Syrian carnage prompts new call for UN action

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The Syrian opposition yesterday demanded tougher international action against Bashar al-Assad's regime amid mounting carnage in Hama, where a huge explosion killed dozens as it ripped through an area packed with refugees.

The Syrian National Council called upon the UN to end the bloodshed as the full horror of the attack in the Masha al-Tayyar district of Hama began to emerge, with as many as 70 reported dead.

Video footage of the aftermath showed desperate residents digging through twisted metal and rubble with their bare hands, searching for survivors. A group of men were seen carrying the limp and bloodied body of a young girl.

"Children and women were screaming and people were searching the rubble for bodies with any means they have," said one eye witness.

The neighbourhood is one of the city's poorest – tightly packed with dwellings which serve as home to those who have fled the violence in other war-ravaged areas, such as nearby Homs.

There were conflicting reports as to what caused Wednesday night's blast in Masha al-Tayyar, with some experts saying that the damage looked too severe to be caused by normal shelling.

Activists said several of the poorly constructed buildings collapsed after a shell or rocket hit, with some suggesting it may have been a Scud missile. The Syrian government said the blast was accidentally triggered by a terrorist group which used the house to manufacture explosives, killing 16. It released pictures of the dead and injured, including women and young babies.

The SNC's call for action yesterday comes amid mounting international frustration with Kofi Annan's UN-Arab League six-point peace plan for Syria, with the regime accused of acting with complete disregard of its commitments, which include a supposed ceasefire. The continued violence comes despite the presence of two international observers in the city. The Local Co-ordination Committees yesterday said that it had documented 462 deaths across the country since observers arrived just over 10 days ago.

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, said on Tuesday that a Section 7 resolution – which would allow for military action – should be put to the UN Security Council if the regime hasn't shown commitment to the peace plan by 5 May.

Such a resolution is likely to be blocked by Russia and China, but nonetheless shows momentum for more decisive action. Both Russia and Iran are assisting Syria to avoid the impact of tightened Western sanctions by helping it to import fuel for its tanks.