U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the monitors came under small-arms fire Thursday as they tried to reach the site of the reported new massacre in Qubair, a small village in Hama province. Speaking at a U.N. General Assembly session, Ban said the incident occurred after the U.N. monitors were blocked from entering Qubair to investigate the alleged killings. Ban provided no details on who had fired at the monitors or whether there were any injuries. U.N. monitors have frequently been fired at since they arrived in Syria to monitor a fragile cease-fire.
Ban condemned the reported massacre as “an unspeakable barbarity” and called on the Syrian government to immediately implement the U.N.-backed peace plan.
The reported killing Wednesday of as many as 78 civilians, most of them women and children, added to mounting pressure on Assad, 46, who has ruled Syria since his father’s death in 2000.
“Clearly, the time has come to determine what more can be done to secure implementation of the [six-point] plan — and what other options exist to address the crisis,” Annan, a former U.N. secretary general, told the U.N. General Assembly at a special session on Syria attended by Ban and Nabil Elaraby, the head of the Arab League. “If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence, and even all-out civil war. All Syrians will lose.”
With U.N. observers blocked from reaching the site, it was not immediately possible to confirm that 78 people were killed Wednesday afternoon in Qubair, a small Sunni hamlet northwest of Hama that is surrounded by villages populated by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
But activists and residents contacted in the area described circumstances similar to those in Houla, a Sunni village northwest of Homs where 108 civilians were massacred on May 25, allegedly by pro-government militiamen known as shabiha from the surrounding Alawite villages aided by the security forces.
Qubair resident Laith Hamawi said his mother and six brothers were among the victims. He said he was about half a mile away in his olive fields when he saw security forces and shabiha members converge on the village of about 150 residents from three directions.
“I was scared to move, so I hid,” he said.
For several hours, he said, he heard shooting and tank fire and saw houses burning. After the troops left, he returned home and found the bodies of his mother and four brothers, he said. The bodies of two other brothers were apparently taken away by the departing security forces, he said.