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article imageU.S. fears new massacre in Syria, no-fly zone a possibility?

By Anne Sewell     Jun 12, 2012 in World
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has expressed his "deep concern" over the "dangerous intensification of armed violence across Syria" over the past few days.
Clashes between government and opposition forces are escalating.
Ban's press office said in a statement, "The bloodshed and fighting must stop at once. The government's intensive military operations, including the shelling of Homs and reportedly other population centers, as well as firing from helicopters on Talbiseh and Rastan, are resulting in heavy civilian casualties and human rights violations."
The video above from Dubai-based broadcaster Al-Arabiya shows chaos on the streets of Talbiseh in Homs as it is bombarded by shelling.
Ban's office further stated "all countries with influence on either side to convince them to put the welfare of Syrians first, to pull back from the brink and to reflect on the devastating consequences that the increasing violence is having for the people of Syria, the country and the region."
The office of the UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan also warned a "large number" of innocent civilians are being trapped by the violence. He said that he was "gravely concerned" by the "escalation of fighting" between the two sides.
Annan's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi said, "There are indications that a large number of civilians are trapped in these towns. The special envoy demands that the parties take all steps to ensure that civilians are not harmed, and further demands that entry of the UN Military Observers be allowed to the town of Haffa immediately."
U.S. state department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told a news briefing in Washington, "The UN made a particular appeal to be able to get into Haffa because it had heard concerning reports about regime plans."
"At the same time, if you follow Syrian media, they were claiming that the opposition would cause a massacre."
Nuland also stated, "The United States joins joint special envoy Kofi Annan in expressing deep alarm by reports from inside Syria that the regime may be organizing another massacre."
"We remind Syrian commanders of one of the lessons from Bosnia: The international community can and does learn what units were responsible for crimes against humanity and you will be held responsible for your actions."
On Monday, regime helicopters fired on rebel stronghold towns and raging violence killed over 100 people.
Last week, more than 20 soldiers were reportedly killed by rebels in a single day in Haffa, and in total 58 have been killed recently.
In a bombardment on Saturday, 10 children aged up to 13 were killed and a video posted online showed the shrouded bodies, with their mothers weeping for them.
RT is reporting the U.S. may soon take on a formal role in Syria. Reports suggest that the White House wants an air offensive targeting the regime of President al-Assad.
According to Israel's Debka news agency, U.S. President Barack Obama has requested the U.S. Navy and Air Force speed up plans to aid the ousting of Assad.
DEBKAfile’s sources state the U.S. President decided on this step after hearing Russian officials stating repeatedly that “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.” However, Russia, Iran and China have stood by President Bashar Assad and Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened sanctions against Syria.
They also say President Obama hopes that by initiating a temporary air strike, the U.S. may be able to decimate Assad's control by attacking his regime's military command centers. This would be similar to the intervention in Libya, when Moammar Gaddafi was ousted.
Debka also reports the U.S. will call for a no-fly zone over Syria and then would send their own forces in to strike Assad-aligned targets.
This news comes less than two weeks after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) called for the implementation of a no-fly zone.
Sen. Graham told reporters last month that ousting Assad from control is more crucial to U.S. interests than the Libya issue.
Graham, who sits on the U.S. Senate Committee of Armed Services, said, “Compared to Libya, the strategic upside of taking out (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is far greater. We've used force to stop slaughter less strategic and egregious than this."
The report also comes days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that "military action is always an option” in Syria. However he added, "We do not believe that … further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action.”
However, this may have already changed. Sources interviewed by the Debka news agency state that President Obama has asked for an accelerated attack on Syria's leaders. This after Russian officials had allegedly said, “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.”
Debka further reports that in order to carry out this plan, the U.S. would equip Syrian rebels with military supplies. The rebels could then attack Assad's regime on the ground, after the U.S. attacks with airstrikes.
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