Al Arabiya reports: Fewer than 20 of the 108 people confirmed as having been killed in the “appalling massacre” in the Syrian town of al-Houla died from artillery and tank fire, the United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday, as each of France and Australia announced expelling the Syrian envoys over the massacre.
Survivors have told U.N. investigators that most of the other victims died in two bouts of summary executions carried out by pro-government Shabbiha militia in the nearby village of Taldaou, U.N. rights spokesman Rupert Colville said, according to Reuters.
“I believe at this point, and I would stress we are at very preliminary stages, that under 20 of the 108 can be attributed to artillery and tank fire,” he told a news briefing in Geneva, adding that 49 children and 34 women were among the victims.
Colville told reporters that most of the other victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents. He said the conclusions of the U.N. monitors are corroborated by other sources, The Associated Press reported.
Bloomberg reports: Western governments today announced the expulsion of top Syrian diplomats as United Nations envoy Kofi Annan met President Bashar al-Assad to express horror at the massacre of more than 100 people in Houla.
French President Francois Hollande said the Syrian ambassador was to be expelled, hours after Australia announced a similar move, citing the May 25 killings in Houla. Britain is sending home the most senior Syrian diplomat in London, the Press Association reported, while Germany and Italy are planning the same step, Sueddeutsche Zeitung said. Spain is withdrawing the credentials of the Syrian ambassador, DPA reported, while Canada said all remaining diplomats are being told to leave.
The Guardian reports: An 11-year old boy has described how he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother and played dead as loyalist gunmen burst into his home and killed six members of his family during the start of a massacre in Houla, central Syria.
The young survivor’s chilling account emerged as Russia continued to blame both Syrian troops and opposition militias for the weekend rampage in the town that left at least 116 people dead and prompted fresh outrage against the regime’s crackdown.
It comes on the eve of Kofi Annan’s scheduled meeting on Tuesday in Damascus with Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, which is seen as the last hope of salvaging the UN special envoy’s failed peace plan.
Speaking to the Guardian, the young survivor said government troops arrived in his district at around 3am on Saturday, several hours after shells started falling on Houla.
“They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks,” said the boy. “They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name.”
Shivering with fear, the boy stood towards the back of the entrance to his family home as gunmen then shot dead every family member in front of him.
“My mum yelled at them,” said the boy. “She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’ A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.
“They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I’m dead.”