China, Russia Veto UN Resolution as Body Count Rises
Russia and China vetoed the latest United Nations resolution that would have strengthened sanctions against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and called for him to step down comes on the same day that human rights groups decried a drastic rise in violence. More than 200 people were killed in the past 24 hours alone, though as usual, Assad claims that the death tolls were inflated and nothing more than propaganda.
Residents of Homs on Saturday described a night of ceaseless bombardment by mortars and rockets that lasted until dawn, sending them fleeing to lower floors and basements. When daylight came, dozens of buildings were left punctured by shells, facades collapsed, and some streets were stained with blood.
Thousands gathered for a funeral ceremony for some of the victims in the worst hit neighborhood, Khaldiyeh, where more than 60 coffins and bodies in white shrouds were lined up in a park, according to footage of the scene.
“A few more nights like this one and Homs will be erased from the map,” Ammar, a resident, said, speaking on condition that only his first name be used for fear he and his family could be targeted. “We are being massacred.”
Activists’ reports of the death toll could not be independently confirmed, and the counts varied due to the confusion of tracking the dead.
The Syrian government denied any bombardment took place at all, saying the high death tolls were opposition propaganda aimed at pressuring the United Nations and the bodies were those of people who had been kidnapped previously by “terrorists.”
The bloodshed added heat to negotiations that have been going on for days, as Western and Arab nations tried to overcome Russia’s opposition to the resolution. The measure would have backed an Arab call for Assad to hand over his powers to his vice president and allow formation of a unity government.
Protesters have attacked Syrian embassies around the world as the death toll rises. Syrian embassies in London, Berlin, Athens, Cairo, and Kuwait were attacked - and the London embassy was actually attacked on successive nights.
The deaths in Syria coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre by Bashar’s father Hafez. Reports seem to indicate that the violence intensified when more security forces defected in Homs, and loyalists began assaulting the area where the defectors fled.
During the attack, residential buildings and homes were randomly and heavily bombed,” the SNC said. An activist identified as Danny said the assault on Homs started after a few dozen members of the Syrian army defected and fled to a part of the city.
“The civilians went down to welcome (the defectors) to thank them for their bravery,” Danny said, as quoted by CNN. “When the army found out, it started randomly bombarding with tank shells, mortar bombs. It’s like they’re killing animals.”
For its part, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SABA) said the reports were part of “the ongoing distortion, falsification and instigation media campaigns by some satellite channels.” “Such campaigns are viewed by many observers and analysts as a sinister bid to negatively affect the ongoing UN Security Council discussions about Syria,” it added.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the “brutal killings” and urged the international community to protect the Syrian people. “Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity,” Obama said.
The death toll continues rising even as Russia and China both thwart any further action, no matter how limited it might be, that could bring the violence to an end and pave the way for a transition to a new regime. Neither wants to see Assad ousted, but much more immediate is the fact that Assad is using the veto to further crack down against the opposition groups.