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Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 3:15am

Most Victims Of Friday's Massacre In Syria Were Executed, U.N. Says

Updated: 2 years ago.
Saturday: In this picture provided by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network, people watch the mass burial of victims from Friday's violence in Houla.

"The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria on Friday that killed more than 100 people, including children," The Associated Press reports. According to U.N. officials, most of the victims were shot at close range. And, the AP adds:

"Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conclusions were based on accounts gathered by U.N. monitors and corroborated by other sources. He said U.N. monitors found that fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed in the west-central area of Houla were killed by artillery fire."

The BBC adds that "survivors have described gunmen entering homes, firing indiscriminately and slitting the throats of children."

As NPR's Kelly McEvers has told our Newscast Desk, "the violence started after protests erupted in the village on Friday. Residents say the Syrian army began shelling protesters, anti-government rebels fought back, and the army later bombarded mostly civilian areas while pro-government militias went door-to-door, slaughtering people."

The Assad regime, meanwhile, has blamed "terrorists" for the killings.

Over the weekend, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday's "indiscriminate and possibly deliberate" killings may constitute crimes against humanity.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has tried to broker a peace deal in Syria, met with President Bashar Assad in Damascus today. There's no word yet on what, if any, progress was made at that meeting.

Since protests began in Syria in March 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek writes, "the U.N. estimates that as many as 10,000 people have died," most of them at the hands of government forces. "Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told the British Broadcasting Corp. on May 27 that as many as 15,000 may have died."

Friday's mass killings have sparked condemnation from around the world. Today, French President Francois Hollande announced that Syria's ambassador to his country is being expelled, the AP reports.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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