The U.N. Security Council condemned the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Syria on Wednesday as authorities intensified the assault on a city that symbolizes resistance to President Bashar Assad's autocratic rule.
The Security Council, which has been deadlocked over Syria for the last three months, expressed "grave concern at the deteriorating situation," and called on authorities "to fully respect human rights and to comply with their obligations under applicable international law."
"Those responsible for the violence should be held accountable," the council said.
The council adopted a "presidential" statement to avoid having to call a formal vote on a resolution. While weaker than a resolution, a presidential statement still becomes part of the Security Council's record.
Rising international outrage had no immediate effect on the ground, where security forces moved tanks into the heart of the rebellious city of Hama, cutting off telephone, Internet and at least some electricity and water lines to the city. Witnesses and activists reached by satellite telephone described scenes of chaos as tanks took positions in the city center. The assault began Sunday.
In 1982, Assad's father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, killed up to 30,000 people and flattened huge sections of the city to quash a similar uprising.
The younger Assad's willingness to employ the same methods suggests that he, his powerful brother and close members of his ruling Alawite minority, a small Shiite sect, view the uprising as a threat that must be crushed regardless of the human or political costs.