UN monitors reach Syria massacre scene

 

UN monitors entered the Syrian hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir today, where up to 78 people were reported killed in cold blood two days earlier and a BBC correspondent with them said it was clear a “terrible crime” had taken place.

"It was an appalling scene," said the correspondent, Paul Danahar. "What we didn't find were any bodies of people. What we did find were tracks on the tarmac (that) the UN said looked like armoured personnel carriers or tanks."

The alleged massacre has underlined how little outside powers, divided and pursuing their own interests in the region, have been able to do to halt 15 months of carnage in Syria.

Many Syrian civilians are fleeing their homes to escape widening fighting between security forces and rebels, the Red Cross said, while the outside world seems unable to craft an alternative to envoy Kofi Annan's failing peace plan.

"Some say that the plan may be dead," Annan said before meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

"Is the problem the plan or the problem is implementation?" he asked. "If it's implementation, how do we get action on that? And if it is the plan, what other options do we have?"

The UN monitors reached the farming settlement of Mazraat al-Qubeir, where about 150 people had lived, one day after Syrian armed forces and villagers had turned them away.

"It is not hard to verify, as soon as you walk into the first house you are hit by the stench of burnt flesh," the BBC's Danahar said. "You can see that a terrible crime has taken place, everything has been burnt, houses have been gutted, there is an RPG (that has) blown a hole at the side of the house.

"The most distressing scenes were at the house next door. I walked in and saw pieces of brains lying on the floor. There was a tablecloth covered in blood and flesh and someone had tried to mop the blood up by pushing it into the corner, but seems they had given up because there was so much of it around," he said.

Activists say at least 78 people were shot, stabbed or burned alive in the Sunni Muslim hamlet on Wednesday.

Some 300 UN observers are in Syria to monitor a truce between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels that Annan declared on April 12 but was never implemented.

Now reduced to observing the violence, they have already verified one massacre in Houla, a town where 108 men, women and children were slain on May 25. The UN peacekeeping chief said Syrian troops and pro-Assad militia were probably responsible.

The Syrian authorities have condemned the killings in Houla and Mazraat al-Qubeir, blaming them on "terrorists".

More and more civilians are fleeing their homes to escape fighting, while sick or wounded people are finding it hard to reach medical services or buy food, said a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva.

Protests and strife erupted across Syria today.

A car bomb aimed at a bus carrying security men exploded in a Damascus suburb, killing at least two, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said.

Another car bomb hit a police branch in the northwestern city of Idlib, killing at least five people, it said.

Syrian forces shelled and then tried to storm the rebel-held district of Khalidiya in the central city of Homs, the heart of the revolt against Assad, the British-based Observatory said.

Activists said 10 rockets a minute crashed into Khalidiya in one of the fierce bombardments to hit Homs. Videos posted on the Internet showed plumes of grey smoke rising from buildings.

Activist footage of protests said to be in the northern city of Aleppo showed crowds fleeing from tear gas and gunfire.

In Deraa, the southern birthplace of the uprising, Syrian forces pounded rebel hideouts in the rugged Luja area, after many soldiers had defected, activists and residents said.

Heavy gunfire erupted in the Damascus neighbourhood of Kfar Souseh after a loud blast there, activists said.

"The Syrian people are bleeding," Ban said at the United Nations yesterday, warning of an "imminent" civil war.

There is little sign of the firm action he called for from a world divided between Assad's opponents and countries such as China, Russia and Iran which are deeply suspicious of Western and Arab states determined to unseat the Syrian leader.

China again urged both sides to comply with Annan's peace plan, which Assad and his foes had accepted, although the rebels said this week they were no longer bound by the truce.

Russia and China have twice vetoed Western-backed Security Council resolutions critical of Syria, whose security forces have killed at least 10,000 people, by a UN count, while losing more than 2,600 of their own, according to Damascus.

Stepping up US pressure on Russia to support a Syrian transition that would include Assad's exit from power, State Department official Fred Hof met Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow.

Bogdanov said Annan's plan, which does not directly call for Assad's departure, could be adjusted to improve implementation but its core elements must remain.

He has said Moscow would be open to a negotiated Yemen-style power transition in Syria, referring to a deal under which Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February after a year of unrest.

In Syria, the conflict is becoming much more sectarian than the one in Yemen. The shabbiha militiamen from Assad's Shi'ite-rooted Alawite sect appear to be off the leash, targeting Sunni civilians almost regardless of their part in the uprising.

Activists said those killed in Mazraat al-Qubeir had not previously been caught up in the conflict.

Moscow and Beijing have decried the killings of civilians, but resist any plan for coerced political transition, let alone military intervention - not that the West is ready for this.

Clinton has said her country is willing to work on a broad conference on Syria's political future, as long as Assad goes.

She has criticised the idea, favoured by Annan and Moscow, of a contact group that would bring together major powers as well as regional ones, including Iran, a strategic ally of Assad with much at stake in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon.

Reuters

VIDEO
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?