UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he has received "grisly reports" of attacks committed by Syrian government forces. The claims have been vehemently denied by Syria's UN envoy, who accused Ban of slander.
In an address to the 193-nation UN General Assembly on Friday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued one of his fiercest condemnations yet of alleged atrocities committed by forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
Ban said he had received "grisly reports" that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the flashpoint city of Homs
"The Syrian government has failed to deliver on its responsibility to protect its people," said.
"This atrocious assault is all the more appalling for having been waged by the government itself, systematically attacking its own people."
The UN chief demanded that Syria unconditionally let in humanitarian aid after the Red Cross said Syria had blocked a convoy of seven trucks from entering the Baba Amr district of Homs, which was reclaimed by regime forces on Thursday.
"It is totally unacceptable, intolerable. How as a human being can you bear ... this situation?" Ban added.
Syria's UN envoy Bashar Jaafari vehemently denied Ban's claims on Friday, however, accusing the UN chief of "slandering" President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Ban's remarks included "extremely virulent rhetoric which confines itself to slandering a government based on reports, opinions or hearsay," Jaafari said.
"The secretary general is not duly informed," he added, reiterating regime claims that the Syrian opposition was made up of armed terrorist groups.
Massacre in Homs
Ban's comments came as wounded British photographer Paul Conroy, who was smuggled out of Homs through Lebanon earlier this week, said that the regime's month-long bombardment of Baba Amr was "an indiscriminate massacre." Thousands of people there just "waiting to die," he said from a hospital bed in Britain.
Trucks carrying food, medicines, blankets, baby milk and other supplies were blocked from entering Homs
Meanwhile French journalists Edith Bouvier, 31, and photographer William Daniels, 34, who arrived in Paris Friday after also being smuggled out of Syria, accused the regime of directly targeting foreign media in Baba Amr.
More than 20,000 civilians are believed to have been trapped and hundreds killed since regime forces launched a month-long bombardment on Baba Amr, forcing opposition rebels to make a tactical retreat on Thursday. Many of the wounded have been unable to reach doctors and received only rudimentary treatment in makeshift clinics.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people were shot dead in the district on Friday. Monitors reported that another 12 people, including five children, were killed when a shell hit a crowd of demonstrators in Rastan, near Homs. A further 16 deaths were reported elsewhere in the country.
The United Nations says that says more than 7,500 civilians have been killed since the uprising against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad began last March.
Casualty figures are almost impossible to independently confirm, however, due to a government ban on most Western journalists from reporting in Syria.
ccp/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)