New Syrian Massacre Reported: Syria Blocks UN Monitors From Scene
The brutality in Syria is looking increasingly insidious. There’s a report about a new massacre — and UN monitors have been block from getting to the village to try and sort out the facts:
Syria’s security forces this morning blocked U.N. monitors from entering the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir to investigate claims that pro-government militias massacred dozens of civilians there, including women and children.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian officer who heads the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, issued a statement from Damascus this morning saying that a team of U.N. observers “are being stopped at Syrian Army checkpoints and in some cases turned back.” He said that U.N. patrols were also being stopped by civilians in the area.
The U.N. standoff with Syrian authorities came hours before special envoy, Kofi Annan, is scheduled to brief the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Security Council on his stalled efforts to end the violence and press the Syrian government and the opposition to begin talks on a political transition in the country.
It is likely to strengthen the case of the United States and its Western and Arab partners to increase political pressure on President Bashar al Assad through the threat of stepped up sanctions. So far, China and Russia have vigorously opposed the imposition of U.N. sanctions on Damascus, saying the government and opposition need to come willingly to peace talks.
Frustrated by diplomatic deadlock in Damascus, Annan is expected to outline a plan to establish a new negotiating bloc -or contact group – including representatives of the United States, Britain, France, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The plan, which was detailed in a story by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, calls on the contact group to produce a transitional road map, including new presidential election, a parliamentary vote and the drafting of a new constitution.
The corpses of 78 people, including 40 women and children, were found in Hama, according to reports. The Syrian National Council put the total death toll higher and estimated that more than 100 people were killed.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has a list of the names of 73 people they say were killed in the massacre.
In the last two weeks activists have repeatedly found hundreds of bodies abandoned in several of the country’s provinces, including 108 civilians killed in Houla on May 25.
The fresh killings took place in the village of Al-Kubeir, in the central province of Hama.
Activists blamed the attack on the Shabiha, a militia of pro-Assad thugs who have been blamed for a series of brutal murders.
Kofi Annan, the United Nation’s mediator in Syria, will present a new proposal today for bringing international powers on board with his peace plan in hopes of avoiding both a full-out war and international powers acting beyond the auspices of the UN.
Western powers, fed up with Russian and Chinese intransigence on stronger action against the Syrian government, began threatening last week to take action outside the United Nations Security Council. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice suggested they would have no choice but to act without UN authorization.
Much of the international community, as well as Syrians on the ground, have been calling the peace plan a failure for weeks. Violence has continued, and one of the most horrific events of the conflict – the Houla massacre, in which 108 Syrians were killed – happened several weeks after the cease-fire went into effect. There were reports yesterday of another massacre, this time in the village of Qubair in Hama region, with 86 dead, according to The Wall Street Journal.
UN monitors have so far been unable to get into the village to verify reports of the massacre, according to Reuters.
The thrust of Annan’s proposal is a contact group that would bring the UN Security Council members – Russia, China, the US, Britain, and France – together with critical regional players, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, who back the rebels, and Iran, which supports President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reports. The goal is to create a plan for a “political transition” that would remove Mr. Assad from power and hold elections for his successor. The point of the contact group, according to diplomats speaking with Reuters, is to bring Russia on board with the idea of replacing Assad.