UN observers have reached a village in Syria where atrocities are alleged to have taken place earlier this week. However, reports of violence continue and the international community remains divided over how to respond.
A team of United Nations monitors on Friday gained access to a central Syrian village that is reported to have been the scene of a massacre earlier this week. They had turned back on Thursday after being shot at when they attempted to enter Mazraat al-Quabair.
The monitors travelled there to investigate Syrian opposition claims that around militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed around 80 people, including women and children in cold blood there on Wednesday.
The government has denied responsibility for the alleged massacre. A statement posted on Syria’s state news agency, SANA, blamed the "appalling crime" on "an armed terrorist group."
Meanwhile, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington later on Friday. Clinton's special adviser on Syria, Fred Hof, is, set to hold talks with Syria's ally, Russia, at the same time.
Russia, along with China, has vetoed two Security Council resolutions against Syria and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has heavily implied his country would veto such action again, insisting that no Security Council mandate for intervention in the country would materialize.
Germany on Friday reacted strongly to the latest violence in Syria. Berlin said it was "horrified" by the most recent massacre and called on Russia to throw its weight behind criticism of Syria via the Security Council.
"Two weeks after the massacre in Houla, it appears a similar massacre in the town of Al-Qubair near Hama was committed," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.
Fresh violence in Damascus
At the same time, reports of fresh violence continued to trickle out of Syria on Friday. A bomb in a Damascus suburb killed two security force members, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory added that a blast next to a police station in Idlib, a city in the northwestern region of the country, claimed five lives.
"It was a powerful explosion that destroyed the facade of the building," said the watchdog, which also claimed that a civilian had been killed in the same province.
Syrian troops were also engaged in fighting to reclaim the rebel stronghold of Khaldiyeh in Homs, said the watchdog.
The developments come a day after Kofi Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the United Nations Security Council on the escalating conflict in New York late on Thursday. Annan said that although fighters on the ground were not honoring the terms of his six-point peace plan, he still hoped it could succeed.
"If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence, and even all-out civil war," Annan told the Council, saying that "all Syrians will lose" in such a situation.
sej,pfd/mz (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)