Syrian forces were accused yesterday of one of the worst atrocities since the onset of the uprising after at least 45 women and children were hacked or burned to death.
A militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad carried out the "massacre" in the city of Homs on Sunday night, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group.
The killings happened in the Karm el-Zeytoun area, where the regime has launched a new assault since subduing Baba Amr after 26 days of continuous bombardment.
The Syrian authorities admitted that the incident had taken place, but denied culpability. The disclosure of the atrocity coincided with a plea for international action made by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the United Nations Security Council.
Convening a debate on the Arab Spring, Mr Hague admitted that diplomacy had failed to curb Syria's violence.
"The situation in Syria casts a long shadow over this debate. In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the world, this council has so far failed in its responsibilities towards the Syrian people," said Mr Hague.
"It has failed to address the brutal oppression of peaceful protesters by the Syrian regime."
Only women and children appear to have fallen victim to the incident in Homs: between 45 and 47 were killed, with some having their throats cut and others being set on fire.
Four of the dead are understood to have been children aged five or six.
Videos circulated by opposition activists and Syrian state television showed the aftermath of the carnage, with bloodstained, charred and sometimes mutilated bodies lying strewn on a floor.
Adnan Mahmoud, the information minister, said that "terrorist gangs" -- the regime's usual phrase for the armed opposition -- had carried out this "most horrible massacre".
However, three separate opposition organisations all said the regime's forces were responsible. (©Daily Telegraph, London)