Syria blames massacre on ‘terrorists’
Syrian authorities on Sunday denied carrying out a massacre after opposition activists said at least 109 civilians were killed in the central town of Houla.
Yesterday's attacks were among the worst carnage in the 14-month uprising against President Bashar Al Assad.
"Women, children and old men were shot dead. This is not the hallmark of the heroic Syrian army," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told reporters in Damascus.
Makdesi said the massacre was carried out by "terrorists" after fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Al Assad.
"They (rebels) were equipped with mortars and anti-tank missiles, which is a quantitative leap," he said.
Houla is a cluster of Sunni Muslim villages 20km north of the city of Homs, a centre of the uprising against Al Assad's rule.
Opposition activists in Homs said the killing started when Syrian troops and militiamen loyal to Al Assad, known as shabbiha, stationed at roadblocks that surround Houla, fired heavy machineguns at a demonstration in the area on Friday, killing five people.
Free Syrian Army rebels responded by attacking two roadblocks manned by Al Assad's loyalists, the activists said.
Houla then came under an intense artillery barrage that killed about 15 villagers, and members of the shabbiha militia entered Houla and killed scores of men, women and children by hacking them or shooting them at close range, the activists said.
Gruesome video on Saturday showed rows of dead Syrian children lying in a mosque in bloody shorts and T-shirts with gaping head wounds, haunting images of what activists called one of the deadliest regime attacks yet in the uprising.
The attacks have sparked international outrage.
"This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and international envoy Kofi Annan said.
"Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account."