Skip to main content

As outrage grows in Syria, report of a 'breakthrough' for humanitarian aid

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:01 PM EDT, Fri July 13, 2012
A picture released by the Syrian opposition shows smoke rising from a Homs neighborhood Wednesday.
A picture released by the Syrian opposition shows smoke rising from a Homs neighborhood Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 80 people are killed Friday, opposition group says
  • "Bureaucratic delay and obstructions have been largely removed," U.N. official says
  • The al-Assad government blames Tremseh killings on terrorists
  • Dozens more are killed in Syria on Friday

Are you in Tremseh in Hama province? Send photos and stories to CNN iReport.

(CNN) -- A glimmer of hope emerged Friday about providing emergency aid to areas of Syria torn apart by months of fighting.

A senior U.N. humanitarian officer who briefed reporters on the situation in Syria said there has been a "breakthrough" in dealing with the Syrian government. "Bureaucratic delay and obstructions," the officer said, "have been largely removed."

The Syrian government is following through on what it has agreed to do but some difficulties still remain, said the officer.

The announcement came a day after more than 200 villagers were killed in the town of Tremseh outside Hama, according to the opposition Local Coordinating Committees of Syria.

U.S. elections impeding Syrian peace?
Russian warships to Syria
Syrian war games attempt to show force
Russia wouldn't oppose intervention

The chief U.N. organization that coordinates emergency aid warned Friday that more Syrians will die if contributing nations do not follow through and fund its relief operation.

"We have run out of language to describe how it is for the civilian population," said John Ging, operations director and chairman of the Syria Humanitarian Forum for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "It is physical and it is psychological."

Humanitarian agencies in Syria are facing "an incredibly complex and dangerous situation to develop networks to be able to deliver to the areas that have been affected by the conflict," he said.

Though lack of security has prevented the agencies from reaching all those in need, progress has been made, he said. For example, food assistance reached 200,000 people in April; that number was expected to more than quadruple this month, he said.

The reports of the massacre in Tremseh have heightened international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"I was deeply saddened and outraged to learn of reports of yet another massacre committed by the Syrian regime," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a written statement. "Credible reports indicate that this unconscionable act was carried out by artillery, tanks, and helicopters -- indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians. Syria cannot be peaceful, stable, or democratic until Assad goes and a political transition begins."

She called for a cease-fire so that the U.N. observer mission could enter the town and vowed that those responsible would be held to account.

U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" by the report. He released a statement calling the action a "violation of the government's undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and its commitment to the six-point plan."

Annan brokered a six-point peace plan for Syria in April, but opposition fighters and regime forces have largely shunned its mandates, including a call to put down their weapons.

The Security Council must insist on "consequences for non-compliance" of its resolutions, he said Friday.

The overall death toll for Syria on Thursday -- estimated at 287 -- could make it the bloodiest day in Syria since the uprising against the government started 16 months ago, the LCC said.

The unrest continued Friday, with at least 80 people killed, according to the LCC, which said it had recorded 738 peaceful anti-government demonstrations during the day -- 106 more than last week. Of them, 140 took place in Hama, it said.

According to opposition groups, seven members of the same family were killed late Friday when a mortar fell on their home in the city of Douma near Damascus. Activists posted an amateur video that purports to show their bodies covered with blankets and sheets while a man in mourning calls for revenge against al-Assad.

CNN cannot independently verify reports from Syria because the nation has restricted access by international journalists.

Activists in the city of Hama gave a grisly account of the assault in Tremseh.

Witnesses inside the town told the activists by telephone that Syrian military forces had launched a full-scale attack against the opposition Free Syrian Army inside the town, which was surrounded by government tanks and artillery.

The forces had shelled the town continuously from 5 a.m. until noon, when their tanks entered the village, three activists told CNN separately. None of them was willing to be identified publicly.

Syrian army forces, whose numbers were bolstered by the pro-regime militias called Shabiha, accompanied the tanks into Tremseh, they said.

As the government forces rained artillery rounds into the town, a number of village residents fled their houses, going into the streets, where many of them were shot dead by the government militias, the activists told CNN.

The Syrian Human Rights League, based in Cairo, said electric power and communications were cut in Tremseh in the incident.

The LCC said the "regime has also drawn a line of sectarian demarcation to leave Syrians terrorized from one another." That was a reference to sectarian strife between, for example, Sunnis, the predominant religious group in Syria, and Alawites, the offshoot of Shiite Islam that dominates the government.

Rafif Jouejati, an LCC spokeswoman, said sectarian incidents have been "isolated," and the regime was attempting -- with little success -- to sow ethnic and religious divisions.

"The reality is the peaceful movement continues to thrive despite the regime's best attempts," she said.

The government painted a different picture of Tremseh than that detailed by opposition groups.

In a report in state media, Syria blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the violence. It said the government said residents called security forces for help after the terrorist groups raided the neighborhood.

Regime forces arrested some of the members of the terrorist groups and confiscated their weapons, the government said.

A military source quoted by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said an operation by armed forces destroyed "terrorists' dens," killed many of the people they found there, and led to the arrests of scores more."

The account added, "Armed forces successfully dealt with the terrorists without casualties taking place among the citizens. They searched into the terrorists' dens where they found the dead bodies of a number of citizens who had been abducted and killed by the terrorist groups."

Syrian protesters said the Tremseh incident reflects Annan's failure to broker a peace plan and sought his removal from his role as special envoy. Abdulbaset Sieda, chairman of the opposition Syrian National Council, called Annan's six-point plan a "thing of the past."

CNN's Jill Dougherty, Ivan Watson, Saad Abedine, Hamdi Alkhshali and Joe Sterling, and journalist Shiyar Sayed Mohamed contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 12:16 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT