World Bulletin/News Desk
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed outrage on Friday over reports of a Syrian government assault in the rebellious Hama region and urged the U.N. Security Council to make clear to Damascus that there would be consequences.
Accounts of the attack on the village of Tremseh, including the use of artillery, tanks and helicopters, provide "indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians," she said.
"We call for an immediate ceasefire in and around Hama to allow the UN observer mission to enter Tremseh," Clinton, who is traveling in Asia, said in a statement issued in Washington.
"Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable."
Syrian opposition activists have put the death toll at Tremseh at anywhere from 100 to more than 200 people and said it was the work of government troops and militia allies.
There has been no independent account of the battle, which the government described as a massacre by "terrorist groups."
Clinton said the massacre underscored the need for major powers to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's government to allow for a U.N.-backed political transition plan to move forward.
She said the U.N. Security Council - where veto-holders Russia and China have thrown the brakes on western efforts to pass more punitive measures against Damascus - should now make clear that there would be consequences for non-compliance.
"History will judge this Council. Its members must ask themselves whether continuing to allow the Assad regime to commit unspeakable violence against its own people is the legacy they want to leave," Clinton said.
Clinton's comments came as the Security Council faces deep divisions over Western demands that a new resolution on Syria now under debate should authorize actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention if the violence does not stop.
Russia, which remains Assad's chief international ally, has said it opposes such moves. The council is due to vote on July 18.
The White House said on Friday that reports of the Tremseh massacre had eliminated any doubt over the need for a coordinated international response.
"Through these repeated efforts, through these repeated acts of violence against the Syrian people, President Assad has lost legitimacy to lead. It is time for him to go," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"We are hopeful that we'll see continued unity on the international scale to press Assad to leave power."
France urges China, Russia to change tune on Syria
French President Francois Hollande also urged Russia and China on Friday to change tack on Syria and back U.N. moves towards tougher sanctions on Bashar al-Assad's government.
Hollande's remarks came shortly after Syrian opposition sources said some 220 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in a village in Hama region when it was bombarded by helicopter gunships and tanks and then stormed by militiamen.
"If we're seeing people die every day it's because the regime has decided to use force to crush its own population," the French leader told reporters.
"To be clear, what I am telling Russia and China is that by doing nothing to allow us go to tougher sanctions, (they will allow) war and chaos to take hold of Syria, damaging their interests," he said on the sidelines of an army ceremony in Paris.
China and Russia have used their U.N. Security Council veto to shield Assad from coordinated condemnation and sanctions.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the latest reported killings, if confirmed, "showed it was urgent that the U.N. Security Council take strong action".