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Houla massacre: UN condemns Syria government

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the Syrian government for firing heavy weapons on civilians in Houla last Friday, amid violence in which more than 100 people died.

Kofi annan syria damascus 28 05 2012Enlarge
UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan (C) speaks with UN mission chief in Syria Major General Robert Mood (L) as Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi (2nd R) listens on upon the envoy's arrival in Damascus for talks with top officials on May 28, 2012. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations Security Council has blamed the Syrian government for many of the more than 100 deaths in Houla last Friday.

Following an emergency meeting yesterday, the council issued a unanimous statement condemning "government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood," which it said had contributed to dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.

UN observers witnessed at least 108 bodies in Houla, near Homs, a spokeswoman told CNN. Forty-nine of those were children less than 10 years old.

More from GlobalPost: World leaders condemn Houla massacre

Some of the dead were killed by "shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse," the Security Council said, without specifying who they held responsible.

According to the Guardian, Russia resisted attempts to blame the point-blank shootings and other violence on pro-government forces. Moscow, traditionally an ally of Syria, maintains that both soldiers and rebels played a part in the violence.

"We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference this morning, cited by the BBC. "Nobody is exonerating the government or the rebels but we must understand how it happened so that it can never be repeated."

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Syrian officials denied all government responsibility for the deaths in Houla, which they blame on "terrorist armed groups."

In a letter written to the UN Security Council, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the killers used knives, a "signature" of Islamist militants, according to Reuters.

The ministry's letter said, "Not a single tank entered the region and the Syrian army was in a state of self-defense using the utmost degree of self control and appropriate response, and anything other than this is pure lies."

Meanwhile UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus, where he was due to hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad, reported CNN.

Annan said, "I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla two days ago, which took so many innocent lives, children, women and men. This was an appalling crime, and the Security Council has rightly condemned it," according to CNN.

Admitting that the peace plan he brokered in April had not so far been implemented, Annan urged the Syrian government to take "bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully, and for everyone involved to help create the right context for a credible political process," Reuters reported.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120528/houla-massacre-syria-un-kofi-annan