The Syrian government's crackdown on protesters and armed rebels has produced a seemingly endless stream of grim and grisly days, with more than 9,000 civilians perishing in the violence since March 2011, according to U.N. estimates. Yet some incidents have garnered more international attention than others, either due to the scale of the bloodshed or the savagery of the attack.
The slaughter of more than 100 people on Friday in Houla, a series of villages near the Syrian city of Homs, is proving to be one of these incidents. The U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned the killings, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan hurriedly organized a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an effort to salvage his peace plan, and governments around the world expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats. Der Spiegel is calling the massacre "Syria's My Lai," while Reuters has described it as "an atrocity that shook world opinion out of growing indifference." But a look at the incidents that have played this role most prominently during the 14-month-old uprising suggests that the outrage will fade away once the headlines do.
MURDER OF HAMZA AL-KHATIB
Last May, gruesome images of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib's mutilated body stunned the international community. Here's how the New York Times described the footage at the time:
Video posted online shows his battered, purple face. His skin is scrawled with cuts, gashes, deep burns and bullet wounds that would probably have injured but not killed. His jaw and kneecaps are shattered, according to an unidentified narrator, and his penis chopped off.
"These are the reforms of the treacherous Bashar," the narrator says. "Where are human rights? Where are the international criminal tribunals?"
Human rights activists claimed that the boy had been arrested at a protest in southern Syria, tortured to death, and handed over to his family in return for their silence. Syria's state-run media, for its part, contended that Hamza died from gunshot wounds during an attack by armed groups on Syrian forces, and that Bashar al-Assad met with the boy's family to express his condolences as soon as authorities were able to identify the corpse.
Hamza's death inspired a popular Facebook page and mass anti-government demonstrations across Syria. "Arab revolutions -- and associated social and international media -- seem to thrive on icons," the BBC's Jim Muir wrote at the time, "and the Syrian revolt appears to have found one."
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