Houla Killings Could Be Syrian Tipping Point

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The massacre in Houla is starting to seem like it could be the final straw in Syria, as international pressures are mounting and everyone seems to be running out of patience with Bashar al-Assad's regime. 

The monitors from the U.N. said that more than 90 people were killed, including 32 children under the age of 10, and hundreds more were wounded. 

The Syrian government is blaming "armed terrorist groups" for the attack, a line they've used every time there's a new incident. A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, pictured above, said the "Brutal killing doesn’t belong to the ethics of the Syrian army." He said that Syria is facing a "tsunami of lies" following the incident. 

The U.N. is tired of putting up with the excuses from the Syrian government. In a statement released after the U.N. monitors were able to enter the city, the U.N. seems to be holding the Syrian government accountable for the attacks. According to the statement, the monitors concluded that most of the deaths were from shelling and artillery fire. The statement calls the Houla massacre an, "appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force" and called it, "a flagrant violation of international law" and accused the Syrian government of breaking the ceasefire, and concluded that "Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account."

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Kofi Annan, broker of the U.N. cease-fire plan, had a trip to Syria already planned, and is expected to land in Damascus on Monday.

Syria isn't feeling any pressure to cooperate from Houla's increased spotlight, though. The Associated Press is reporting that Syria has denied entry to a U.N.-Arab League appointed deputy assigned to accompany Anna on his trip. An official told the AP, "the decision against former Palestinian foreign minister Nasser al-Kidwa is not personal, but rather because it did not want to deal with the Arab League." The Arab League suspended Syria's membership and approved sanctions against Syria in November. 

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. have begun to make moves to remove Bashar al-Assad from power using a model based on the transition of power in Yemen, where a deal was brokered by neighboring Arab countries to hand power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to vice president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Convincing Russia to cooperate with the plan will be one of the biggest challenges. Russia's had unwavering support for Assad's regime because of their vast oil and trade interests inside Syria, but President Obama proposed the idea of removing Assad to Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev during last weeks G8 meeting he "appeared receptive." Medvedev was initially worried Assad would end up "in a cage" like Egypt's Honsi Mubarak, but when Obama countered with the Yemen model he warmed to the idea. Convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to cooperate, and eventually for Bashar al-Assad to agree to step down, will be the hardest parts of executing the plan. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.