Britain and several other countries are expelling Syrian diplomats following the killing of 108 people, half of them children, in Houla.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday that the Syrian charge d’affaires and two other diplomats had been told to leave Britain within seven days. The US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Canada and Australia are taking similar action.
The UN said most of the killings were summary executions, with just 20 caused by artillery and tank fire. Of the 108 victims, 49 were chilldren and 34 women.
What is very clear is that this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla. At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses. Rupert Colville, UN
Survivors have told UN investigators that most of those killed were executed by pro-government Shabbiya militiamen. Some had bullet holes through their heads.
UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said: “What is very clear is that this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it were summary executions of civilians – women and children. At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses.”
The deaths in Houla are not the first time famillies have been targeted and killed, according to a separate UN investigation into other attacks since March.
This report claims government forces have been entering towns with lists of people to be killed. It also says rebel troops have tortured and killed soldiers and government supporters.
Mr Hague said: “We have been speaking in recent days to increase the pressure on the Assad regime and get the message across to them the world, the international community, is appalled by the violence that has continued, by the behaviour of the regime, by the murder of so many innocent people, including in the terrible massacre at Houla reported at the end of last week.
“These expulsions express our horror at the behaviour of the regime and increase international pressure to implement the commitments they have entered into.”
UN/Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday. After their talks, Mr Annan said Syria was at a “tipping point” and urged government and government-backed militias to “stop all military operations and show maximum restraint”. He also said armed opponents of the government should “cease acts of violence”.
The Syrian government blames Islamist militants for the massacre, while Russia, an ally of Syria, believes government and rebel forces were responsible.
Kofi Annan has his work cut out today in Damascus even negotiating reasonable conditions in which the UN "ceasefire" monitors can work. Let alone the wider business of getting a real, lasting ceasefire here at all. Read the rest of Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson's blog from Syria.
Mr Annan is attempting to revive a peace plan that has UN and Arab League backing, but has failed to stop the bloodshed in a 14-month uprising against the Assad presidency.
Under the plan, government and rebel forces were supposed to end the fighting in April, allowing monitors to be deployed and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from civilian areas.
Russia, which is permanent members of the UN Security Council, opposes outside intervention in Syria.
Mr Hague, who met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, said: “They vetoed two resolutions at the Security Council. They have had a different attitude to the Assad regime. But the Russian foreign minister did agree with me yesterday it is necessary to increase the pressure on all concerned, including the Assad regime, to implement the Annan plan, something the regime has so far failed to do.”
On Sunday, Russia and China backed a non-binding UN Security Council text that criticised the use of artillery and tanks in Houla.