Syria assault kills 100: watchdog

LAVROV LASHES OUT::Russia’s foreign minister has accused the US of ‘blasphemous’ accusations after it laid the blame for this week’s blasts in Aleppo on the Syrian regime


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - Page 7

A Syrian army assault killed more than 100 civilians, including women and children, on farmland on the outskirts of the central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported yesterday.

It said the attack took place on Tuesday.

“The Syrian regime carried out a new massacre on Tuesday claiming 106 victims, including women and children,” in an assault lasting 24 hours around Homs, said the watchdog, which relies on a network of activists and medics.

The killings took place in farmlands in an area between a military academy, an army checkpoint and an industrial district north of Homs, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The Observatory said the area had become a refuge for around 1,000 people who fled fighting in Homs, where regime forces and rebels have been battling for dominance for months.

It quoted witnesses as saying that among those killed were families who died in fires that raged through their homes and others — including three children from a group of 14 family members — killed in cold blood.

At least 32 other members of one clan were shot dead, the Observatory said, adding that it was not immediately able to establish their identities.

Meanwhile the pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported that troops had gained ground against “gunmen” around Homs, referring to rebels fighting the regime. The claim was denied by militants on the ground.

Homs, dubbed “the capital of the revolution” by the rebels, is the most strategic city in Syria, lying on key trade routes near the borders with Lebanon and Iraq, and with its southwestern areas not far from Damascus.

The Observatory urged the UN to send a fact-finding team to probe the latest killings.

Elsewhere, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday hit out at the US for “blasphemous” accusations blaming this week’s blasts in the city of Aleppo on the Syrian regime.

“Yesterday I saw a semi-neutral report on CNN that it was not ruled out that this terrorist act had been staged by the government forces themselves,” Lavrov said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. “I cannot imagine anything more blasphemous.”

Earlier this week two blasts tore through an Aleppo campus while students were writing exams, killing at least 87 people. No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the government and rebels have blamed each other.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry blamed “terrorists” for the “merciless bloody provocation.”

It said the explosions were “the terrorists’ revenge for the significant losses sustained in their confrontation with government forces.”

However, the US on Wednesday said the blasts were caused by the regime unleashing air strikes on the university buildings.

“The United States is appalled and saddened by the Syrian regime’s deadly attack yesterday on the University of Aleppo,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Lavrov also reiterated Russia’s stance that Moscow was against referring Syria to the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes accusations.

“We should answer the question: What is more important for us?” Russia’s top diplomat told reporters. “If the most important for us is to punish someone, to condemn someone, to put someone on trial, then it’s one logic.”

“If the most important is to stop the violence, then I would focus on the actions aimed at this. Everything else can wait,” Lavrov said.