Skip to main content

'Entire families trapped under the rubble,' Syrian opposition says

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 0343 GMT (1143 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least 71 people were killed Monday, an opposition group says
  • Civilians are trapped by rising violence in Homs, a U.N. official says
  • Opposition officials call for world leaders to consider the use of force
  • The opposition says children were used as human shields in Tafas

(CNN) -- The quest for peace in Syria is now crippled with setbacks, as a U.N. observer mission has suspended operations and attempts to rescue civilians trapped amid violence have proved futile.

At least 71 people were killed Monday, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The dead included "entire families trapped under rubble" when regime forces shelled the city of Douma, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

"Nobody can rescue the victims because of the continuous shelling," the LCC said.

Government forces also shelled the southern town of Tafas after more than 80 tanks entered the town, killing three people, the LCC said.

UN: Violence inhibiting work in Syria
Russia sends ship with weapons to Syria
New head of the Syrian National Council
The case for U.S. intervention in Syria
Images from Syrian carnage
IEDs: Syria's weapon of choice

It accused "security forces and thugs" of using children in Tafas as human shields on their tanks to prevent possible attacks by the opposition Free Syrian Army.

Also Monday, the Standard Club, a British marine insurer, said that it had stopped coverage for Russian operator Femco's cargo ship, MV Alaed, amid allegations that it is carrying weapons to the Syrian government.

U.S. officials have said the ship is carrying attack helicopters and munitions from the port of Kaliningrad.

Increased violence in Syria in recent days so exacerbated the already risky situation faced by the approximately 300 unarmed monitors that the United Nations announced Saturday it was suspending the operation.

The LCC issued a statement saying the decision "represents a failure of ... the international community to effectively and responsibly deal with the situation in Syria."

Officials from the Syrian National Council said the suspension indicated it was time for world leaders to take more severe steps.

"We say that all options are there and must be put on the table," said Abdul Basit Sieda, the group's leader. "This regime only understands the language of violence and force."

In Washington, Sen. John McCain called Monday for just that. "The Syrian opposition needs to know that the United States stands with them and that we are willing to take risks to support them when they need it the most," the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. "Inaction denies us the opportunity to have influence with forces in Syria who will one day inherit the country, ceding that to foreign states that may not always share our values."

McCain took aim at what he said is the Obama administration's toothless policy of calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.

"To say they are leading from behind is too generous," he said. "That suggests they are leading. They are just behind."

The Republican senator from Arizona accused the administration, "in its desperation," of appearing to place its hopes on persuading the Russian government to push al-Assad from power.

President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at the G-20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Afterward, the two leaders issued a statement calling for "an immediate cessation of all violence" and expressing support for efforts by U.N. and Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan to broker a peace deal.

That elicited derision from McCain.

"It was the kind of statement that you usually hear when there's no concrete agreement," he told CNN. "Also, it's a little weird, Orwellian, to consider their statement supporting Kofi Annan's initiative." McCain described the Annan plan as "a total failure."

In his speech, McCain said any military aid should not include U.S. ground forces, but should include other military might from the United States and its allies, such as European and other Arab countries.

McCain rejected characterizations of the current state of affairs inside Syria as a civil war. "It's not a civil war because all the military strength is on one side, and not the other," he said. "At least we ought to give them a chance to have a fair fight."

The suspension of the monitoring mission is a major blow to Annan's peace plan, which had become a symbol of hope for a country torn by relentless attacks during the 15-month uprising.

The Syrian government has blamed the violence on "armed terrorist groups," the vaguely defined entities it has consistently blamed over the past year.

Syrian opposition groups say more than 13,000 people have been killed since al-Assad's government started cracking down on anti-government protesters last year. The United Nations' latest estimate puts the death toll at more than 10,000.

CNN cannot independently verify government and opposition claims of casualties because the Syrian government has restricted access by international journalists.

CNN's Holly Yan and Salma Abdelaziz and journalist Gul Tuysuz contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT