Ban condemns Syrian massacre
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was shocked by reports of a massacre in a town close to Syria's capital and condemned it as "an appalling and brutal crime" that should be independently investigated immediately, his
spokesman said today.
Syrian opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's army yesterday of massacring hundreds of people in the town of Daraya, which government forces recaptured from rebels.
"The secretary-general is certainly shocked by those reports and he strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime," Mr Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "This needs to be investigated immediately, in an independent and impartial fashion.
"It underscores ... wherever there are atrocities, whoever is responsible needs to be held accountable and it underscores again the lack of protection for civilians that there is in Syria," he said.
He said the UN Office for the Commissioner for Human Rights was trying to gather information on the Daraya incident.
In Daraya, southwest of Damascus, some 320 bodies, including women and children, were found in houses and basements, according to activists who said most had been killed "execution-style" by troops in house-to-house raids.
Syria's official state news agency blamed the killings on the rebels.
"Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town," the agency reported.
The United Nations estimates that more than 18,000 people have been killed in the 17-month conflict. It began as peaceful pro-democracy protests and has grown into a civil war, pitting a mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against the ruling Assad family, who are members of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Opposition activists say Syrian fighter plane attacks on eastern suburbs of Damascus killed at least 60 people today.
They said the aerial attacks targeted the neighbourhood of Zemalka and the more easterly suburb of Saqba where Free Syrian Army fighters had attacked and over-run several army roadblocks earlier in the day.
Both suburbs are poor and predominantly Sunni Muslim.
"The 60 casualties were recorded in Zemalka and there were many dead as well in Saqba but their numbers could not be ascertained," said Osama al-Dimashqi, an activist speaking from Zemalka and giving an alias for fear of reprisals.
"Most of those killed were civilians and the Free Syrian Army had attacked the roadblocks then left," he said.
Dimashqi said these were the first aerial attacks by fighter planes on Damascus.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande today warned Dr Assad that any use of the country's chemical weapons would be a legitimate justification for a military intervention.
"With our partners we remain very vigilant regarding preventing the use of chemical weapons, which for the international community would be a legitimate reason for direct intervention," Mr Hollande said during an annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors.
A Christian archbishop fled Syria after his offices were ransacked last week amid fighting between rebels and government forces in the country's biggest city Aleppo, Catholic news agency Fides said today.