The bloodiest 24 hours yet: ’18 premature babies die in Homs hospital after power cut caused by fifth day of shelling by Assad troops’
- Newborn babies in incubators among at least 100 killed today
- Three unarmed families murdered in their own homes
Rockets and mortars are raining down on the Syrian city of Homs for a fifth consecutive day today – with at least 100 civilians killed in what has become the bloodiest 24 hours yet.
President Bashar Assad continued his crackdown against anti-regime opposition – with activists saying security forces murdered three innocent families in their homes.
Eighteen premature babies, in incubators, were also said to have died after their hospital was struck by power cuts, the BBC reported.
The brutal attacks came despite Assad promising Russia, which alongside China saved Damascus from UN Security Council action on Sunday, to put an end to the violence.
Foreign Secretary William Hague today spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov amid continuing anger at Moscow’s decision.
The Foreign Office said the two men discussed the latest situation in the country by telephone for around half an hour following Mr Lavrov’s visit to Damascus yesterday.
Mr Hague insisted that Western countries were not contemplating military intervention in Syria but said he believed that President Bashar al Assad should now step down.
The talks came after David Cameron yesterday approved plans designed to force Assad to quit – prompting China to say Mr Hague’s criticism of Beijing’s veto was ‘extremely irresponsible’.
Claims have also been made that a top Iranian commander has arrived in the country to help Assad manage his ‘war-effort’.
Today, troops fired rockets and mortars on Homs, as tanks entered the Inshaat neighbourhood and moved closer to Bab Amro.
It is the district hardest hit by bombardments that have killed at least 150 people in the last two days.
Today he said countries with influence over the Syrian opposition should press them to enter a dialogue with Assad.
Commentators said his comments made clear Moscow had no immediate intention of abandoning its long-time ally.
Lavrov was speaking in Moscow the day after he met Assad in Damascus, where he said both nations wanted to revive an Arab League monitoring effort that was suspended due to violence.
Syrian opposition figures, who said Lavrov had brought no new initiative, are spurning Assad’s promises of reform as meaningless while his troops are killing civilians and say he must go.
Western and Arab states frustrated by the Russian and Chinese vetoes of their draft UN resolution are seeking to isolate Assad and bolster those opposed to his 11-year rule.
The attack on Homs has intensified Western and regional diplomatic pressure on Assad.
The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council recalled their ambassadors from Damascus on Tuesday and expelled Syrian envoys from their own capitals.
The U.S. Britain, France, Italy and Spain have also all recalled their representatives.
And Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called in Syria’s charge d’affaires Jawdat Ali today and told him it was time for Assad to ‘find an exit strategy before the situation in Syria degenerates further and more lives are lost’.
Russia’s veto of the Security Council resolution on Syria went beyond protecting an ally and arms buyer, analysts said.
It showed Moscow’s determination to crush what it sees as a Western crusade to use the United Nations to topple unfriendly governments.
The same holds true for China, which followed Russia’s lead and joined Moscow in striking down a European-Arab draft resolution that would have endorsed an Arab League plan for Assad to transfer power to his deputy to prepare free elections.
‘There are all sorts of political interests involved but there is also a basic difference about whether the international community should be involved in internal conflicts against the will of the government,’ said David Bosco of American University in Washington.
—UK Daily Mail: February 8, 2012
Slideshow of recent Homs events: