Sunday 25 February 2018

Israel demands military action as evidence of new massacre emerges

A funeral for those killed by Assad's forces, in Deraa, Syria. Thirty-eight people, including women and children, have been killed since Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
A funeral for those killed by Assad's forces, in Deraa, Syria. Thirty-eight people, including women and children, have been killed since Saturday. Photo: REUTERS

Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

SYRIAN government forces resumed their lethal assault on the province of Homs yesterday, activists said, as Israel launched its strongest verbal attack yet on Bashar al-Assad's regime with an explicit call for military action against its neighbour.

Opposition activists said 38 people had died since Saturday as the regime attempted to regain control of rebel strongholds in Homs. They said Damascus had sent reinforcements to the mountainous area of Haffa, near the city of Latakia, where heavy fighting has reportedly raged since Tuesday.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague compared the threat of an all-out sectarian civil war in Syria to Bosnia in the 1990s and warned that time was "clearly running short" for former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's peace plan.

Asked if he would rule out the use of force, Mr Hague said Syria appeared "on the edge of collapse or of a sectarian civil war, so I don't think we can rule anything out".

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, said that the "efforts of the international community are insufficient".

Massacres

He added: "We cannot remain indifferent to the tiny coffins that contain the bodies of children. The massacres get worse each day . . . I have the deepest respect for the rebels who expose themselves to live fire, and I hope they will win."

When the uprising started last March, Israeli politicians -- with a few exceptions -- chose to maintain a 'strategic silence', with some apparently uncertain whether it might lead to greater instability and others fearful of damaging the opposition forces by association.

But the mounting death toll over the past 15 months and a growing conviction that by detaching Syria from Iran, the fall of the Assad regime was in Israeli interests, have prompted Israeli leaders to ratchet up their expressions of outrage and offer humanitarian assistance to refugees fleeing to Jordan.

"A crime against humanity -- genocide -- is being conducted in Syria today," the Deputy Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz, told Israel's Army Radio. "And the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic.

"Since in the not-distant past the powers chose military intervention in Libya, here the required conclusion would be immediate military intervention to bring down the Assad regime." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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