Monday, April 25, 2011

Syria: army uses tanks against the people in day of bloodshed

The Syrian army used tanks against its own people for the first time on Monday as President Bashar al-Assad resorted to overwhelming force in an attempt to crush the last vestiges of unrest against his rule.

Dozens of people were reportedly killed after troops and armour flooded into the southern city of Dera'a and opened fire on residential areas, apparently at random.

Amid growing international condemnation at the mounting death toll in Syria, where more than 100 protesters were killed on Good Friday alone, members of the UN Security Council are considering a statement being circulated by a British-led group of European countries, which condemned the killing of hundreds of Syrian protesters.

The statement, which was proposed with France, Germany and Portugal, called for an immediate restraint, an end to the state of emergency, and an independent investigation into the civilian deaths. It could be released on Tuesday if approved by China and Russia, a western diplomat at the UN said.

The diplomat said the measure was aimed at "putting Syria on notice" that the Security Council was closely monitoring developments. "There may be talk of sanctions," the diplomat said. "At present the focus is on releasing as strong a statement as is possible and securing the reforms that Syria has promised".

The diplomat's comments came as the United States threatened to impose sanctions on Mr Assad and his henchmen in a significant policy shift. (read more)