WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
said she was "deeply saddened and outraged" by reports of a new massacre
in the Syrian village of Tremseh and demanded that the UN Security Council
take action to stop the violence.
"Credible reports indicate that this unconscionable act was carried out by artillery, tanks, and helicopters – indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians," she said in a statement on Friday.
"Syria cannot be peaceful, stable, or democratic until (President Bashar) Assad
goes and a political transition begins. We call for an immediate ceasefire in and around Hama to allow the UN observer mission to enter Tremseh. Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable," the top US diplomat warned.
In her statement, Clinton said that history will judge the Security Council if it fails to act. She urged its members to ask themselves if inaction is the legacy they wish to leave.
"As long as the Assad regime continues to wage war against the Syrian people, the international community must keep increasing the pressure on the regime to halt the violence and allow for a political solution to go forward. The Security Council should put its full weight behind the Annan plan for an immediate ceasefire and a political transition and make clear to the Syrian regime that there will be consequences for non-compliance," she said.
"History will judge this Council. Its members must ask themselves whether continuing to allow the Assad regime to commit unspeakable violence against its own people is the legacy they want to leave."
Although not mentioned by name, Clinton's warning was directed at Russia
which have blocked UN efforts to impose sanctions on Syria.
Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of violating UN resolutions by using heavy weapons against Tremseh, where reports say some 220 people were killed. He urged the council to take "collective action" in response.
Syrian opposition members said most of those killed in Thursday's massacre were civilians.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan condemned the "atrocities" in Tremseh and said he was "shocked and appalled" at "intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed the use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters" in the village.
'Regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.' Temseh killings
Calling it a "grim reminder" that UN resolutions calling for peace were being flouted, he wrote to the United Nations Security Council urging it to penalize Syria for failing to comply. But in the Council, Western powers still face objections from Russia and China to their efforts to push Assad from power.
A local activist named Ahmed told Reuters there were 60 bodies at the mosque, of whom 20 were identified: "There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses."
There was no independent account of the battle, which the government described as a massacre by "terrorist groups".
Some opposition activists said over 220 people died when Tremseh was bombarded by helicopter gunships and tanks, then stormed by men from neighboring villages in what they portrayed as a sectarian attack on Sunnis by Assad's fellow Alawites.
UN monitors in Syria tried to reach the scene on Friday but said in a report to their Geneva
headquarters that they were prevented by a continuing operation by the Syrian air force in the area, targeting urban population centers.
French President Francois Hollande
also urged Russia and China on Friday to change tack on Syria and back UN moves towards tougher sanctions on Assad's government.
"If we're seeing people die every day it's because the regime has decided to use force to crush its own population," the French leader told reporters.
"To be clear, what I am telling Russia and China is that by doing nothing to allow us go to tougher sanctions, (they will allow) war and chaos to take hold of Syria, damaging their interests," he said on the sidelines of an army ceremony in Paris.
AP, Reuters contributed to the report