Activists Say Syrian Troops Kill 4 After UN Condemnation

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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Human rights activists say Syrian security forces have killed at least four protesters following nighttime prayers, continuing a crackdown that has been condemned by the U.N. Security Council.

The activists said Syrian troops attacked demonstrators opposed to President Bashar al-Assad late Wednesday in the capital, Damascus, as well as in the central city of Palmyra.

The U.N. Security Council Wednesday condemned the Syrian government for attacks on civilians and widespread human rights violations. The statement called for those responsible on “all sides” to be “held accountable.” But it contains no enforceable demands or sanctions and does not seek a referral of Syrian leaders to the International Criminal Court, as opposition groups have demanded.

The U.S. and its allies on the Council had argued for a resolution, which has the force of international law. But Russia and temporary members Brazil, India and South Africa refused to support the stronger measure. Lebanon, Syria's neighbor and close ally, did not block the statement but disassociated itself from the text.

Earlier Wednesday, Syrian forces pushed into the central square in the flashpoint city of Hama, in what activists called the most direct offensive against the city in the country's four-month uprising. Rights groups reported “bodies lying in the streets,” and online posts said water, electricity and communications were cut. Many residents fled to nearby villages or other cities.

The army has surrounded Hama since Sunday when it carried out a predawn attack on the city, which had largely been free of armed troops since June. In the east, some 200 tanks continue to surround Deir el-Zour, another focal point of military bombardment since Sunday.

Activists say more than 130 people have been killed across Syria in the last three days, mostly in Hama.

In Washington, the U.S. hardened its stance against Mr. Assad, saying the United States viewed him as the cause of instability in Syria. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the Syrian leader has shown himself to be completely “incapable and unwilling” to respond to the grievances of his own people. He said the U.S. is looking at ways to increase the pressure on Mr. Assad.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have called on President Barack Obama to impose sanctions against foreign companies doing business with Syria's energy sector. Newly toughened measures currently ban most U.S. trade with Syria, but enforcement does not extend to foreign companies.

Rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 1,700 civilians since the uprising began in March. The government has blamed much of the violence on what it says are terrorists and militants who have killed nearly 400 security personnel.