Gunmen attacked Syria’s pro-government Ikhbariya television station, killing seven employees a day after President Bashar al-Assad said the country is in a state of war.
Three journalists and four guards at the channel’s headquarters in Drousha, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Damascus, were tied up and shot dead, the Information Ministry said in a statement on state-run Syrian TV. The attackers ransacked and destroyed the studios, including the newsroom, and planted explosives, the official SANA news agency said. The channel continued to broadcast after the attack, it said.
Syria’s government is fighting a growing insurrection in which more than 10,000 people have died, according to United Nations estimates. At least 135 people were killed yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page, and a further 35 today, according to the Local Coordination Committees in Syria. Authorities have portrayed the unrest as a conspiracy and the protesters as radical Islamists.
Kofi Annan, the UN special envoy on Syria, is convening a conference of foreign ministers to discuss the situation on June 30 in Geneva, an event endorsed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a potential “turning point.”
The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. -- and the head of the Arab League were invited, according to an e-mailed statement from Annan’s spokesman today. Iran and Saudi Arabia were not invited.
Annan proposed the conference after a UN monitoring mission overseeing the two-month old cease-fire was suspended in the face of continued fighting. That has put at risk the future of the mission, which is up for renewal July 20.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report presented today to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the human-rights situation in Syria has “deteriorated rapidly” since March. It said at least 435 people died in “increasingly militarized fighting” between Feb. 22 and June 15.
Syria’s UN representative in Geneva, Faisal al-Hamawi, said Syria may “be pushed to seriously think about stopping all kinds of cooperation” with rights groups if they remain biased and unable to offer constructive solutions to the conflict, according to SANA.
The television station attack “won’t go unpunished,” Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said, according to SANA. He blamed those who “instigate against Syria and escalate terrorism against its people,” naming the European Union and Arab and international organizations.
Footage of the studios broadcast on Syrian TV showed debris covering the floor, with a small fire burning in the background.
The assault came a day after Assad, presiding over the first session of a new Cabinet, told ministers that the country is in “a state of real war.” He said that “all our policies, directives and all sectors will be directed in order to gain victory in this war.”
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, speaking to reporters on June 13, described the conflict in Syria as a civil war.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned yesterday that Syrian military units approaching his country’s border would be attacked if they are deemed a threat. The statement came after Syria shot down a Turkish warplane on June 22. Syrian authorities say it was flying over the country’s territorial waters at the time, while Turkey says it was in international airspace.