Anti-government gangs blamed for Syria massacre
When the massacre took place May 25-26, Syrian government forces were deployed around Houla. Some 600-800 anti-regime fighters carried out coordinated attacks against Syrian troops, who never entered Houla's residential areas, said Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, head of a special committee set up by the government to investigate the massacre.
"During armed clashes between (anti-government) fighters and the army, the latter did not leave its positions," he said.
Over 100 people, including dozens of children and women, were killed in Houla, a cluster of villages in Syria's western Homs province, in one of the deadliest events since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
Suleiman said that those killed in the massacre were members of "families who refused to oppose the government and were at odds with the armed groups".
The killings triggered international outrage, including strong condemnation by the UN Security Council.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the pro-Assad "shabbiha" militia was responsible for many of the killings in the massacre, while part of the victims had been killed by artillery shells fired at Houla's residential areas by government forces.
But Suleiman said "there were no people who died as a result of artillery shelling among the victims of the Houla slaughter". Forensic examination revealed no fractured bones and signs of death caused by artillery explosions in victims' bodies.