Syria rejects UN charges as Homs under barrage

Syria rejects UN charges as Homs under barrage

DAMASCUS — Syria on Tuesday rejected UN charges of crimes against humanity, as monitors accused President Bashar Al Assad’s forces of launching one of their heaviest assaults yet on the protest city of Homs.

By (AFP)

Published: Wed 15 Feb 2012, 9:33 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:16 PM

The Syrian government’s crackdown on 11 months of pro-democracy protests has been centred on Homs, which has been under a relentless barrage of machinegun fire, shells, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades for 10 days.

Monitors said 18 civilians died Tuesday, six of them in Homs in the barrage which began before dawn, amid fears over the worsening humanitarian situation in the central city.

‘Two rockets are falling a minute on average,’ Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, told AFP by telephone, citing activists on the ground.

Syrians who have fled to neighboring Jordan said the situation was unbearable, and monitoring groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since Assad’s forces began their crackdown on the protesters in March.

‘The situation in Syria has become unbearable and what the media broadcast is nothing but a tiny fraction of the painful reality,’ a 26-year-old computer engineer who sought shelter in a Jordanian border town told AFP.

A video uploaded to YouTube by activists showed a powerful blast striking what they said was Baba Amr, sending flames shooting into the sky and a plume of black smoke over the rebel stronghold.

Hadi Abdullah of the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, an opposition activist group, said the shelling of Baba Amr was extremely heavy.

‘The situation is tragic. There are pregnant women, people with heart problems, diabetics and, foremost, wounded people who we cannot evacuate,’ he said on the phone from the beleaguered city.

‘On Monday evening three activists entered the town by car transporting bread, baby milk and medicine,’ he said. ‘Their car was hit by a rocket. They all burned to death.’

Vital supplies have been cut off for days, including communications, electricity, food, medicines and water, he said. ‘The urgency is to evacuate the wounded. How can we let them die in cold blood?’ he asked.

‘For one week, the dead have been buried in gardens, because even the cemeteries and graves are being targeted. People are crammed into shelters.’

Navi Pillay, the top human rights representative at the United Nations, on Monday said the world body’s inaction had ‘emboldened’ Syria’s government to unleash overwhelming force against its own civilians.

‘The nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian forces indicate that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed since March 2011,’ she told the General Assembly.

But Syria’s government rejected her accusations.

‘The foreign ministry, in a message sent to the UN Human Rights Commission, categorically rejected the new allegations made by the commission,’ state news agency SANA said.

After Russia and China twice vetoed a resolution calling on Assad to stop the deadly attacks on civilians, diplomats said they would now seek a condemnation of the violence at the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on the crisis in Syria on February 4 — for the second time in four months — because they said it was ‘unbalanced.’

The two allies are expected to oppose the new text but no one can veto resolutions in the 193-nation General Assembly, though they carry less weight. Diplomats said the measure was almost sure to pass.

The General Assembly draft is similar to the one blocked in the Security Council.

The text ‘fully supports’ the Arab League’s plan ‘to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system,’ without however mentioning Assad by name or the plan for him to hand over power.

It ‘calls upon the Syrian government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians’ and ‘condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from.’

The Arab League agreed Sunday on its latest initiative to stop the bloodshed, calling for the UN to approve a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force. But Syria has ‘categorically’ rejected the proposal and Russia cast doubt on it.

Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri meanwhile used the anniversary of his father’s 2005 assassination to voice support for the protests.

‘A democratic regime in Syria would be a guarantee of democracy in Lebanon,’ Hariri, whose family has long been opposed to the Damascus regime, told supporters in a video conference from Paris.

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