At least 144 people were killed yesterday in the latest Syrian violence, including some 64 slaughtered in a "horrifying massacre" at a single checkpoint in Homs province, according to witnesses. But the government has no plans to end its attacks on citizens. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem vowed to "defend" his country. "We are not happy to see brothers killing each other," he said. "This is our country. But we will defend our sovereignty and independence," he told reporters. The scores killed at the checkpoint were attempting to flee shelling in the city of Homs. Security forces and thugs kidnapped the women among them, and killed the men, sources told CNN. They were either shot or stabbed to death.
The killings occurred as Syrian officials announced that the nation's new draft constitution was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and the European Union imposed new sanctions. US officials dismiss the constitution vote "as absolutely cynical," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. What Basahr al-Assad has done "is put a piece of paper that he controls to a vote that he controls so that he can try and maintain control." In other Syrian news, the BBC earlier reported that French reporter Edith Bouvier refused to board a Red Cross vehicle that managed to enter besieged Baba Amr, and UK photographer Paul Conroy stayed behind in solidarity. But the BBC now reports that Conroy has indeed been smuggled out of the country; Bouvier's whereabouts are unknown. (Read more Syria stories.)