Obama Condemns al-Assad's 'Disdain for Human Life and Dignity'

President Obama issues a strong condemnation of Bashar al-Assad, after Syrian forces launch "an unprecedented attack" on his own people. At least 260 are dead.

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What one opposition activist called "an unprecedented attack" on protesters in the Syrian city of Homs has resulted in at least 260 deaths, according to opposition group the Syrian National Council, though the actual number could be far greater. The crackdown comes in anticipation of today's U.N. Security Council meeting to vote on a draft resolution calling for a "political transition" away from the Bashar al-Assad regime.

  • The New York Times reports "a harrowing barrage of mortar shells and gunfire" was unleashed upon protesters after "defectors attacked two military checkpoints and kidnapped soldiers." The number of captured was put between 13 and 19. Military commanders then ordered the assault, which began at 9 p.m. on Friday and lasted into the early morning hours of Saturday. One witness said, "I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads beheaded. It’s horrible and inhuman."
  • Protests erupted almost instantaneously at Syrian embassies around the globe, the BBC reports: In Athens, where they smashed windows; in Berlin, where the offices were "damaged," sprayed with graffiti, and flew a Syrian resistance flag from one window; in London, where 150 demonstrators tried to storm the embassy, resulting in five arrests; and in Cario, where the building was stormed by outraged protesters, "smashing furniture and setting fire to parts of [it]."
  • President Obama has issued a strongly worded statement on the violence in Homs, Politico reports, which begins:

Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity.  Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.  These brutal killings take place at a time when so many Syrians are also marking a deeply meaningful day for their faith.  I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately.

  • The massacre puts added pressure on Syrian ally Russia, Reuters reports, who threatened to veto the resolution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently stated that as drafted, the resolution gave the appearance of the U.N. "taking sides in a civil war." Two significant portions have already been removed from the resolution to meet Russian demands: language requiring that President al-Assad step down, and a section calling for a voluntary arms embargo. Russia is Syria's chief supplier of military weaponry.
  • In the above photo, released by opposition forces, "residents attend a burial ceremony for what activists say are victims of shelling by the Syrian army, in the Khalidiya neighbourhood in Homs." 

UPDATE: The death toll has reached 400, according to Al Arabiya.

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