Syria Houla massacre: Press split on response

People gather at a mass burial for the victims purportedly killed by Syrian forces in Houla Some people were killed by shell fire, others appear to have been shot or stabbed

Newspapers in the Middle East as well as in Russia, China and France have mixed views on the best response to the mass killing in the Syrian town of Houla.

Some urge the UN Security Council to authorise the use of force and consider that UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's plan is now "dead". Others continue to call for the plan's implementation and warn against "interventionism".

Meanwhile there is scepticism about diplomatic moves to impose a "Yemeni solution" on the country, under which President Bashar al-Assad would step down while the regime stays in place pending elections.

Arab world

Start Quote

The current regime does not understand anything other than the language of force”

End Quote Hazim Mubayidhin Jordan's Al-Ra'y

Editorial in Qatar's Al-Rayah: "The least that can be done by the UN Security Council to respond to the Houla massacre... is to order the Syrian regime to withdraw its tanks and heavy weapons from Syrian towns and cities and to stop its bombing, and to compel it to immediately implement the clauses of UN and Arab envoy Kofi Annan's initiative without any further delay... The Syrian people expect the UN Security Council to stop granting new opportunities to the regime that will lead to more casualties and more killings and to start taking action that will ensure protection under Chapter VII, which allows the use of force, which is the only language that the Syrian regime understands."

Abd-al-Bari Atwan in London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi: "The Syrian regime cannot deny responsibility for the massacre that took place in the town of Houla near Homs that killed more than 100 people, including 32 children under the age of 10. These are Syrian citizens. The dead children are Syrians and cannot be fighters of the armed groups that the regime keeps talking about. The protection of Syrian people regardless of their sect, religion or affiliation is first and foremost the responsibility of the regime, since it is supposed to represent all Syrian people."

Hazim Mubayidhin in Jordan's Al-Ra'y: "Syria after Houla is not like it was before. The opposition Syrian National Council has now called on the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting and take binding decisions in order to protect the Syrian people, including under Chapter VII, which allows the use of force to protect citizens from crimes by a regime... What is happening on the ground and under the eyes of international observers in Syria is clear evidence that Annan's plan is dead and confirms that the current regime does not understand anything other than the language of force."

Tariq al-Hamid in pan-Arab Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat: "The New York Times has revealed talks between the USA and Russia to implement the Yemeni solution in Syria. The question to be asked is whether it is possible for the Yemeni solution to be successful. The answer is that it is very difficult for several reasons. The main reason is that what is happening in Syria today has surpassed anything that happened in Yemen and cannot be compared in any way... It is also important, while the initiative is being examined, for serious efforts to continue to remove Al-Assad in order to save Syria, the Syrian people and the entire region."

Munthir Id in Syria's government-owned Al-Thawrah: "The barbaric atrocities committed by terrorist groups yesterday... are an attempt to turn the facts around as they always try to do before every UN Security Council report on Syria or UN meeting on Syria or whenever a UN official is visiting Syria in order to market their Satanic ideology that the Syrian Arab Army is behind this massacre."

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China and Russia should resolutely oppose any hysterical escalation of interventionism”

End Quote Editorial China's Huanqiu Shibao
Israel

Eyal Zisser in pro-Netanyahu Yisrael Hayom: "Last week, the Americans pulled out a new card, the Russian card. They proposed to Moscow to jointly impose the 'Yemeni solution' on Syria: Bashar quits, but his regime remains in place and leads Syria to elections like the ones held in Egypt and Tunisia... However, Syria has already passed the point of no return, and it is doubtful that Bashar's departure would end the bloody civil war."

Nadav Eyal in centrist Ma'ariv: "The more the Syrian rebellion develops into a civil war, the more it turns out that al-Assad's regime is without hope, so the Russians are gaining the impression that they are not on the right side of history: in a region with a clear Sunni majority, they are putting their trust in a small, vulnerable sect whose hold on Syria is weakening."

Turkey

Omer Taspinar in centrist daily Sabah: "After the massacre in the town of Houla near Homs, events in Syria have moved closer towards civil war. In the coming weeks, there may be a new influx of refugees into Turkey."

Russia

Alexander Reutov in influential business daily Kommersant: "The most serious incident during the entire civil war has taken place in Syria... Although Damascus denies involvement in the tragedy, the West has laid responsibility for the massacre at the door of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has been trying to suppress opposition rallies for over a year. It means that new sanctions are awaiting Syria, and Moscow will not be able to defend its ally."

China

Huang Peizhao in Communist Party newspaper Renmin Ribao: "Countries should urge the Syrian government and opposition to truly carry out Annan's six-point proposal and use the 'pliers' of dialogue to break up differences step by step and reach consensus, and not leave space for terrorist organisations to make Syria slide into all-out civil war or even become a second Iraq. Avoiding an even greater humanitarian disaster should be the common aspiration of the whole world."

Editorial in Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times): "The Houla tragedy could become an excuse for the West to further interfere in the situation in Syria, resulting in major changes. China and Russia should pay close attention to the UN investigation and the attitude of all sides and resolutely oppose any hysterical escalation of interventionism. What the US is actually playing in Syria is cards on a global scale. It wants to knock down al-Assad's regime to isolate Iran and weaken Russia. Washington's goal is too large, so it may not be achievable."

France

Arielle Thedrel in Le Figaro: "More than ever, the plan to overcome the crisis drawn up by Kofi Annan seems to be abortive. The ceasefire proposed by the UN-Arab League special envoy, which officially came into force on 12 April, has never been respected."

Jean-Pierre Perrin in Liberation: "From the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, one of the tactics of Bashar al-Assad's regime has been to strike at children in dissident regions. What happened on Saturday in Houla near Homs shows that, even under the gaze of the international community, it has in no way given up on this practice."

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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