DAMASCUS – The Syrian regime has carried out a “systematic” series of abuses against protesters that could “qualify as crimes against humanity,” and the United Nations must hold the government accountable, a leading humanitarian watchdog organization said, CNN reported on Thursday. The 57-page document contains chilling detail from dozens of victims and witnesses to abuses in Daraa province, the southwestern Syrian powder keg where the anti-government protest movement began in mid-March before spreading across the country. The government reacted with a tough crackdown against protesters. At present, the report says, there have been about 887 deaths “across Syria,” including at least 418 people in Daraa province.
Children have become a flashpoint issue in the uprising against the Syrian regime after video emerged of the mutilated and apparently tortured remains of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who has become a new symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, The Herald Sun reported on Thursday.
The video, and other images of children activists say were killed in a government crackdown on protests, are circulating widely among Syrians on YouTube and Al-Jazeera, Facebook and opposition websites.
And they are stoking even more fury against a regime the opposition says has lost all legitimacy. Protesters say at least 25 children are among the 1,000 dead as a result of the government’s crackdown. A 12-year-old was shot dead Saturday when her school bus came under fire and an 11-year-old was killed as her town was shelled Tuesday. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said she was “very concerned” about Hamza’s death, telling reporters, “I think what that symbolizes for many Syrians is the total collapse of any effort by the Syrian government to work with and listen to their own people.”
Syrian authorities attempted Wednesday to quell the rising anger and announced a full investigation into Hamza’s death as well as amnesty for hundreds of political prisoners. But the concessions were widely regarded as too little, too late, for Assad’s regime.