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zaterdag, mei 26, 2012

32 children among nearly 100 killed in Syrian village

Syrian military officers inspect a damaged bus following a deadly explosion Wednesday.
Syrian military officers inspect a damaged bus following a deadly explosion Wednesday.
  • Ban Ki-moon: Reports say regime forces and pro-regime militias are behind "massive" human rights violations
  • At least 131 people were killed across Syria on Friday, an opposition group says
  • It says regime forces shelled the town of Houla before militias "slaughtered entire families in cold blood"
  • The Syrian regime reports 16 deaths from Friday and makes no mention of Houla

(CNN) -- Syrian opposition activists are begging for international help in stopping the government's sustained slaughter after regime forces devastated a town Friday, killing 88 people -- mostly children, an opposition group said.

"This barbaric act was preceded by the regime's mortar shelling in the town" of Houla, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), a network of opposition activists. "The campaign ended when the armed militias slaughtered entire families in cold blood."

In addition to the massacre in Houla, 43 people were killed elsewhere in Syria on Friday -- bringing the single-day death toll to at least 131, the LCC said.

"We in the Local Coordination Committees are pained by the international community's apparent blindness to the bloodshed, and believe the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) bears the responsibility for its inability to protect Syrian civilians," the group said.

Months of U.N. Security Council attempts to quell the Syrian crisis have so far failed to stymie the bloodshed. Efforts to formally condemn President Bashar al-Assad's regime have been vetoed by Russia and China.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a sobering report Friday on the "continuing crisis" in Syria, including "extensive human rights violations."

"There are continuing reports of a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of humans rights by government forces and pro-government militias, including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearance and summary execution of activists, opponents and defectors," Ban wrote in a letter addressed to the U.N. Security Council.

Even the presence of U.N. observers -- tasked with monitoring an agreed-upon cease-fire that appears to be violated every day -- hasn't quashed the violence, Ban acknowledged.

"The size and complexity of the country, the range of potential violations, the differing local contexts, and the precarious security environment make it difficult to gain a full and complete picture of the situation on the ground," Ban wrote.

The U.N. chief said the full cadre of U.N. observers authorized by the Security Council -- 300 - would be in Syria in the coming days.

As reports of deaths mount every day, so does the frustration and anger.

"It's unbelievable that we have 7 billion people on this planet, and they all can't do anything about what they are seeing on TV," activist Abu Emad told CNN from Homs.

"Do something," he begged the international community.

Graphic video posted on YouTube purportedly shows the lifeless bodies of several small children killed in Houla. They are spread on the floor amid blankets, caked in blood. One child is turned to reveal a head wound.

"Look, these are just children. It is a massacre!" a man shouts.

CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video.

Government forces also shelled opposition sites in the Homs neighborhoods of Sultanieh and Jobar as people gathered for Friday protests, opposition activists said.

Ban said the Syrian government's obligation "to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully is clearly not being observed."

"While demonstrations are carried out in many other parts of the country, many have reportedly been been broken up with the use of live ammunition and lethal force, and arbitrary arrests of protestors," the U.N. chief wrote.

The Syrian government, meanwhile, said 16 people had been killed by "terrorists" on Friday.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said the 16 civilians killed Friday were attacked by bombings and shootings across the country. But SANA did not mention any report of violence in Houla.

Over the course of the 14-month crisis, the Syrian regime has routinely blamed "armed terrorist groups" for violence in the country.

CNN cannot independently confirm reports from within Syria because the government strictly limits access by foreign journalists.

As protests continue, a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria noted the growing power of forces opposed to the Syrian president.

"Whereas government forces had previously been responding primarily to demonstrations, they now face armed and well-organized fighters -- bolstered by defectors who joined them," the report said.

"Gross violations continue unabated," the commission's report said, adding that regime forces commit most of the human rights violations.

U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have died and tens of thousands have been uprooted since the uprising began in March 2011. Opposition groups report a death toll of more than 11,000 people.

The commission said abuses have mounted since March, even though al-Assad's government and opposition forces said they have embraced U.N.- Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, which includes a cease-fire.

The report was issued as Syria's newly elected parliament convened to elect a speaker and swear in new members. The government said the elections were all-inclusive, but opposition forces call the process a sham.

CNN's Saad Abedine, Richard Roth, Holly Yan, Joe Sterling and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.


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