The Syrian opposition is alleging that a pro-government militia under the army's watch has carried out yet another massacre — a claim if confirmed could impart fresh urgency for international intervention to end the Syria's internal conflict.
The pro-opposition Revolution Leadership Council of Damascus is claiming in a statement that the atrocity took place in the small settlement of Qubair, 20 km from Hama, a major flashpoint in the 15-month uprising against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.
Heavy shelling on Tuesday afternoon preceded that attack on a cluster of houses by the Shabiha — the pro-government militia which was heavily armed with machine guns and knives. Nearly 80 people, over half of them women and children were killed in the raid, during which the attackers fired randomly or killed their victims using knives. The alleged killings in Qubair follow the May 25 massacre in Houla, an area near the city of Homs, where 108 people were killed in cold blood. The Syrian government has denied involvement in the bloodbath. “A terrorist group committed a heinous crime in the Hama region which claimed nine victims,” read a statement by the Syrian Foreign Ministry.
The allegations of the carnage come on the eve of a briefing on the Syrian situation to the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly by Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria.
Ahead of the meeting, the horrors of the account have already darkened the mood against the Assad regime. “If these reports are true, it is yet another absolutely brutal and sickening attack,” said David Cameron, British Prime Minister during a visit to Oslo.
Yet, the exhortations by several western leaders notwithstanding, an international consensus for sterner action against the Assad regime remains unlikely. Both the Chinese and Russians are not expected to countenance any proposal in the Security Council that is a significant departure from the six-point peace plan that Mr. Annan had scripted.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said in Beijing the issue “should be resolved based on envoy Annan's six-point proposal within the UN framework”. Expressing Chinese rejection of the doctrine of “regime change,” he said: “You can't say that because you dislike a country's system, you can then think of ways to overturn its government.”
Despite objections from Beijing and Moscow, the U.S. and allies, going beyond the Annan plan, appear to have launched an initiative to weaken the pillars of the Assad regime, including the business community that has so far rallied behind the President. In Washington, the U.S. Treasury Secretary hosted a meeting of representatives from 55 countries, where the core theme was the imposition of exceptionally strong sanctions that would force the Syrian business class to abandon the regime. “Strong sanctions make clear to the Syrian business community and other supporters of the regime that their future is bleak so long as the Assad regime remains in power,” said Mr. Geithner. “And strong sanctions can help hasten the day the Assad regime relinquishes power.”
The exit of the regime was also the sole item on the agenda in Istanbul where Turkey had hosted an international conference. France has said it would host on July 6, a full meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, an international group that supports the Syrian opposition.