Syria: Hundreds Killed, Injured in Homs; Russia, China Veto UN Resolution

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Common Dreams

Syria: Hundreds Killed, Injured in Homs; Russia, China Veto UN Resolution

UN Resolution fails in seekend session; Russia hesitant to take sides in Syria's "civil war"

by
Common Dreams staff

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Marat al-Numan near the northern province of Idlib February 3, 2012. Picture taken February 3, 2012. (REUTERS)

Hundreds of Syrians have been killed and many more seriously injured in the Syrian town of Homs following widespread demonstrations on Friday, according to reports. Worldwide condemnation was evident at Syrian embassies around the world with anger focused on the brutal crackdown of the Assad's military and security forces.

UPDATE: (1:12 PM EST): Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council vote.

As the Associated Press reports:

Russia and China on Saturday vetoed a Security Council resolution backing an Arab League peace plan that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down amid escalating violence.

The other 13 members of the council, including the United States, Britain and France, voted in an unusual weekend session favor of the resolution aimed at stopping the ongoing violence in Syria.

The violence puts increased pressure on Russia today as the Arab League and members of the UN security council, including the United States, press for a Security Council resolution that presses for Sryian President Bashar Al-Assad's ouster:

According to Reuters:

Syrian forces killed more than 200 people in an assault on the city of Homs, activists said, the bloodiest day of an 11-month uprising giving sudden urgency to a push for a U.N. resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to cede power.

The Arab League, Europe and the United States leaned hard on Assad's veto-wielding ally Russia to let the Security Council pass a resolution later on Saturday backing an Arab call for Assad to transfer powers to a deputy.

Moscow said the resolution was not "hopeless," but it needed to be adjusted to avoid "taking sides in a civil war."

Al-Jazeera reports:

Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in a major army offensive in the central Syrian city of Homs, activists say.

Activists talking to Al Jazeera on Saturday said the army had used tanks, mortars and machine guns in the assault on the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood, which began on Friday night and continued overnight.

Al Jazeera's Mysa Khalaf, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said sources in Syria told her bombardment of the area started after the opposition Free Syrian Army attacked Syrian army checkpoints and killed about 10 soldiers.

"Since then, it seems that Khaldiyeh has been under constant bombardment," she said."Several buildings have been destroyed.

I've been told that the main public hospital is completely overwhelmed and people have set up makeshift clinics in mosques. They are running low on supplies of blood."

Al-Jazeera video report:

Reuters reports:

Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood at around 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.

"We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt shells were falling on our heads," said Waleed, a resident of Khalidiya.

"The morning has come and we have discovered more bodies, bodies are on the streets," he said. "Some are still under the rubble. Our movement is better but there is little we can do without ambulances and other things."

An activist in the neighborhood contacted by Reuters said residents were using primitive tools to rescue people. They feared many were buried under rubble.

"We are not getting any help, there are no ambulances or anything. We are removing the people with our own hands," he said, adding there were only two field hospitals treating the wounded. Each one had a capacity to deal with 30 people, but he estimated the total number of wounded at 500.

"We have dug out at least 100 bodies so far, they are placed in the two mosques."

And CNN reports on various reactions around the world as word of the violence spread:

CAIRO

Egyptian police arrested 12 people, mostly Syrians, accused of setting the first floor of the Syrian embassy in Cairo on fire, according to Egyptian police Maj. Karim El-Fouli. Groups of Syrians outside the police station demanded the release of those detained, El-Fouli said.

About 100 people sat outside the police station, leading to a tense standoff with police, said Sumer Badr, a Syrian activist Badr said demonstrators gathered because of the "massacre" in Homs. (The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group, had reported that more than 200 people were killed in the besieged city Homs. One activist told CNN the assault on Homs took place after dozens of soldiers from the Syrian army defected and fled into the city.)

Syrians in Cairo chanted, "Mubarak gone gone, Assad next next" -- references to former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted after a popular uprising last year, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom many Syrian protesters are demanding step down.

LONDON

About 150 protesters gathered outside the Syrian embassy in Belgrave Square, London's Metropolitan Police said, and five people were arrested after gaining entry to the building in the early hours Saturday. One person was arrested for assault on a police officer.

The demonstrators called for the ouster of al-Assad. The protest continued outside the embassy Saturday afternoon.

Syrian Ambassador to London Dr. Sami al Khiyami told CNN one room had been broken into and furniture damaged.

The U.K. Foreign Office condemned the break-in and said it was reviewing security arrangements.

BERLIN

Thirty-one people broke through the locked doors of the Syrian embassy in Berlin, police said. The men -- all Syrian or of Syrian decent -- infiltrated the building, destroyed office furniture and displayed a flag out of an embassy's office window, Berlin police said.

The intruders also spray-painted slogans on walls. Police arrived and detained all the men, who were later released.

WASHINGTON

A few dozen protesters gathered outside the Syrian embassy in Washington on Friday night. Some chanted, "shame, shame, shame on you."

The demonstration was largely peaceful.

KUWAIT

A group of Syrian nationals as well as Kuwaiti citizens stormed Syria's embassy in Kuwait early Saturday, damaging property in the building, the state-run Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry condemned the incident, saying it was a "breach on Kuwait's policy towards diplomatic missions in the country," according to KUNA.

Both Syrian nationals and Kuwaitis were arrested, the agency said, but the exact number was not released.

***

Amid violence, UN pushes for security resolution; Russia holds ground under pressure

According to Agence France-Presse:

Western diplomats at the United Nations said they are determined to vote Saturday on a resolution condemning bloodshed in Syria, despite strong Russian objections.

The Western allies are “determined to vote today,” France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, said ahead of talks in the Security Council.

British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant also said: “We expect a vote today.”

That drew the battle lines for a showdown between the Western powers and Russia in the Security Council just hours after allegations that between 217 and 260 civilians had been massacred by Syrian forces in the city of Homs.

Russia has refused to support a Western-Arab draft resolution that would condemn the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown on a 10-month old uprising and require President Bashar al-Assad to abide by an Arab League timetable for political reform, including his own resignation.

Russia, which has close ties to Syria and fears losing further influence in the Middle East, has described the resolution as license for regime change along the lines of the Western-led intervention in Libya — backed by a UN resolution — that toppled longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Moscow objects in particular to language in the draft resolution demanding Syria move “in accordance with” the Arab League plan for political change. The Russians wanted this to be softened to “taking into account” the Arab plan, something the Western powers rejected.

Russia is one of the five countries on the Security Council with veto power and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned of a “scandal” if the text is brought for a vote.

Later, he said the resolution was not “hopeless,” but warned against measures which he said would involve the UN body “taking sides in a civil war.”

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