45 women, children killed in Homs massacre, Syrian opposition says
Mar 12, 2012
At least 45 women and children were stabbed and burned in the Syrian city of Homs late Sunday, opposition activists said, after peace talks between a U.N. special envoy and the Syrian regime failed to yield a cease-fire. The slaughter in Homs took place in the Karm al Zaytoun neighborhood, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists. Hadi Abdallah, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian Revolution General Council, said the attacks occurred after “”Syrian forces and thugs”” stormed their homes. The LCC called the killings a “”massacre orchestrated by the regime”” of President Bashar al-Assad. The deaths represented just a fraction of the 108 people killed across the country on Sunday, activists said. A livestream from a neighboring town purportedly showed some of the bodies from the massacre. But Syrian state TV said the bodies shown were killed by “”armed terrorist groups”” — a term the government consistently uses to place blame for violence. The latest reports of carnage came hours after Kofi Annan, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, left the country following two days of talks with al-Assad. On Saturday, Annan proposed a cease-fire, the release of detainees and allowing unfettered access to agencies such as the Red Cross to deliver much needed aid, a U.N. statement said. “”It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be difficult, but we have to have hope,”” Annan said after Sunday’s meeting with al-Assad. Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, also proposed a start to an inclusive political dialogue that would “”address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the people.”” It was unclear whether al-Assad offered any assurances that he would agree to the proposals laid out by Annan. When asked whether he received promises of a cease-fire or the acceptance of humanitarian assistance, Annan responded, “”(those are) some issues we’re discussing with the president.”” On Sunday, opposition groups reported violent clashes between Syrian government forces and defectors and said government forces were randomly shelling civilian areas. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Syrian forces also shelled and destroyed a bridge over the Assi River west of Rastan, a bridge that had been used by residents trying to flee the city. And in a phone call with a Binish town elder, a major general in al-Assad’s military demanded the people of Binish hand over weapons used by defected soldiers and the rebel Free Syrian Army within 24 hours or the town will be bombed and stormed early Monday morning, according to the Binish Coordination Committee, part of the LCC. The meetings Saturday and Sunday between al-Assad and Annan were the first time in Syria’s yearlong crisis that al-Assad met with such a high-level diplomat. But the Syrian president quashed the possibility of negotiating with the opposition anytime soon. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said al-Assad told Annan he was ready to find a solution — but that such an effort would first require a look at reality on the ground and not rely on what “”is promoted by some regional and international countries to distort the facts and give a picture contrary to what Syria is undergoing.”” He also reiterated that “”political dialogue or action cannot take place or succeed if there are terrorist armed gangs on the ground that are working on spreading chaos and target the stability of the homeland,”” SANA said. Both Annan and opposition members agreed that plans for a resolution cannot be implemented as long as the bloodshed continues. “”It is too early to apply a plan to resolve the crisis,”” said Abdel Aziz al-Khair, a member of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change. “”The situation on the ground … is catastrophic.”” CNN cannot independently confirm reports of casualties or attacks in Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists. But the vast majority of reports from inside Syria indicate the regime is slaughtering civilians in an attempt to wipe out dissidents seeking al-Assad’s ouster. The al-Assad family has ruled Syria for more than four decades. The United Nations says more than 7,500 have died in the past year, and at least one activist group says more than 9,000 people have been killed. American Marie Colvin, one of several journalists killed in Homs while covering the Syrian crisis, will be laid to rest in Long Island, New York on Monday. Colvin, along with French photographer Remi Ochlik, were killed in a shelling attack on February 22.