Syrian forces supporting President Bashar Assad in Hama province have killed at least 86 people, including many women and children, according to opposition reports.
More than 20 children and 20 women were reportedly among those who died in the villages of Qubair and Maarzaf, in what the activists called a “massacre”. Syrian State TV reported that troops found some bodies after attacking “terrorists”.
Neither account is yet to be confirmed, but they come less than two weeks after a massacre in the town of Houla, in which security forces and pro-Assad militia men known as “Shabiha” killed 108 people, nearly half of them children. UN monitors were able to confirm those deaths, and according to media reports this morning, in neighbouring Lebanon activists say that UN observers are likely to go to Hama shortly to try to verify the latest claims.
Syria’s 15-month revolt against President Bashar Assad’s rule has grown increasingly bloody in recent months, raising concerns the country may be slipping into civil war.
Both massacres have happened in the presence of United Nations observers, a 300-strong force sent into Syria to observe a ceasefire deal brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan. The truce was hardly observed by the government or the rebels, who last week said they would no longer honour the ceasefire because of the recent killings. There was no comment from the government, and events on the ground are difficult to verify as Syria tightly restricts access to international media.
Meanwhile, In a last-ditch effort to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria, International mediator Kofi Annan will present the UN Security Council today with a new proposal, to establish a contact group that would bring together Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and key regional players with influence on Syria’s government and the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
The contact group aims to end the deadlock among the five permanent council members that has pitted Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France – preventing any meaningful UN action on the Syrian conflict.