The death toll from a new surge of violence in Syrian flashpoints has risen to at least 33, activists said Wednesday, adding that among the dead are six children and teenagers and five army defectors.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia that 28 civilians were killed on Tuesday by security force gunfire, in addition to the five defectors.
“Twenty-eight civilians were killed during search operations and indiscriminate firing from checkpoints manned by soldiers,” it said, according to AFP.
Among the dead were 11 people killed in the besieged central city of Homs, six in southern Deraa, six in northwestern Idlib, three in Deir al-Zor to the east and two in central Hama.
The Britain-based rights group had previously given a toll of 17 dead on Tuesday, including five boys in the flashpoint central province of Homs and a 12-year-old in the east.
It was not possible to independently confirm the killings as Syrian authorities, who blame the unrest on “armed terrorist groups,” have barred most independent media from the country.
The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed since the protests erupted in March, triggered by Arab uprisings which toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
The spike in deaths comes despite a growing chorus of international condemnation of the bloody crackdown on dissent by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday became the second leader of a neighboring country to call on Assad to step down, following a similar call by Jordan’s King Abdullah II last week.
Later, the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee condemned the bloody response to pro-reform protests that have turned against Assad’s regime, with 122 voting for the resolution and 12 including Syria against.
Only 13 countries voted against and 41 abstained.
The resolution says the committee “strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders.”
It also demands an immediate end to “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees, including children” in Syria.
Russia and China, which vetoed a European-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution last month that would have condemned Syria and threatened possible future sanctions, abstained according to an official U.N. tally, which diplomats said could indicate a shift in their positions.
Countries that voted against the resolution included Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Vietnam. Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said the resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, had no meaning for Damascus.
“Although the draft resolution is submitted primarily from three European countries it is not a secret that the United States of America is the mastermind and main instigator of the political campaign against my country,” Jaafari said.
“This draft resolution definitely has nothing to do with human rights; it is only a part of the typically hostile policy by the United States against Syria,” he said, according to Reuters.
It is time to refer Syria to Security Council
German Ambassador Peter Wittig said it was time to move the issue back to the 15-nation Security Council, which has been deadlocked on Syria due to Russian and Chinese opposition.
“The Security Council cannot fall behind the region,” he said, referring to the Arab League suspension of Syria. “We would encourage the ... council to come back to this issue.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement that the resolution “sends a signal of united condemnation of the Syrian regime's systematic human rights abuses.”
“As long as the crisis in Syria continues the international pressure on the Assad regime will only intensify,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice also welcomed the committee’s adoption of the resolution, which will be confirmed by a new vote in a plenary meeting of the General Assembly next month.
“By overwhelmingly adopting its first-ever resolution on Syria's human rights abuses, the ... Third Committee has sent a clear message that it does not accept abuse and death as a legitimate path to retaining power,” she said in a statement.
“Without spilling any more blood, without causing any more injustice, for the sake of peace for the people, the country and the region, finally step down,” Turkey’s Erdogan said earlier on Tuesday, in his first direct call for Assad to go.
In a further sign that Turkey was stepping up pressure on Syria, Turkish media reported that Turkeys’ land commander inspected troops near the border, Reuters reported.
“Bashar al-Assad comes out and says ‘I will fight to the death’. For the love of God, who are you fighting with?” asked Erdogan. “Fighting your own people until the death is not heroism. It’s cowardice. If you want to see someone who fights his people to the death, look at Nazi Germany, look at Hitler, look at Mussolini,” he told his ruling AK party.
“If you cannot learn a lesson from them, look at the killed Libyan leader who turned his guns on his own people and only 32 days ago used the same expressions as you.”
But, echoing the stance of Arab League foreign ministers who suspended Damascus and have threatened economic and political sanctions, he said his criticism did not mean Turkey was calling for international military action.
“We do not have eyes on any country’s land, we have no desire to interfere in any country's internal affairs,” Erdogan said.