UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website; JURIST news archive] issued a statement [press release] on Friday, chastising both the government of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile] and violent protesters regarding the continuous bloodshed in Syria. Approximately 44 people [Al Jazeera report] were killed Friday in two suicide car bomb attacks in Damascus. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) [official website] has since linked the attacks to anti-government protests, while protesters and their supporters have suggested that the state planted attacks to coincide with an Arab League [official website, in Arabic] visit. Ban's press release pleaded that both groups resist violence: "The Secretary-General is gravely concerned at the escalating violence in Syria. Today's explosions in Damascus, which resulted in more deaths and injuries, underscore his growing concerns. He emphasizes that all violence is unacceptable and must stop immediately." The UN Security Council [official website] echoed the Ban's sentiments the same day, declaring [UN News Centre report] that the recent car bombings were acts of terrorism. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] reports that over 5,000 people have died since anti-government protests began in March.
The growing violence in Syria has drawn copious international attention recently. In his annual Christmas message on Sunday, the Pope called for an end to bloodshed in Syria [BBC report]. Last week, the UN Security Council extended [resolution] the term of its observer force monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel until the end of June 2012. Two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Syrian army commanders of ordering troops to attack unarmed protesters in an effort to quash public demonstrations entirely. Both HRW and the UN OHCHR urged [JURIST report] the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Earlier this month, The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] adopted a resolution [JURIST report] condemning the recent uptick in Syrian bloodshed.