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Houla - May 28, 2012 - 14:37

Last modified: 28 May 2012 11:37

Human Rights Watch says its researchers have spoken to survivors and local activists in Houla, a cluster of villages, about Friday's killings:

They say the Syrian army shelled the area, and armed men, dressed in military clothes, attacked homes on the outskirts of town and executed entire families.

All of the witnesses stated the armed men were pro-government, but they did not know whether they were members of the Syrian army or a pro-government militia, locally referred to as shabeeha. Houla’s towns, overwhelmingly Sunni, are surrounded by Alawite and Shia villages, and sectarian tensions have been high since last year."

The witnesses say protesters gathered in Taldou, Houla’s largest village, at midday.

According to a witness, at around 2 pm, soldiers from an army checkpoint opened fire to disperse nearby protesters but he did not know whether anyone was injured or killed at that moment. An opposition activist from Houla told Human Rights Watch that armed members of the opposition subsequently attacked the checkpoint from which the army had fired, and that the Syrian army responded by intensely shelling various neighborhoods in Houla."

Survivors in Taldou also say gunmen attacked homes situated on the outskirts of the village.

Most of those killed belonged to the Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the Abdel Razzak family. According to survivors, their family owns the land and farms next to the national water company and the water dam of Taldou, and lives in eight or nine houses next to each other, two families to a house."

Read the full report here.