Syria’s main opposition group yesterday called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting as it accused regime forces of killing more than 100 people in the central city of Hama in recent days.
The appeal came after France raised the prospect of military action to halt violence in Syria, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been waging a bloody year-long crackdown on dissent.
“We are calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council so that it can issue a resolution to protect civilians in Syria,” the Syrian National Council said in a statement. “Hama in recent days, and following a visit by UN observers, witnessed a series of crimes ... that left more than 100 people dead and hundreds wounded because of heavy shelling. The city also witnessed summary executions, raids, arrests and the flight of residents.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said regime shelling of a working-class neighborhood in Hama killed at least 12 people on Wednesday, but activists on the ground put the death toll at 68, including 16 children.
State news agency SANA said at least 16 people were killed, including women and children, when a bomb that “terrorists” were setting up went off prematurely inside a house in the city.
At least 31 people were reportedly killed during shelling of a different neighborhood on Monday.
Also, according to the Syrian League for Human Rights, regime forces “summarily executed” nine activists on Monday, a day after they had met UN observers overseeing a fragile ceasefire that went into effect on April 12.
The truce brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has failed to take hold, with unrest and killings reported on a daily basis in various parts of the country.
At least two people were killed yesterday, monitors said, as clashes were reported in several provinces.
Loud blasts and heavy gunfire could be heard in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, the observatory said, adding regime troops carried out raids between Harasta and Barzeh, a district of the capital.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Wednesday said given the persistent violence, the UN-backed peace plan was “seriously compromised” and he held out the threat of seeking military action to end the al-Assad regime’s crackdown.
Annan had urged a rapid deployment of the full, 300-strong observer team agreed by the UN Security Council and Juppe said they should be on the ground within two weeks.
Without quick progress, Juppe said, the international community would have “to move on to another step which we have already started raising with our partners, under Chapter Seven of the United Nations charter.”
A Chapter Seven resolution, which can be imposed by the UN Security Council if member states think peace is threatened by an act of aggression, authorizes foreign powers to take measures that include military options.
However, Juppe said such a resolution, which was also mooted by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week, was unlikely to pass, alluding to previous UN Security Council vetoes by Russia and China.
“The Damascus regime does not respect the commitments it made. Repression is continuing. Monitors cannot work on the ground. This cannot last indefinitely,” Juppe said after meeting Syrian opposition members in Paris. “The Annan plan is seriously compromised, but there is still a chance for this mediation, on the condition of the rapid deployment of the 300 monitors.”