UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out about the situation in Syria at a press conference in NYC yesterday. He stated, "In Syria more than 5,000 people are dead. This can not go on. In the name of humanity, it is time for the international community to act." He spoke about Syria while reflecting on the UN's achievements and challenges of the past year. In related comments, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland voiced frustration aimed at Russia when she stated, "it is past time for the UN Security Council to speak up." Russia has repeatedly hinted that it would block any Security Council actions aimed at Syria. Russia and the EU are currently addressing this issue at talks in Brussels, Belgium. Pressure is building on the international community to step up action against Syria. Thus far it has been the 22 nation Arab League which has taken unusually harsh steps against Syria including, that states suspension from the body, severe economic sanctions and travel restrictions. Bank accounts have been frozen and trade has dried up. An editors note about the 5,000 casualty figure, this number does not include security forces. It is only taking civilian casualties into account and also does not count the number of missing. These figures are provided by the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights and corroborated by the UN.
More than 70 civilians have been killed by security forces of President Bashar al Assad since Monday night. This figure includes at least 20 in Homs, which remians under siege and expecting an all out assault by Assad's troops and Shabiha. The city ignored a Monday night deadline to "lay down their weapons, turn over members of the Free Syrian Army and activists, and to stop protesting." Residents report power, water, Internet and most phone service has been cut. The government denies this. The paramilitary units known as Shabihaor"ghosts" is a particularly brutal bunch of thugs, suspected of being responsible for some of the most heinous and hideous acts of violence against the civilian populace. Shabiha members are suspected of acts of retribution against Syrian activists in countries around the world including, Egypt, Lebanon, and Canada.
Violence was also reported in Hama and Daraa. The FSA(Free Syrian Army) has stepped up attacks on security forces. The FSA has been targeting both Shabiha and army units. Usually it is the commanders who are killed by the FSA and troops are offered a chanceto defect. Regular army units are not being targeted. Commanders are usually of the Alawite minority as is Assad. In smuggled video footage, a civilian is seen sweeping a street in Homs in one clip, in the next he is seen firing a rpg at an armored personnel carrier.
A general strike called for by the SNC on Sunday is in it's fourth day. It is unclear if shops are shuttered because of the deteriorating security situation, lack of goods or in support of the strike. Most likely it is a combination of the three.