U.N. Security Council could vote Saturday on response to Syria
Almost eleven months after protesters first flooded Syrian streets to demand regime change and true democratic freedoms, the U.N. Security Council could vote Saturday on a draft resolution that would pressure the government to stop a sustained, bloody crackdown on dissidents CNN reported
But in the hours leading up to Saturday morning's meeting in New York, reports of carnage at the hands of the Syrian regime continued unabated.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group, said early Saturday that 217 people, including women and children, had been killed in the beleaguered city of Homs over the past day.
"The U.N. isn't doing anything about it. The Arab League isn't doing anything about it ... While they're having their little discussion, people are sitting here and they're dying," said an activist identified as Danny.
He said the assault on Homs started after a few dozen members of the Syrian army defected and fled to a part of the city.
"The civilians went down to welcome the (defectors) to thank them for their bravery," he said. "When the army found out, it started randomly bombarding with tank shells, mortar bombs. It's like they're killing animals."
Homs resident Abu Abdo Alhomsy described the scene as a "massacre," with continuous bombing and the presence of snipers.
"There are so many people on the streets that are wounded and they need help, but we can't reach them to help them," he said. They're ready to kills us all. They have no problem with doing that. Please, we call (on) the international community for help," Alhomsy said.
But Syrian state-run TV denied reports that the army shelled neighborhoods in Homs.
"This is a media campaign that uses fabrication, falsehood and escalation ... in order to affect a decision at the Security Council and cover crimes and attacks committed by armed terrorist groups," it said.
And the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency once again blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the violence in the country.
'The ongoing distortion, falsification and instigation media campaigns by some satellite channels are but to cover the crimes and aggressions of the armed terrorist groups in Syria," SANA reported, citing an unnamed source.
CNN cannot independently confirm opposition or government reports from Syria because the regime has restricted access of journalists to the country.
But the unrest has spread far beyond Syria.
Protests broke out at Syrian embassies in Cairo, Berlin, Washington, London Friday and Saturday.
Egyptian police arrested 12 Syrians accused of setting the first floor of the Syrian embassy in Cairo on fire, according to Egyptian police Maj. Karim El-Fouli.
In Berlin, 31 people were detained and later released after breaking through the locked doors of the Syrian embassy there, officials said.
Some of the few dozen protesters outside the Syrian embassy in Washington chanted, "shame, shame, shame on you."
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in a report Friday that Syrian army and security officers detained and tortured children with impunity during the past year. The group said it has documented at least 12 cases of children detained under inhumane conditions and tortured, as well as children shot while in their homes or on the street.
Human Rights Watch urged the Security Council "to demand that the Syrian government end all human rights violations."
The Security Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET Saturday. It was not clear which way Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council that has opposed previous draft resolutions on Syria, would vote.
A Security Council meeting on Syria ended Thursday evening without agreement on the text of the draft, according to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.
The draft of the resolution discussed Thursday had dropped demands from an Arab League plan for Syria to form a unity government and for President Bashar al-Assad to delegate power to his deputy.
"We had what I would characterize as sometimes difficult but ultimately useful discussions," Rice said. "We're still working. This is not done."
She said the Moroccans, who submitted the original draft, would come back with another version that could be voted on.
Before the talks, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said that even a watered-down resolution would pressure the Syrian government.
U.N. diplomats said the changes reflected a big concession to Russia, which has been reluctant to sign on to any plan that could be seen as a mandate for regime change in Damascus, as occurred in Libya after it signed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone.
Russia, which counts Syria as a major weapons client, has said it is concerned about the prospect of a Syrian civil war and does not want al-Assad pushed from power. It has made clear that it will not accept an arms embargo or economic sanctions.
A call for other nations to follow the Arab League members in adopting measures such as sanctions against Syria had also been dropped from the latest version of the draft resolution, which demands the Syrian government allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations. It also calls for an "inclusive Syrian-led political process."
U.S. and European diplomats insisted that the revised text still fully endorsed the Arab League plan and that it did not need to spell out every detail to have the same meaning.
"It will still put pressure on the Syrian government, because they realize that Russia cannot stand up forever. And they are under great pressure now. And, you know, Russia does not want to be against the people," Elaraby said.
In October, Russia and China issued a rare double-veto of a resolution that lacked sanctions but would have condemned the violence in Syria.
At least 7,100 people, including 461 children, have died since the start of the Syrian uprising in March, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists that documents protests.
The United Nations estimated in December that more than 5,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict since March but has not been able to update that figure because of the situation on the ground.