US Accuses Syria of Creating ‘Humanitarian Crisis”

Posted June 11th, 2011 at 6:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States on Saturday accused the Syrian government of creating a humanitarian crisis in the north of the country and urged Damascus to halt its fierce crackdown on protests.

A White House statement also called on the Syrian authorities to give the Red Cross “immediate, unfettered access to this region to care for the needs of wounded individuals, detainees, and internally displaced civilians.

The statement says Syrian leaders have no excuse for denying humanitarian assistance by a neutral body like the Red Cross. It says that if they fail to provide this access, this will once again be showing contempt for the dignity of the Syrian people.

The U.S. remarks came after Syrian security forces increased their efforts to control the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour near Turkey's border. Witnesses and activists say soldiers appear to be sealing off the city, after the government accused “armed gangs” there of killing 120 security personnel and promised decisive action.

A state-run media report said army units had arrested “two leading groups of armed gangs” in the city and seized weapons and explosives during the operation.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials say they expect the influx of Syrian refugees to continue, noting the number of Syrians who have so far fled into Turkey reached 4,300 people.

Also Saturday, mourners across Syria laid to rest at least 32 people killed during rallies against President Bashar al-Assad's government a day earlier.

Activists say security forces opened fire on demonstrators in several cities. They say at least seven protesters were killed in the town of Latakia as they tried to tear down a giant poster of Mr. Assad.

A VOA reporter said Saturday several hundred chanting Syrians brought a body wrapped in a white cloth near a border crossing with Turkey. He says they laid it in plain view of journalists, who were on the Turkish side. The Syrians said it was the body of a man who was shot and killed earlier in the day.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syria is engaging in “horrific” attacks against its citizens. But, she says the international community is not currently considering a plan to act militarily against Syria — as in Libya — because there is not a regional consensus.

At the United Nations, diplomats held new talks on a draft resolution condemning the violence, but failed to reach an agreement. Many Western nations support the measure, but Russia and China have voiced opposition.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown that began in March and more than 10,000 people arrested.