U.N. condemns Syria as tanks park in Hama

Aug. 3, 2011 at 6:27 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council Wednesday condemned the Syrian government for its violent crackdown on demonstrators as Syrian tanks parked in central Hama.

The council's action came after Syrian President Bashar Assad's military defied international pressure and launched new attacks Wednesday on Hama, a hub for the movement seeking to oust the regime, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The council, which hadn't been able to agree on the severity of its response, reached a compromise Wednesday and condemned the "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities" in a statement that doesn't include any enforceable demands or sanctions, diplomats said.

The United States and Western allies on the council had sought a resolution, which has the force of international law, against Assad's regime, while other countries, such as Russia, urged the council adopt a statement.

The action fell short of protesters' hopes, the Journal said.

"It's unfortunate that after 1,810 deaths, for which we have documented names, and tens of thousands of detainees, this is the strongest language they were able to come up with," said Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the opposition group Local Coordination Committees, based in Beirut. "But we weren't expecting a stronger statement, and it's a good entry point for the international community."

Syrian tanks, after spending three days at the edge of Hama, moved to the city center Wednesday. Witnesses and activists said they saw three tanks positioned at Assi Square and snipers on nearby rooftops.

The number of casualties and injuries was uncertain, the Journal said.

Insan, a Syria-focused rights group based in Europe, accounted for 10 people killed and 86 injured by late morning, but said it hadn't receive any more information throughout the day.

"We don't have a clue about how many were killed after that, but by 2 p.m. we had reports of bodies lying on the streets," said Wissam Tarif, Insan's executive director.

The government cut off telecommunications links early Wednesday and turned off water supplies to the city's main tanks in the afternoon, residents and activists said.

"It's a disaster," said one resident of Hama reached by telephone after cellphone communications appeared to be restored. The resident told the Journal houses were "flattened to the ground" in the city's Hamidiya neighborhood.

The city is running out of food and supplies, a resident told CNN.

"In a couple days, this will be a major humanitarian issue," the resident said.

Since Sunday, at least 140 people have been killed, mainly in Hama, as the Syrian government tries to quell dissent. Assad has pledged reforms but has blamed the violence on "armed gangs" propped up by foreign governments it has not named.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Assad lost "all sense of humanity."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed sympathy for all victims of the Assad regime's abuse during a meeting Tuesday with a group of U.S.-based Syrian activists.

The United States will support Syrians "in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy in Syria and to have their aspirations realized," Clinton said. "We have nothing invested in the continuation of a regime that must kill, imprison and torture its own citizens to maintain power."

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