Netanyahu: Israel 'appalled' by Syria massacre; Iran and Hezbollah must also be held responsible
PM comments on Syria uprising for first time; UN Security Council unanimously condemns Syrian government for Houla massacre.
For the first time since the Syrian uprising began over a year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement on Sunday condemning the slaughter.
In the statement, released by the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu said he was "appalled at the continuous slaughter of innocent civilians by [President Bashar] Assad's forces." He added that "Iran and Hezbollah cannot be separated from Assad's massacre, and the world needs to take action against them as well."
On Saturday, Syrian activists reported that a Syrian artillery barrage killed at least 108 people, including dozens of children, in the worst violence since the start of a UN peace plan to staunch the flow of blood from Syria's uprising.
The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls rent by shrapnel, were shown lying in a room to the sound of wailing in footage posted to YouTube which purported to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday.
In the past 16 months Netanyahu has said almost nothing about the situation in Syria, nor did he release any statements condemning the violence; when he did relate to the issue, it was in response to questions he was asked.
On the other hand, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has taken a tough stand on the matter, and in recent months has repeatedly called for Assad to resign. He also offered humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.
Netanyahu disagreed with Lieberman's approach – favoring not to officially comment on the situation – yet his silence was construed by many in the international community, the Arab world and the Syrian opposition as an interest in preserving Assad's regime.
Late Sunday, the UN Security Council on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for heavy-weapons attacks on the town of Houla, the site of Saturday's massacre, the council president said.
"The Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of (Houla), near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood," the non-binding statement said.
"The Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse," said the statement, which was read out after the council's three-hour emergency meeting by Azerbaijan's Deputy UN Ambassador Tofig Musayev.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that U.S. President Barack Obama is working to convince Russia to join an effort to implement a Yemen-style transfer of power in Syria.
According to Obama's reported plan, President Assad would step down from power, while several members of his regime would remain in office, as was the case with ousted Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier this year.
To accomplish this, the U.S. president is reportedly seeking the aid of staunch Assad ally Russia, hoping to sway Moscow away from its total objection to the idea of regime change in Syria.