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U.N. Security Council plea fails to stem Syrian bloodshed

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:40 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
  • State news agency says 18 members of army, law enforcement laid to rest
  • Tank shells hit Binnish, opposition says
  • Al Qaeda-linked website carries group's claim of responsibility for Damascus bombing
  • Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, seeks to stop the fighting

(CNN) -- Shelling in the besieged Syrian city of Hama continued Thursday, a day after the United Nations Security Council called for the regime to end the bloodshed.

A number of civilians were wounded and buildings collapsed during the attack by Syrian security forces, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

Across the country, at least 90 people were killed Thursday, including at least 12 children and four women, the Local Coordination Committees said.

The deaths included 25 in Idlib, 35 in Homs, 15 in Hama, seven in Daraa, two in Lattakia, two in Aleppo, two in the Damascus suburbs, one in Bokamal and one in Damascus.

Some of the dead included defected soldiers who refused to shoot at civilians, the Local Coordination Committees said.

The state-run news agency SANA said 18 army and law enforcement members targeted by what it called "armed terrorist groups" while on duty in Daraa, Hama and Homs were buried Thursday.

Homs has been a hotbed of anti-government sentiment during the yearlong uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Activists said the corpses of 39 people killed this month were recovered from the city's Refaie district Wednesday.

The Syrian government, which routinely blames the violence on "armed terrorist groups," said a child and his brother were "martyred" by one such group Thursday in Homs. Three citizens were wounded in the attack, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

"Also in Homs, armed terrorist groups committed a new massacre, brutally murdering a number of citizens who had been abducted earlier," the report said, insisting that the groups take footage of the dead bodies and send them to news channels.

Opposition groups have said they are sending out images of people killed by the Syrian regime in its brutal crackdown to crush an uprising.

An al Qaeda-linked website posted a claim of responsibility Thursday for a recent bombing in Damascus from a group calling itself Jabhat al-Nasra. The statement said it was the group's first news release.

The opposition Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Committee have pointed fingers at the Syrian government, saying they believe the regime set up a proxy group to take the blame.

The Binnish Coordination Committee, part of the Local Coordination Committees, said several tank shells fell on the western side of that city. Residents fled from one part of the city in Idlib province to the other, it said. No injuries were reported.

The Local Coordination Committees reported clashes in a Damascus suburb and intense gunfire in Daraa.

CNN cannot independently confirm reports of casualties or attacks in Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists.

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U.N. officials say the yearlong crisis has killed more than 8,000 people, while opposition activists put the toll at more than 10,000.

After months of failed attempts to stop the bloodshed, the U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement Wednesday endorsing the peace mission of diplomat Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria.

His mission is to stop the violence, gain "timely" humanitarian aid access and foster a Syrian-led political transition.

"The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government and opposition to work in good faith with the envoy toward a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis," the statement said.

Unlike resolutions, U.N. presidential statements aren't legally binding. But they require unanimous support. This is significant because Russia and China, two permanent council members, have been obstacles to adopting tough resolutions on Syria.

In its statement, the council cited concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria and expressed regret at the deaths of thousands of people.

"The Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards and end the use of heavy weapons in population centers, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers," the statement said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about the Security Council statement and the situation in Syria on Thursday.

"All the violence must stop," Ban said. "In clear and unmistakable terms, the Security Council called for an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations. It demanded secure humanitarian access and a comprehensive political dialogue between the government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition."

The council called for a "daily two-hour humanitarian pause" for relief efforts and intensifying "the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons." It wants freedom of movement for journalists and "a nondiscriminatory visa policy for them."

It also urged respect for "freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the move shows the council is speaking with one voice.

CNN's Josh Levs, Amir Ahmed, Saad Abedine, Holly Yan, Arwa Damon, Mick Krever, Nima Elbagir and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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