Video footage emerges of Syrian battle that killed more than 100 as Hague warns country is facing all-out civil warBy Jason Groves and Damien Gayle
A video purporting to show scenes of the massacre in which 100 people were killed has been released by Syrian opposition activists.
The gruesome scenes show people running along a street, apparently just after the beginning of the attack on the town of Houla on Friday.
Smoke fills the air and the bloodied, lifeless bodies of youngsters can be seen on the ground in the video grabs, the authenticity of which have not yet been verified.
Panic: This frame grab made from an amateur video provided by Syrian activists yesterday purports to show scenes from the massacre in Houla on May 25 that killed more than 100 people, many of them children
Chaos: A youngster runs for his life in the video, the authenticity of which has not yet been independently verified
Tragic: The dead bodies of youngsters can be seen lying on the floor as violence erupts around them
Last night William Hague warned that Syria is on the brink of ‘all-out civil war’ - as reports emerged of a fresh massacre of civilians by the brutal regime.
The Foreign Secretary and David Cameron both launched high-level diplomatic talks aimed at ramping up pressure on dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Hague flew to Moscow for talks with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the hope of securing Russian support for a tough new United Nations resolution.
'All out civil war': William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, meets his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow yesterday to try to build a consensus for action over the violence in Syria
United front: Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with French president Francois Hollande by telephone to discuss the growing crisis in the Middle Eastern country
The Security Council will discuss Syria again today, ahead of a report tomorrow from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who is acting as the international community’s envoy on Syria.
In London, Syria’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing down over the slaughter of dozens of women and children at Houla last week, which has sparked international outrage.
Foreign Office political director Sir Geoffrey Adams described the attack as ‘a sickening and evil crime’. He told the Syrian diplomat that Britain wanted all those responsible to be identified and held accountable and warned of ‘further quick and robust action’ from the international community unless all military operations ceased immediately.
The Houla massacre, in which more than 100 men, women and children were killed, was condemned by the UN Security Council in a rare show of unity on Sunday night.
Last night the Syrian Foreign Ministry claimed ‘hundreds of armed men’ took part in the atrocity.
But the condemnation appeared to have little impact on the hardline Damascus regime, with reports emerging of a fresh massacre in the town of Hama. Activists said at least 41 people had been killed during an artillery attack on the town by Assad’s forces.
Massacre: This citizen journalism image provided by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows shrouded dead bodies in Houla
He called on the regime to halt violence and urged ‘every individual with a gun’ to lay down their arms.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Mr Hague acknowledged that Britain and Russia had not always seen eye-to-eye on Syria, but characterised the discussions with Mr Lavrov as ‘good and frank and honest’.
He said both countries were agreed that Mr Annan’s plan for a ceasefire followed by talks between the two sides, was the best hope currently on offer for Syria.
International attention: UN observers view bodies at a hospital morgue before the burial of the Houla dead
But Britain also believes Assad’s departure is a precondition to any long-term solution to the 14-month uprising.
He warned that the only alternative was ‘ever-increasing chaos in Syria and a descent closer and closer to all-out civil war and collapse’.
Mr Lavrov voiced Moscow’s support for the Annan plan, but made clear that Russia is not seeking Assad’s removal, saying: ‘For us it’s not the most important thing who is in power in Syria. For us the main thing is to provide for the end of all violence.’
Russia, which has an important naval base in Syria, has repeatedly shielded Damascus from action by the United Nations Security Council during the year-long uprising which has cost up to 15,000 lives.
Speaking alongside Mr Hague, Mr Lavrov said Moscow wanted Syria to sort out its problems ‘without foreign interference’ and stressed the need to ‘respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty’ of the country.
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