There were starkly different accounts of who carried out the assault on the farming village in the central region of Hama. Opposition activists said government soldiers and militia fighters were responsible, while the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) blamed “terrorists.”
Details of the attack could not be independently confirmed because the Syrian government has severely restricted journalists’ access.
Clinton, who is traveling in Asia, said in a statement issued in Washington that the reported use of artillery, tanks and helicopters in the attack provided “indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians,” according to Reuters news service.
“Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable,” she said.
Annan, who has been shuttling between Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad in the past week in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, also blamed the Syrian government.
In a statement, he said that “the confirmed use of heavy weaponry” violated a Syrian government undertaking not to deploy such weapons in population centers. He added, “I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms.”
In a letter Friday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Annan called the Syrian government’s actions “another grim reminder that the [U.N. Security] Council’s resolutions continue to be flouted.” His call earlier in the week for the council to impose “consequences for non-compliance” on the government “could not be more urgent in light of unfolding events,” Annan wrote.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, said in Damascus that a U.N. team had observed the fighting from three or four miles outside Tremseh, adding that it involved “mechanized units, indirect fire as well as helicopters.”
Mood added: “If we have credible cessation of violence and a local cease-fire, we stand ready to go in with a larger team to verify the facts on the ground.”
The mandate for the observer team in Syria runs out on July 20 unless the U.N. Security Council votes to extend its mission.
Speaking to council members in New York, Ban pleaded Friday for unity behind a new resolution that would extend the mandate and authorize harsh new international sanctions if the attacks do not stop, according to a senior Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door session. Russia has opposed a U.S.-backed resolution being debated that would set a 10-day deadline for the Syrian government to withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from urban areas.