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Syria: Houla Massacre Creates International Outcry

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

On May 25, anti-government protestors in Houla, northwest of Homs, took to the streets at midday, little expecting that their demonstration would be eventually answered by a massacre of unprecedented savagery. At least 116 people were killed by pro-government forces.

That day, a video [GRAPHIC] emerged on YouTube of men running from what appears to be heavy shelling. Reports say that tanks, artillery, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine guns were used in the attack. The cameraman films the entrance of a building where bodies are laying on the ground, as he shouts the name of the city Houla. The light suggests that this is the beginning of what was a seven-hour-long shelling.

Armed gunmen wearing military uniforms then went into homes and started shooting people, including many children.

Another video [WARNING: GRAPHIC] shows what seems to be a room where corpses – mainly children – are covered with blankets, while a man shouts, accusing the Arab world of silence.

Victims

In Houla, activists such as Hadi Abdallah reportedly called for UN observers to come immediately and witness the events – but in vain:

@Thanku4theAnger: Hadi Abdallah called head of UN monitors about Houla massacre. His reply “Regime does not allow us to travel at night”

@Thanku4theAnger: Hadi Abdallah : We have more than 300 injured dying in front of us & we can't even provide basic emergency care

UN observers finally arrived the following day, and confirmed the death toll.

Mass burial of victims' bodies, Houla, Syria. Photo by Sniperphoto Agency, copyright © Demotix (26/05/2012).

There were immediate reactions of shock and horror worldwide:

@acarvin: The photos being shared via the ‪#HoulaMassacre‬ hashtag are bloody, graphic and heartbreaking. So many beautiful children, dead. ‪#syria

@NMSyria: The UN security council has unanimously condemned the use of heavy weapons in ‪#HoulaMassacre‬ that left 108 people killed. Oh really?

@Hamadx: #AlHoulahMassacre‬ I don't wanna have kids anymore. This world is not safe, not human.

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia reacted on her blog:

Whoever did this horrible massacre got no human feelings, brainwashed to the level that he became a killing machine that does not differentiate what about what is right or wrong as a human to kill a child in that way.

On May 27 the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied that the Syrian military was responsible, blaming the massacre on Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. Lebanese blogger As'ad Abu Khalil (“Angry Arab”) was cynical:

How can I comment on developments in Syria anymore? I simply disbelieve the Syrian regime and the exile Syrian opposition groups: both have a proven record of criminality and massacres and lies and fabrications. [...] Of course, the government given its bloody and war criminal record (under Hafidh and now under Bashshar), can easily be responsible for this massacre. It has no moral scruples or ethical factors that would prevent it from perpetrating such a crime.  But as one friend (Amer), wrote to me about it: “No version I heard makes sense, the amount of lies makes it impossible to know the truth: bombing? slaughter? army? villages raiding each other? these things cannot happen all at the same time.”

Blogger Maysaloon criticized Abu Khalil's ambivalent view:

@Maysaloon: The Angry Arab's position on ‪Syria‬ is clear: no to the opposition and regime, but mainly opposition, and regime, but mainly opposition.

Ruwayda Mustafah commented on Russia's position:

@RuwaydaMustafah: This just came in. ‘Russia says both sides are involved in Houla massacre'. Why would protesters kill their own children?

Some even compared the Syrian government to Israel (which was reponsible for a massacre in 1948 in a Lebanese village coincidentally called Houla):

@SultanAlQassemi: Massacre of innocents – Bashar Al Assad is the new Ariel Sharon

Strikes have been taking place around Syria in solidarity with the victims:

@HamaEcho: General strikes in the main markets of Damascus‬ today condemning the regime's massacres.

@ZainSyr: Shops in the old souq of Medhat basha & Hareqa r closed! 4 the 1st time they participate in a strike! ‪Damascus‬! We r getting closer

Blogger Yorikirii has commemorated the massacre in a poem:

There are places in war
That become Sacred Places
Massacred Places. turning points
Who did it? we all know. who asks?
The realities on the ground speak their own truth
My Sacred Places. on a day in May. this was Houla

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

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