DAMASCUS/COPENHAGEN (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday that Syria risks a “catastrophic civil war” following a massacre that sparked global outrage, as the United States criticised Russia for resisting tougher UN action, whereas US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Russia’s resistance to UN action on Syria, warning that its policy could contribute to a civil war.
Ban, speaking in Istanbul, made it clear he too expected Damascus to implement Annan’s blueprint, which includes a ceasefire that should have taken effect on April 12 but has been violated daily ever since.
“I demand that the government of Syria act on its commitment to the Annan peace plan,” the UN chief said. The massacres of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war, a civil war from which the country would never recover.”
He was referring to a slaughter near the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday of 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women. Some were killed by artillery and tank fire but most were summarily executed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The assault prompted Western governments, including the United States, Britain, France and Australia, to expel the senior Syrian diplomats in their countries. But Damascus denied that its troops had carried out the killings, blaming them instead on “armed gangs.”
China on Thursday said a resolution of the Syria conflict needed more time and urged support and patience for the peace plan being mediated by UN special envoy Kofi Annan.
Battles raged in Syria as regime troops and rebel forces clashed on Thursday across the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that at least 14 people were killed, including a young boy.
Regime forces pounded central Houla, site of a weekend massacre, for a second consecutive day, and regime forces fired heavy machinegun fire in the town, said the Britain-based watchdog.
Amid the renewed violence, a boy was shot dead by a sniper in Taldu in central Houla, the monitor said.
“Frightened residents of the area fled” for nearby towns, just five days after a massacre killed 108 people in Houla, nearly half of them children.
In Qusayr, in the central province of Homs, nine people, including a woman and a rebel fighter, were killed by troops shelling and firing heavy machineguns as they tried to capture the rebel bastion, the Observatory said.