Army continues assault on Homs


THE ARMY shelling of the Bab Amr district of the central Syrian city of Homs and the nearby town of Rastan reportedly continued yesterday. The opposition local co-ordination committees said 14 people had been killed, 10 in the Homs region.

Although food and medical supplies have reached Homs, volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent cannot enter no-go areas where insurgents continue to hold their ground. Flour and fuel are in short supply and many people cannot leave their homes.

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has said the security council’s failure to take action has prompted the Syrian government to mount an all-out assault. She told the general assembly, which is debating an Arab League plan for Syria, that more than 5,400 people were killed last year and the number of fatalities and wounded mounts on a daily basis.

Ms Pillay said at least 18,000 people were being detained, 25,000 had fled to neighbouring countries, and 70,000 were internally displaced.

“The breadth and patterns of attacks by military and security forces on civilians, and the widespread destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure indicate approval or complicity at the highest level,” she said.

Her allegations were rejected by the Syrian foreign ministry in a letter dispatched to the UN Commission for Human Rights, Syria’s official news agency Sana said.

Syria’s representative at the UN, Bashar al-Jafari, told the assembly, “Syria has a right to protect its citizens, combat terrorism and armed violence.”

He accused the Gulf states of sending and funding “terrorists” to Syria.

The latest league proposal, adopted by Arab foreign ministers on Sunday, calls for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force and “political and material” support for opposition groups, including weapons for insurgents. “We will back the opposition financially and diplomatically in the beginning but if the killing by the regime continues, civilians must be helped to protect themselves. The resolution gives Arab states all options to protect the Syrian people,” an Arab ambassador said.

Following rejection by Damascus, China and Russia vetoed a plan put forward in the council early this month for negotiations between the regime and the opposition. It also proposed the formation of a unity government; that President Bashar al-Assad delegate authority to his deputy; and that elections be held.

Syria has rejected peacekeepers but not the reintroduction of league monitoring teams that were deployed to oversee implementation of the original league plan to end the crisis.

This called for an end to violence by all sides, the withdrawal of troops, release of prisoners, and negotiations. The monitors were pulled out at the end of last month.

The Obama administration has backed league proposals to end the power struggle in Syria but said there were obstacles to organising a peacekeeping force.

China and Russia continue to regard ongoing violence in Syria as an internal matter and could veto a resolution proposing peacekeepers if put to the council.

The US and EU oppose military intervention based on the Libyan model.