Syria Army Shells Homs as UN Urges International Action

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
At the UN General Assembly, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the suffering of Syrian civilians will increase as long as the international community fails to take action. Photographer: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Syria’s army fired artillery at the city of Homs as the United Nations’ top human-rights official, Navi Pillay, urged international action to protect civilians.

Security forces resumed shelling the Baba Amr neighborhood at 6 a.m. today and carried out attacks in the southern province of Daraa and Idlib, killing at least 20, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said by phone. The assault on Homs began 10 days ago.

“The humanitarian situation is very bad, food and medicine are scarce, and there is no electricity,” said Abdel Rahman, who is in touch with a network of activists in Syria. The shelling of Baba Amr today was the “fiercest” of the past five days, he said. Nationwide, about 20 people died yesterday, he said, including in the city of Rastan, which was hit by heavy artillery and machine-gun attacks.

At the UN General Assembly, Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, said yesterday that the suffering of Syrian civilians will increase as long as the international community fails to take action. The UN estimated as of Jan. 10 that more than 5,400 people had died in President Bashar al-Assad’s suppression of protests that began in March 2011.

Security Council Veto

Russia and China on Feb. 4 vetoed a UN Security Council resolution supported by the Arab League aimed at installing a transitional government to be followed by elections. Syria’s army has intensified attacks since the resolution was vetoed, deploying tanks, armored vehicles and using heavy artillery and machine guns, according to activists.

The Arab League has called for the formation of an Arab-UN peacekeeping force. The league said on Feb. 12 it will ask the Security Council to authorize a joint mission to supervise implementation of a cease-fire, to replace an Arab League observation mission that was suspended as violence against protesters continued. Syria has rejected the plan.

“The risk of a humanitarian crisis throughout Syria is rising,” Pillay said. She said crimes against humanity have probably been committed, and called on the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

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