End atrocities, Syrian nuncio implores, as 92 killed in massacreMonday, May 28th, 2012
Thirty-two children were among the ninety-two people killed in a government-backed massacre in the town of Houla, in what is being described as one of the worst days of violence in the 15-month-old Syrian uprising.
An artillery bombardment by regime forces was followed by raids on outlying villages around Houla, an area northwest of Homs, by pro-government shabiha paramilitaries in which men, women and children were shot and stabbed. The brutal and bloody attacks followed a large anti-regime protest on Friday.
As news and images of the massacre emerged through footage on YouTube, the Syrian government blamed the massacre on, "armed terrorist groups.”
The Houla massacre looks set to undermine the UN peace plan that is meant to have achieved a cease-fire between government forces led by President Bashar Assad and rebels looking for regime change.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Mgr Mario Zenari, has appealed for “an end to such atrocities.” Speaking to Fides, Mgr Zenari said, “This massacre is not the only one, let’s hope it is the last.”
He urged all believers, Christians and Muslims alike, to discover, “the weapons of prayer and fasting, to rekindle the hope of a peaceful future in Syria.” According to Fides, sources in the Christian community, armed gangs are out of control and continue, “to rage and hit innocent civilians.”
Fr Romualdo Fernandez, a Franciscan friar of the Shrine of Tabbaleh, which is dedicated to St Paul in Damascus, told Fides, "People are confused and disoriented.” He said that while reports of massacres circulate, there is uncertainty as to who perpetrated them.
“There is pessimism because no one knows what the future holds. There are criticisms of the regime, but also of opposition rebels. As Christians, we share the sufferings of the people, tried by the conflict. We work for peace and justice, without adhering to any political faction,” Fr Fernandez said.
According to PA, most of the dead were killed in the village of Taldaw. One witness, Abu Yazan, said entire families were killed, from the parents down to children.
“They focused on the children," he said.
Activist, Abu Walid, has claimed the Houla killings are sectarian in motivation, as the Houla villages are Sunni Muslim, whereas villages south of Houla are populated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Assad belongs.
A spokesman for the UN's envoy to Syria, Ahmad Fawzi, says international monitors are heading to the region.
By Sarah Mac Donald