Protesting al-Assad's regime. Photo credit: Maggie Osama http://flic.kr/p/9Co1BJ
The UN unanimously condemned Syria after more than 100 civilians were killed in the town of Houla. At least one third of the dead were children. Anti-government activists and residents reported heavy shelling and gunfire in the area on Friday 26th May. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has blamed the deaths on Al Qaida.
“The security council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more,” said the UN statement, describing the violence as “a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood”. The non-binding UN statement has attracted particular interest because Russia, so far an ally of the Assad regime, signed up to the declaration.
Special envoy Kofi Annan is set to travel to Damascus in an attempt to put the failing UN peace plan back on track. But is there any realistic chance of success?
Read more about the 6-point Syria peace plan and ceasefire at The Periscope Post.
Syria heading towards civil war
“The only way to prevent a full-scale civil war in Syria – which would destroy the country, as happened in Iraq, and could destabilise the whole Levant – is to demilitarise the conflict and bring maximum pressure on both sides to negotiate,” wrote Patrick Seale on The Guardian’s Comment is Free. This is exactly what Annan is trying to do – but both the Assad regime and the armed opposition are undermining the peace plan. “Trapped between opposing forces, civilians inevitably pay the price,” Seale said.
Houla massacre could be the ‘final straw’
“The massacre in Houla is starting to seem like it could be the final straw in Syria, as international pressures are mounting and everyone seems to be running out of patience with Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” wrote Connor Simpson at The Atlantic Wire. Simpson flagged up a New York Times report that the US has revived plans to remove Assad from power.
Russia must act
The key to preventing civil war is to remove Assad from power – and for that, Russia needs to get involved by putting diplomatic pressure on the regime, said a Telegraph editorial: “Rather than furnishing a bulwark against instability, as the Russians argued he would, Mr Assad, by using the terror tactics of rape and massacre, is hastening the disintegration of that country.”
Houla massacre won’t change anything
“It is becoming wearily familiar. The Syrian regime commits an egregious atrocity. The international community issues condemnations. Nothing happens,” wrote Martin Fletcher in The Times (£). According to Fletcher, the Assad regime is unmoved by diplomatic or economic pressure, and the international community, while swift to condemn, is distracted by domestic matters. “I hope I am wrong, but I would guess that the deaths of Houla’s women and children will be largely forgotten by next weekend, overshadowed by events closer to home: the deepening euro crisis, the onset of summer, even the Diamond Jubilee celebrations,” Fletcher predicted.
Syrian activists uploaded amateur footage of the aftermath of the Houla massacre. Warning: disturbing scenes.