This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows damage after a rocket slammed into a building, killing at least 12 people, in Aleppo, Syria, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.

Hopd, Associated Press

Syria decries critics despite new attack

  • Article by: ANNE BARNARD
  • New York Times
  • January 19, 2013 - 7:15 PM


BEIRUT - The Syrian government reacted with outrage Saturday to a petition from 58 countries asking that it be investigated for war crimes, even as reports of new atrocities surfaced a day after the United Nations' top human rights official called for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"The Syrian government regrets the persistence of these countries in following the wrong approach and refusing to recognize the duty of the Syrian state to protect its people from terrorism imposed from abroad," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.

The Syrian government uses the word terrorists as a blanket term for its opponents, many of whom took up arms after the government fired on demonstrators early in 2011. Some rebel groups have increasingly used tactics like car bombs and other weapons that kill indiscriminately. Yet opposition supporters say the government has committed by far the majority of wanton attacks on civilians, using airstrikes and artillery barrages on residential neighborhoods.

The BBC reported Friday that it had found evidence of a massacre that government opponents said was carried out Tuesday in Al Haswiya, a working-class suburb of Homs in northern Syria.

The BBC reported that visibly shocked villagers said at least 100 people, almost all of them Sunni Muslims, had been killed. Soldiers escorting the BBC journalists blamed the extremist group Jabhet al-Nusra for the killings, while out of earshot of the soldiers, villagers blamed the army and said some soldiers had apologized for the killings.

"Three charred bodies lay sprawled just inside one house. A trail of blood stained the cement," BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet reported.

On Friday, UNICEF's director for the Middle East and North Africa, Maria Calivis, condemned what she called "the terrible price children are paying" in Syria, condemning the Haswiya killings of "whole families" and the deaths of women and children last week in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, and in explosions at Aleppo University that killed more than 80 people.

Each side accused the other of responsibility for the blasts in Aleppo and for large explosions in Daraa and Aleppo on Thursday -- possibly from surface-to-surface missiles, whose frequent use would represent another escalation in the conflict.

On Friday, the U.N. commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed dismay over the lack of Security Council action against the killing and the human rights abuses in Syria, where the death toll now surpasses 60,000.

She said her job was to give voice to the victims who "see the situation as the United Nations' not carrying out its responsibility to protect victims."

Pillay backed the call by 58 countries this month for the Security Council to send Syria's case to the International Criminal Court for investigation. Syria, like Russia and the United States, is not a member of the court, and only the Security Council can refer it to the court for an investigation.

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