x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Syria rejects UN allegations of crimes against humanity

Activists say pro-regime troops kill at least six civilians in the heaviest shelling of the protest city of Homs for days.

DAMASCUS // Syria yesterday flatly rejected United Nations allegations of crimes against humanity yesterday, even as monitors said troops killed at least six civilians in the heaviest shelling of the protest city of Homs for days.

Navi Pillay, the top human-rights representative at the UN, said Monday that the world body's inaction had "emboldened" Syria's government to unleash overwhelming force against its own civilians.

"The nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian forces indicate that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed since March 2011," she told the General Assembly.

But Syria's government rejected her accusations.

"The foreign ministry, in a message sent to the UN Human Rights Commission, categorically rejected the new allegations made by the commission," state news agency Sana said.

The ministry also accused the commission of being manipulated by "countries targeting Syria and of ignoring the terrorist crimes committed by armed groups," Sana reported.

A monitoring group said President Bashar Al Assad's forces launched one of their heaviest assaults on Homs since they began their campaign to crush rebels on February 4.

On the same day, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria for the second time in four months.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Beijing his country "will absolutely not protect any party, including the government in Syria."

The Syrian regime's crackdown has been centred on the central city of Homs, which has been under a barrage of machine-gun fire, shells, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades for 10 days.

"The shelling of the Baba Amr neighbourhood began at dawn and is the most intense in five days," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Two rockets are falling a minute on average," the head of the British-based monitoring group said, citing activists on the ground.

"Six civilians died in the continuous shelling of Baba Amr neighbourhood this morning," the Observatory said later in an emailed statement.