"This is a purely sectarian attack meant to punish the rebels by targeting their families," said Abu Yazan, an opposition activist speaking via Skype from Houla. Rebels and government troops are known to have clashed in the area around Haswiyeh earlier this week.
There were conflicting reports on the death toll, as is often the case in Syria where information is limited, although all the activists agreed the victims appeared to all be Sunnis.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 106 people were killed in the two-day rampage, with some "burnt inside their homes and others killed with knives" and other weapons. It also cited reports that "whole families were executed, one of them made up of 32 members."
Homs-based activist Youssef al-Homsi said at least 100 people were killed in Haswiyeh. He sent via Skype a list of 100 names of those killed, including entire families and the individual names of 15 women and 10 children. Al-Homsi also said locals reported that many of the attackers came from the nearby village of Mazraa, which he said is predominantly Shiite.
A third opposition activist in Homs said he had collected the names of 50 people killed, but added others were still missing. It was not possible to confirm the activist reports or reconcile their figures.
Elsewhere in Syria Thursday, activists reported air raids in the suburbs of the capital and clashes in the town of Beit Saham near the international airport outside Damascus. They also said an air raid killed at least 15 people in the town of Kfar Nabouedeh in the central province of Hama.
State-run news agency SANA, meanwhile, said gunmen killed Walid al-Abboud, the brother of lawmaker Khaled al-Abboud. The 49-year-old engineer was gunned down in front of his house in the Damascus suburb of Qatana as he was leaving for work, it said.
Syrian TV also said troops repelled an attack on the main airport in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour near the border with Iraq.
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