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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6277

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): On indulgence—for more than a year now the Assad regime has been at war with its own people and the world has watched with a growing sense of horror and, I would have to say, with a growing sense of anger too. On Friday, the village of Houla was witness to scenes of unspeakable brutality. More than 100 people were massacred, among them, according to the United Nations, 49 children and 34 women. Some were killed by government artillery and tank shelling of a residential neighbourhood. Many were executed at close range by armed men. Eyewitnesses have told of a brutal intent to murder. Victims were shot in their own home and there were young children with their throats cut. 'They had no mercy,' one told the BBC. 'They went into people's houses and opened fire and killed them all,' another said. We grieve with the families of the dead.

Yesterday, Australia expressed its revulsion by expelling the Syrian Charge d'Affaires and another Syrian diplomat from this country. Around the world, other nations are taking a similar approach.

We understand all too painfully that such actions pale against the measure of the lives lost in Houla. But we will not have any further official engagement with the Assad regime until it abides by the ceasefire proposed by the special envoy Kofi Annan appointed for this purpose. Mr Annan has again visited Syria. Now is the moment to end this violence. We call on Syria to immediately honour its commitments under the Annan peace plan to get the military out of civilian areas, to end the use of heavy weapons and to begin a political process that will bring peace.

Australia will maintain our robust unilateral sanctions against this regime. We will maintain our humanitarian assistance and we will not stop our pressure until this violence comes to an end.