Syrian opposition activists reported a mass killing of villagers by pro-government militiamen and security forces on Wednesday — if verified, thefourth massacre in less than two weeks — threatening to inject a new surge of angry momentum into the growing international effort to isolate President Bashar al-Assad and remove him from power.
Theaccounts of the mass killing, in the village of Qubeir in central Hama Province, could not be independently corroborated, and United Nations monitors in Syria could not immediately gain access to thesite. The accounts said that as many as 78 civilians were killed, half of them women and children, including 35 members of one family. Some were burned and stabbed.
The killings were reported asrepresentatives of more than 55 countries pressing for Mr. Assad’s resignation threatened to sharply expand their financial pressure on his government at a meeting in Washington sponsored by the UnitedStates Treasury, and as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Turkey, an outspoken critic of Syria, for further talks on how to quickly reach a solution to the Syria crisis that woulddepose Mr. Assad.
A senior Western official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Mrs. Clinton was sending Fred Hof, a special Middle East envoy from the State Department, to Moscow onThursday to assess whether Russia and the United States could achieve a common vision on a post-Assad political transition in Syria. Russia, which has been Mr. Assad’s most powerful foreign backer, hasrepeatedly opposed outside intervention in the Syrian conflict but has recently suggested it is not opposed to new leadership in Syria, its most important ally in the Middle East.
If the Qubeir massacreaccounts are confirmed, they are likely to place enormous new pressure on Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy to Syria from the United Nations and the Arab League, whose nearly-two-month-old peace...