Bashar Al Assad vows to fight on, blames massacre on terrorists
President Bashar Al Assad has told Syria’s parliament that his government had nothing to do with last month’s massacre in Houla.
In a televised speech on Sunday, Al Assad said his country was facing a “real war” and blamed terrorists and extremists for the bloodshed in which more than 100 people, nearly half of them children, were killed.
“If we don’t feel the pain, the pain that squeezes our hearts, as I felt it, for the cruel scenes - especially the children - then we are not human beings,” he said.
UN investigators said there are strong suspicions that pro-regime gunmen are responsible for at least some of the killings in the massacre.
Assad, 46, still has a firm grip on power in Syria some 15 months into a revolt that has torn the country apart. The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests but a ferocious government crackdown led many in the opposition to take up arms. Now, the conflict has morphed into an armed insurgency.
“A battle was forced on us and the result was this bloodshed that we are seeing," Al Assad said. He denies there is a popular will behind the uprising, saying foreign extremists and terrorists are driving the revolt.
“We have to fight terrorism for the country to heal,” he said. “We will not be lenient. We will be forgiving only for those who renounce terrorism.”
The remarks suggest Al Assad is standing his ground, despite international condemnation. Yesterday he ridiculed protesters over their calls for freedom.
“This freedom that they called for has turned into the (human) remains of our sons and this democracy that they talked about is now drowning in our blood,” Al Assad said.
Activists estimate that as many as 13,000 people have died since the revolt began. A cease-fire plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan is violated by both sides every day.