Syrian forces kill dozens after UN monitors visit
Monday, April 23, 2012
BEIRUT (AP) — A day ago, crowds in the Syrian city of Hama welcomed a U.N. team sent in to observe a shaky truce. On Monday, government troops opened fire on the same streets, killing dozens, activists said, raising fears the regime is targeting opponents emboldened to protest by the U.N. monitors.
President Barack Obama and European countries announced new sanctions against Damascus, while the U.N.’s political chief said the Syrian government has failed to implement the peace plan designed to end 13 months of deadly conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people.
The new bloodshed — the worst violence in the central city of Hama in months — came despite the cease-fire that went into effect April 12. Skepticism about the commitment to the truce by Syrian President Bashar Assad remains high among the regime’s opponents and some of the peace plan’s key backers, such as the United States.
U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that the Syrian government is still using heavy weapons against its people and has failed to implement key parts of the plan, such as releasing detainees and allowing peaceful demonstrations.
The cease-fire is supposed to allow for dialogue on a political solution between Assad’s regime and those seeking his ouster.
“Human rights violations are still perpetrated with impunity,” Pascoe said.
The U.N. has sent an advance team of 11 observers to Syria to push forward the peace plan put forth by envoy Kofi Annan. More monitors are due to be on the ground by the end of the month, the U.N. said, part of a mission of 300 total.
In Washington, Obama announced new sanctions on bodies in Iran and Syria that use technology to target citizens by blocking or monitoring social networking sites used to organize demonstrations and communicate with the media.
“National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” Obama said.
In Luxembourg, the EU passed its 14th set of sanctions, this time banning “luxury goods” and products that can be used against protesters.
The new sanctions are aimed at Syria’s wealthy business class, which has largely stood behind Assad.