The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay announced today that 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March of this year. According to Pillay’s reports at least 200 people have been killed in the last 10 days alone. Among the 5,000 killed are more than 300 children. These numbers account for the deaths of civilians, defected troops, and soldiers executed for refusing to shoot civilians, and do not include the deaths of government security forces killed in the conflict. The threat to civilian lives in Syria remains ever present, as defected soldiers and security forces loyal to Assad battle in urban areas.
Nowhere is the threat of death more tangible than in the restive city of Homs. A center for opposition protests, Homs was issued an ultimatum by the government on Friday: the opposition must surrender or the city will be attacked by government forces. President Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, issued a similar ultimatum to opposition forces in Hama in 1982. The standoff ended with government forces attacking Hama and massacring an estimated 30,000 people. Despite claims made in his Barbara Walters interview, President Assad is responsible for the violent attacks on protestors committed by his security forces, and there is a distinct possibility that he may follow his father’s example and commit a similar atrocity in Homs.
Meanwhile, Russia has slammed the approaches of Western nations, calling their actions immoral. Russia said the West’s isolation of the Assad regime fails to take into account crimes committed by armed opposition groups, namely the Syrian Free Army. The Syrian Free Army is made up of soldiers that have defected from the military, and they have killed security forces in ambushes, attacked military installations, and blown up oil pipelines. Syria claims 1,100 soldiers have been killed by in these confrontations. Still Russia’s position fails to recognize that the Syrian government is responsible for the majority of the deaths reported, especially those of civilians. More urgently, Russia’s criticism fails to recognize the very real and immediate danger to the citizens of Homs if history repeats itself and the government attacks.
United to End Genocide remains alert to the changing situation in Syria and further updates will be posted here on the UEG blog.