the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire in the country. The mission is expected to stay in Syria for three months, but it is not yet known when will it be deployed by the United Nations.
The first 15 members of an advance team have already arrived in Syria and have already been deployed in the field. Reports say that everywhere they go the population of Syrian cities demand them to stay and protect them against the troops of the regime, or to send a military intervention to oust Bashar al-Assad.
Bashir al-Assad on April 12 agreed to stop all military offensive after breaking the first requirement of the six-point plan proposed by special envoy Kofi Annan, which referred to pulling out the troops of the cities.
Many Syrians and western countries agreed that the ceasefire would not last for much and that Assad is only using it to put down the rebellion of the Syrian people. Assad is known to have made similar promises to the Turkish government, to the Arab League and to other negotiators who attempted to convince him to end violence, which, according to U.N. reports has already killed 9,000 people in more than a year of conflict.
A meeting was held by France between the countries of the group called “Friends of the Syrian People” and the demand was made on behalf of the nations comprised by the group that a “robust” mission be sent to Syria with the purpose of monitoring peace and make sure it endures.
The meeting sought other solutions to the conflict in Syria, but the one France had persistently embraced, that of imposing some humanitarian corridors into Syrian territory, was not brought up on this occasion, in spite of the fact that the president of France had advocate it during a radio interview in which he compared Assad to former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in the sense that Assad wants the destruction of Homs just as much as Qaddafi wanted to destroy the city of Benghazi.
A French diplomat said that the corridors were not so pressing a matter now if the Annan peace plan succeeds and the people can receive their supplies by any other mean. A corridor would mean ground troops protecting it on the soil of Syria, something the regime in Damascus would not allow, and the western countries are not ready to consider, given that it is an election year for many of them, like France or the United States.
The Friends of Syria group usually unites the countries that do not trust Assad and consider that the solution of the crisis in this country must include his ouster. The same distrust was expressed last week in France, when the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that no one in that gathering believed that Assad was true to his promise.
Many see the mission of the former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is now acting as a special envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League, as the last chance for Syria and the best solution since its failure would only leave as possibility a military action against the regime, which no other western country is ready to take, except for Turkey.
Turkey has already expressed its desire to install a buffer zone above the border with Syria, a move that would mean an invasion on Syrian territory. So far, this is the only military proposal made with regard to the Syrian conflict.
Russia, which vetoed two resolutions on Syria by the UNSC, but approve the third one adopted last week, refused to participate in the Friends of Syria group, considering it a “destructive” action against peace.
It is believe that if Assad fails to keep the ceasefire operating, he would lose the support of the Russians, which backed Annan’s plan, and would open the way for UNSC sanctions.11