Syria crisis: Houla child massacre confirmed by UN
Published: 26th May 2012 19:54:42
UN observers have counted at least 90 bodies, including 32 children, after a Syrian government attack on a town.
UN mission head Maj-Gen Robert Mood told the BBC the killing in Houla was "indiscriminate and unforgivable".
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would seek a strong global response to the "appalling crime". UN chief Ban Ki-moon said it was a "flagrant violation of international law".
Syria's government has blamed the deaths on "armed terrorist gangs".
This is one of the bloodiest attacks in one area since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
Activists say some of the victims died by shelling, while others were summarily executed, or butchered by the regime militia known as the "shabiha".
UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, and the Arab League have also condemned Friday's assault.
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Fabius said he was making immediate arrangements for a Paris meeting of the Friends of Syria group, which includes Western and Arab nations, but not Russia or China, who have blocked previous attempts to introduce UN sanctions.
Fighting in Syria has continued despite the deployment of some 250 UN observers monitoring a ceasefire brokered by Mr Annan - a ceasefire which the BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says is now "pretty fictional".
The UN says at least 10,000 have been killed since the protests began.
A joint statement from Mr Ban and Mr Annan said firing heavy weapons into a residential neighbourhood was a "flagrant violation of international law" which must stop and those responsible should be held to account.
Mr Annan would be contacting Syria's government to "convey in the clearest terms the expectations of the international community, and he will also do so during his forthcoming visit to Syria", it said.
Mr Hague said he would be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days.
The "massacre" video which has emerged from Houla bears the sound of a man screaming:
"These are all children! Watch, you dogs, you Arabs, you animals - look at these children, watch, just watch!"
On a bedroom floor dozens of little children lie dead, their arms and legs strewn over one another. Many of their eyes are still open, bearing a look of shock and fright. They are all covered with blood and obviously suffered terrible deaths.
A girl, who is perhaps seven years old, wearing a headscarf and pink diamante belt, lies face to face in death with a much younger boy.
Another little boy in a yellow jumper lies with his arms stretched out, almost cradling the head of the girl next to him. Blood covers both their faces and soaks their hair.
People off camera are shouting: "Oh God, oh God, oh God."
Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi called the assault a "horrific crime" and urged the Security Council to "stop the escalation of killing and violence by armed gangs and government military forces," the Reuters news agency reports.
The opposition Free Syrian Army says it can no longer commit to the ceasefire unless the Security Council can ensure that civilians are protected, the AFP news agency reports.
Horrific video footage has emerged from Houla of dozens of dead children, covered in blood, their arms and legs strewn over one another. It is unverified, but our correspondent says such images would be difficult to fake.
International media cannot report freely in Syria and it is impossible to verify reports of violence.
A team of UN observers visited the town on Saturday and afterwards Maj-Gen Mood said they could confirm "the use of small arms, machine gun[s], artillery and tanks."
But he did not say who was behind the killings.
Our correspondent says local people are angry that the observers failed to intervene to stop the killing.
Abu Emad, speaking from Houla, said their appeals to the monitors failed to produce action.
"We told them at night, we called seven of them. We told them the massacre is being committed right now at Houla by the mercenaries of this regime and they just refused to come and stop the massacre."
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said more than 110 people died. The SNC's Ausama Monajed told the BBC the regime was selecting vulnerable towns to "teach the entire country a lesson".
"It is beyond humanity what we have seen," he said.
Activists called a day of mourning on Saturday.
The BBC's correspondent Paul Wood and cameraman Fred Scott report from the rebel stronghold of Rastan
Earlier, in a letter to the Security Council, Mr Ban said the Syrian opposition controlled "significant parts of some cities".
He said that "established terrorist groups" could have been behind some of the recent bomb blasts in Syria judging from the sophistication of the attacks.
He said the situation remained "extremely serious" and urged states not to arm either side in the conflict.
Earlier this month, a bombing in Damascus left 55 dead in an attack which the government blamed on al-Qaeda. The attack came amid mounting fears that the terrorist group was taking advantage of the conflict to gain a foothold.
On Thursday, a UN-mandated panel said Syrian security forces were to blame for most abuses in the conflict, which has continued despite the presence of the UN observers.
Mr Annan's six-point peace agreement ordered a cessation of violence on 12 April. While casualties appeared to fall after the truce, the fighting quickly resumed to previous levels.
Are you in Syria? Do you have friends or family there? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below. At no time should you endanger yourself or others or take any unnecessary risks.
Send your pictures and videos to email@example.com or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.
Read the terms and conditions
If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions
At 00:02:40 in HeadlinesPassengers should try to use the UK's smaller airports for a better holiday experience, a survey has suggested.
At 00:02:32 in TechnologyLeo Kelion speaks to Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project
At 00:01:40 in TechnologySome US and UK cyberspies are deliberately undermining their workmates' "dark web" surveillance efforts, according to the leading developer of software used to access hidden parts of the internet.
At 00:00:43 in BusinessWith the planned launch of two satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana later this month, Europe is pushing ahead with its own satellite navigation system, known as Galileo.
At 00:00:02 in SportThe Liberal Democrats want to change the law and allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing at stadiums.
At 23:56:16 in Northern IrelandA security alert is underway at Fanad Drive in the Creggan area of Londonderry, following the hijacking of a delivery van in the city.
At 23:32:43 in SportFor me, Match of the Day is more than just a TV show - it is a national institution.
At 23:04:05 in Northern IrelandPart of the Falls Road in west Belfast has been closed to traffic while a suspicious vehicle is checked, police have said.
At 22:56:48 in SportManager Ronny Deila hopes Callum McGregor's performances in Europe for Celtic this season can act as an example to other young players.
At 22:32:59 in EnglandTwo teenagers have been charged with the murder of 19-year-old Charlie Burns in Hackney, east London.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Syria crisis: Houla child massacre confirmed by UN [Online] (Updated 26th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431097/Syria-crisis-Houla-child-massacre-confirmed-by-UN [Accessed 22nd Aug 2014]
News In Other Categories
The Liberal Democrats want to change the law and allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing at stadiums.
Members of the Scottish parliament have been debating the country's future.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
BBC journalists "acted appropriately" in coverage of the police search of Sir Cliff Richard's home, director general Tony Hall has said.
A security alert is underway at Fanad Drive in the Creggan area of Londonderry, following the hijacking of a delivery van in the city.
A six-year-old girl who is believed to have choked while on holiday with her family in Gwynedd has been named as Jasmine Lapsley.