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Syria’s U.N. Cease-fire in Shreds After Weekend Massacre

May 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: Outrage grew in the Middle East and around the world after the weekend killings in Syria.

Special U.N. envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus today and minced no words about Friday’s massacre.

KOFI ANNAN, former U.N. secretary general: I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla two days ago, which took so many innocent lives, children, women and men. This was an appalling crime, and the Security Council has rightly condemned it.

RAY SUAREZ: Houla is a collection of villages northwest of Homs. The violence there erupted after anti-government protests. The opposition said this video showed heavy artillery and tank fire late on Friday.

In the aftermath, mass graves were lined with the bodies of 108 victims. U.N. observers reported more than half were women and children.

FAWAZ ZAKRI, Syrian National Council: We are now facing genocide and mass displacement in Syria. Somebody must stop this regime.

RAY SUAREZ: U.N. observers said some of the victims had been shot in the head. Activists said pro-government gunmen did most of the killing after the shelling. The Syrian government insists rebel gunmen were to blame.

The U.N. Security Council didn’t directly address that point, but member states did condemn the shelling.

PETER WITTIG, U.S. ambassador to Germany: The evidence is clear. The evidence is not murky and there is a clear footprint of the government in this massacre.

RAY SUAREZ: Even the Syrian government’s strongest allies, China and Russia, expressed revulsion.

LIU WEIMIN, spokesman, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through translator): China was shocked by the massacre that took place in Houla in Syria which caused the death of many civilians, and we strongly condemn the cruel killings of women and children.

RAY SUAREZ: The Russians said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears the main responsibility for the overall situation. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both sides contributed to the killing in Houla.

SERGEI LAVROV, Russian foreign minister (through translator): There is no doubt that the Syrian government used artillery and tanks in Houla. We were notified about this by U.N. observers who visited the site of the tragedy.

Also, there is no doubt that many bodies were found with wounds resulting from firearms at point-blank range, and the injuries show that people were simply tortured to death. So the guilt should be determined objectively.

RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile, Syrian activists reported another heavy assault in the last 24 hours had killed 41 people in Hama. The intensifying violence left a U.N. cease-fire in shreds. And it sparked new calls for the U.S. to do more.

Republican Sen. John McCain spoke on Sunday.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: Horrible things are happening in Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership.

RAY SUAREZ: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined in, appealing for President Obama to arm the Syrian opposition.