SOME of the children killed in the Syrian town of Houla at the weekend were tied up before being shot, activists claim.
Video of one group of the 49 children posted online showed some of them had their wrists bound with blue ties, a common substitute for handcuffs in the Arab world.
Though it was not possible to verify whether this had been done before or after death, one activist group cited a witness saying the Alawite "Shabiha" or militia accused of the massacre did it to punish the children's father.
"One eye witness, who is a lady in her late 50s from Houla, confirmed that the Shabiha handcuffed the children of Abbara Family, and told the father to look at their children, how they will be killed in front of his eyes, before they killed him," a spokesman for the Syrian Network of Human Rights told The Daily Telegraph.
Activists recording the deaths say that the majority of the 108 people who died lived in a string of eight houses belonging to an extended family called Abdulrazzaq, of which the Abbaras are thought to be part.
Human Rights Watch, which called on Monday for the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate the killings, said it had interviewed one ten-year-old boy from the Abdulrazzaq family who survived by hiding in a barn.
"Across the street I saw my friend Shafiq, 13 years old, outside standing alone," it quoted him as saying. "An armed man in military uniform grabbed him and put him at the corner of a house. He took his own weapon and shot him in the head.
"His mother and big sister – I think she was 14 years old – went outside and started shouting and crying. The same man shot at both of them more than once."
Meanwhile government forces shelled the city of Hama, north of Houla, until 5am on Monday morning after the Free Syrian Army there launched a series of raids on army checkpoints.
It was one of the heaviest barrages against the city since the start of the uprising.
Artillery smashed civilian neighborhoods where armed opposition groups had been hiding. Snipers infiltrated peripheral buildings using vantage points on rooftops.
"The army has surrounded the districts. Families tried to flee but no one is allowed to leave. They are killing anyone that is moving on the street," said Samer al-Hussain from the Hama News Agency.
An activist who called himself Abu Adnan al-Hamwi, speaking from one of the besieged areas, said: "The sounds of explosions did not stop all day, and as a result of the violent and arbitrary shelling, several houses were destroyed with residents still inside."
Dozens of civilians were rushed to makeshift field clinics, but with few doctors and almost no medicine there was little that could be done. Video footage posted online by activists showed rooms filled with casualties.
The mutilated bodies of men, women and children lay on bloodstained floors, some dead, some still alive as doctors looked on helplessly.
"They can only do basic first aid and try to stop the bleeding," 'Abu Adnan' said. "There is almost no equipment, or medicines. There are no painkillers."
Government hospitals in Hama remained open, but residents refused to take their wounded there for fear they would be deemed rebels and killed.
"The regime is not distinguishing between Free Syrian Army and civilians.
All of Hama has protested against the government, so now we are all enemies," said Mousab al Hamadee from Hama Local Coordinating Committee, By early morning on Monday the guns had fallen silent and the shelling stopped. Smoke rose over the smashed districts and troops stormed the neighborhood of al-Arbeen, setting alight to homes and arresting the remaining residents, activists said.
In other areas, where guerrilla groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army are still hiding, residents dug holes in the ground to bury their dead, and prepared for the next onslaught.