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martes, 2 de agosto de 2011

World ire mounts toward Syria amid bloody crackdown

(CNN) -- Pressure at the United Nations and world capitals mounted Tuesday on Syria's government as a fierce security crackdown on peaceful protests overnight and into the day left dozens of deaths, injuries and arrests.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group, said snipers were postioned across the western city of Hama and five people were killed there later Tuesday.

Tear gas grenades and live ammunition were used against 40,000 participating in funerals for people in the Damascus suburb of Irbeen killed Monday. Protesters are responding by throwing stones?, the Local Coordination Committees said, and security forces dispersed the demonstration with bullets and fire extinguishers. There was a wave of arrests.

Overnight, at least 24 people were killed, dozens were wounded, and more than 150 people have been detained across the country after Ramadan prayers, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of London-based human rights group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Those slain include 10 in Hama, six in Irbeen, three in Homs province, two in Boukamal, two in Latakia on the coast and one in Madamaiya near Damascus, Abdul-Rahman said.

"The world is watching, and the international community is gravely concerned," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, adding that at least 145 people have been killed since Friday.

"I stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters who are demanding that the persistent violation of their human rights ends now. I also stand in solidarity with the families of all the victims who have lost their lives since the crackdown began and condemn in the strongest terms the reprehensible violence this government is using against its own people."

Hama hospitals have been overwhelmed; patients were being treated in hallways, and the morgues were overflowing, a doctor in Hama said. The bloodshed follows a violent weekend in the volatile city, where dozens of people were reported killed and hospitals overwhelmed.

Hama under seige

Hama resident: 'There is a slaughtering'

Violence flares in restive Syrian city

Syrian state-run media reported Tuesday that "armed groups" were behind an assault in Hama on Monday.

But activists have consistently said security forces initiated the violence in Hama, the scene of a brutal military crackdown in 1982 targeting Sunni Muslims by the Alawite-dominated government led by Hafez al-Assad, the father of current President Bashar al-Assad.

People in Irbeen have managed to smuggle some of the wounded to secret locations so they can be treated discreetly out of fear that security forces abduct them from hospitals, according to the Coalition of Free Damascenes for Peaceful Change. The coalition also said residents have spotted several snipers on a building overlooking a square in Irbeen.

The latest violence coincides with the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a religious period of fasting and spiritual reflection, and it comes as U.N. Security Council members meet for a second day Tuesday to discuss the crackdown.

Security Council members are deciding on how to marry two texts, Western press deputies said.

They are the European draft resolution that had its origins in May, amid the initial reaction to the violence, and elements from the Brazilian representative that don't go as far as the European draft in criticizing the Syrian government.

Four European members of the Security Council -- Britain, France, Germany and Portugal -- on Monday had revived a draft U.N. resolution that would probably condemn Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Indian Ambassador to the U.N. Hardeep Puri characterized Tuesday's council consultations as "some serious discussions going on." He said there are common elements among Security Council members: concern over violence, calling for restraint and a start to a political process.

"We felt that the council had to say something," Puri said.

A group of Syrian human rights, civil society and political activists on Tuesday urged South Africa, Brazil and India -- three of the non-permanent council members -- to back a resolution.

We call on the international community to come together behind the people of Syria in this critical time
--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

They want such a measure to condemn the government's use of violence against peaceful protesters, urge accountability for crimes, demand an end to government violence and call for access for U.N. investigators in Syria.

Ambassadors from other nations, including China and Russia, have argued that U.N. action would risk further destabilizing the Middle Eastern country. It was not immediately clear whether they would support such a resolution.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the expansion of European Union sanctions against Syrian officials Tuesday, saying the "appalling crackdown" seen in Hama and other Syrian cities over the weekend "only erode the regime's legitimacy and increase resentment," he said.

The latest sanctions, announced Monday, impose an assets freeze and travel ban on five Syrians "involved in or associated with the violent repression," but the EU did not identify the individuals concerned.

Italy urged other EU nations to follow its lead after recalling its ambassador in Damascus in light of the "horrible repression of the civilian population," the country's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

In Baghdad, Iraq, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the "violence needs to stop as quickly as possible."

Pillay urged the government to provide access to a fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council.

"It is high time that we work towards accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations in Syria in recent months," the high commissioner said. "There is a need for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into the violence, the killings, the excessive use of force, the arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture that the people of Syria have been subjected to."

Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets for months to demand reforms or an end to the al-Assad regime.

The death toll in Syria since its uprising began in mid-March has reached 1,992, according to Abdul-Rahman. He said the dead include 1,618 civilians and 374 Syrian security forces.

CNN is unable to independently confirm the death tolls. Syria has restricted access to Syria by international journalists.
CNN's Arwa Damon, Nada Husseini and Joe Vaccarello contributed to this report.

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