U.N. observers who traveled to the Syrian massacre village of al-Qubair saw blood on the walls and were hit by a “stench of burnt flesh” but could not confirm the death toll, a spokesman said Friday.
While the Syrian government has denied responsibility of the massacre in al-Qubair, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the observers saw armored vehicle tracks around the village and homes that were damaged by rockets, grenades and various weapons.
“Inside some of the houses, blood was visible across the walls and floors. Fire was still burning outside houses and there was a strong stench of burnt flesh,” the spokesman said in a grim account of the visit.
The U.N. observers said that “the circumstances surrounding this attack are still unclear.” The observers had been trying to reach Qubair, a tiny farming village of about 150 people since Thursday but had been shot at and turned back by both security forces and residents.
At least 55 people were killed on Wednesday in an assault on Qubair in Hama province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
U.N. officials have made it clear they believe government forces and allies were behind the attack on a mainly Sunni Muslim village surrounded by an Alawite population loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The village was empty when they went in there and so monitors were unable to talk to any witnesses of the attack, which has led to calls for tougher action against President Assad.
Nesirky said people from a nearby village came “and spoke of what they had heard and the relatives they had lost.
“Armored vehicle tracks were visible in the vicinity. Some homes were damaged by rockets from armored vehicles, grenades and a range of caliber weapons,” Nesirky said.
“The circumstances surrounding this attack are still unclear. The names, details and number of those killed are still not confirmed. The observers are still working to ascertain the facts,” he said.
Nesirky said that Syrian army checkpoints had “stopped” and “in some cases turned back” the observers who made “multiple attempts” to get into Qubair on Thursday.
“Some of the patrols were being stopped by civilians in the area,” he added. The monitors were also told by residents that their “safety was at risk” if they entered the village.
According to preliminary evidence, government troops surrounded Qubair and militia entered the village and killed civilians with “barbarity,” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, according to diplomats at a closed briefing.
Qubair was the second major massacre in Syria in two weeks. At least 108 people ̶ including 49 were killed when forces attacked the town of Houla on May 25. The government has denied any role in both slaughters.
Opposition activists and Syrian government officials blamed each other for the killings and differed about the number of dead.
Western powers to press for sanctions
Meanwhile, Britain, France and the United States will quickly draw up a U.N. Security Council resolution proposing sanctions against Syria over the worsening conflict, diplomats said Friday.
“We will move fast to press for a resolution,” a U.N. diplomat told AFP.
“There will be action in the coming days to get a vote on a resolution which includes measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter -- which would mean sanctions,” the diplomat added in comments confirmed by other Security Council envoys.
The three Western permanent members of the Council want a new campaign for sanctions after U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that the international community must warn President Assad of “clear consequences” if he does not carry out an international peace plan.
Russia, Syria’s main international ally, and China have twice used their veto powers as permanent members to block resolutions which had just hinted at sanctions against Assad.
But Annan’s call for substantial new pressure on Assad and two recent massacres in Syria have heightened international demands for the Security Council to act against the Syrian leader.
The resolution will be drawn up alongside international lobbying for action at the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18-19 and other key meetings.
The United Nations estimated that well over 10,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Assad in the past 15 months.