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Middle East

UN monitors shot at trying to reach site of 'massacre' in Syria


The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a General Assembly session today that monitors trying to access the site of an alleged massacre in Syria were shot at by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking at the start of a special UN General Assembly session he condemned the alleged massacre as "an unspeakable barbarity" and called again on Assad to implement international mediator Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.

"Today's news reports of another massacre ... are shocking and sickening," he told the 193-nation assembly. "A village apparently surrounded by Syrian forces. The bodies of innocent civilians lying where they were, shot. Some allegedly burned or slashed with knives."

"We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account," he said.

Major General Robert Mood had earlier said observers from the mission were told by residents in the area that they would be at risk if they entered Mazraat al-Qubair in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces were today accused by opposition groups of carrying out the massacre in the central Hama province.

The death toll and circumstances of the killings are as yet unknown.

Reports of the massacre, including images, have spread through social networking sites Twitter and Facebook - but are not yet verified.

The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights claim the killings took place overnight in Mazraat al-Qubair - they are alleging that 'dozens' of people were killed.

Opposition groups in Syria are claiming that pro-government forces have killed 86 people in Qubair and Maarzaf in Hama province, many of them women and children.

They are also claiming the pro-government militia group Shabiha first shelled the farming area and then ten people went in and killed the residents there.

The opposition groups claim some of those killed were stabbed to death while other bodies have been burned.

The Syrian government denied the reports calling them 'absolutely baseless'.

The violence comes after the horrific massacre in late May in a cluster of villages in central Homs province, which left more than 100 dead, including many children and women gunned down in their homes.

Gen Mood of the UN said today the mission "is concerned about the restriction imposed on its movement as it will impede our ability to monitor, observe and report".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the government in Syria  for "simply unconscionable" violence. Speaking today she said,

"The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable. Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot, be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes."

David Cameron today condemned the alleged massacre as “brutal and sickening”.

Speaking during a visit to Norway, he called for "concerted action" from the international community.

Mr Cameron said: “If these reports are true, it is yet another absolutely brutal and sickening attack.

“Frankly, the international community has got to condemn absolutely this regime and President Assad for what he is doing.

“I think that lots of different countries in the world - countries that sit around the UN Security Council table - have got to sit down today and discuss this issue.

“None of them should be able to hide from the fact that, if this is true, it will be once again President Assad demonstrating that his regime is completely illegitimate and cannot stand.

“We need to do much more to isolate Syria, to isolate the regime, to put the pressure on and to demonstrate that the whole world wants to see a political transition from this illegitimate regime and to actually see one that can take care of its people.

“It really is appalling, what is happening in that country, and I want to see concerted action from the international community.”