Syrian regime deliberately murdered civilians - Hillary Clinton
There was "indisputable evidence" that the Syrian regime had "deliberately murdered civilians" in a massacre in the central village of Tremseh in which more than 200 people died, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday, DPA reported.
She called for an immediate ceasefire and for UN observers to be allowed to enter the site.
A UN source told dpa that Syria "totally ignored" a request by a United Nations monitoring mission to enter Tremseh. The request was made by General Robert Mood, the head of the UN team based in the capital Damascus, during a news conference.
Mood said his team was ready to go to Tremseh, in the province of Hama, if a ceasefire was established.
The UN mission said in a report to international mediator Kofi Annan that al-Assad's forces had used tanks and helicopters in attacking Tremseh, said the source, who asked not to be named.
Mood told reporters he had information from his team in Hama that fighting has been raging in and around Tremseh since Thursday.
Clinton said: "As long as the Assad regime continues to wage war against the Syrian people, the international community must keep increasing the pressure on the regime to halt the violence and allow for a political solution to go forward."
She called on the UN Security Council to take strong action and make clear to the Syrian regime there would be consequences for not complying.
"History will judge this Council," she said. "Its members must ask themselves whether continuing to allow the Assad regime to commit unspeakable violence against its own people is the legacy they want to leave."
There has been deadlock at the Security Council, where Syrian allies Russia and China are opposed to a push by Western and Arab countries for a resolution imposing sanctions on al-Assad and threatening the use of military force if he did not stop the bloodshed.
Russia and China have in the past twice blocked tough-worded resolutions drafted by Western powers and their Arab allies. Russia has indicated it will block a new resolution calling for tougher sanctions.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, said late Friday she was "deeply shocked" by reports of the killings. "Those responsible need to be identified in order to hold them accountable for their heinous acts. There can be no impunity for the perpetrators of these alleged human rights violations," she said.
Earlier Friday, Annan accused the Syrian government of violating his plan to end the bloodshed in the country by using heavy weaponry on civilian areas.
"This is in violation of the government's undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres and its commitment to the six-point plan ... I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms," Annan said in Geneva.
Annan's plan, accepted by Damascus earlier this year, calls for withdrawing military troops and hardware from urban areas and giving access to humanitarian services.
The opposition Syrian National Council said in a statement: "To stop this bloody madness ... an urgent and tough resolution from the (UN) Security Council under Chapter VII (of the UN Charter) is needed to protect the Syrian people."
Chapter VII allows for punitive measures against regimes considered a threat to peace, including economic sanctions and military intervention.
While the government and opposition traded accusations over the massacre, activists gave conflicting reports of the death toll.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said more than 150 people were killed in the village by al-Assad's forces and pro-government militiamen.
"The casualties are much higher, but news coming from inside Tremseh is scarce. We have concrete evidence that there are more than 150 dead," he told dpa.
Abdel Rahman said 30 bodies had been found burnt from the shelling, in addition to 18 bodies with gunshots to the eyes and head. Dozens of opposition rebels were among the victims, he said.
"This proves they were executed," he added.
Activists based in Hama told dpa that more than 250 people were summarily killed when government forces attacked the village with 150 tanks.
"The massacre was committed because most of the people in Tremseh are sympathizers of the rebellion (against al-Assad's regime)," activists said.
State television said most of the victims were "terrorists," referring to opposition rebels.
In other parts of the war-torn country, activists reported that Friday's death toll reached 61, as mass protests were held in several areas to condemn the Tremseh massacre.
Meanwhile, the Syria Humanitarian Forum will be held on Monday in Geneva to seek help for the more than 850,000 Syrians in and outside the country in need of assistance.
"People will die if the appeals are not met," said a senior UN humanitarian affairs official at a briefing in New York.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 750,000 internally displaced Syrians and more than 103,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other Middle East countries were in need of help.