Away from the shelling, on the southwestern edge of Houla, a more sinister development began to unfold. A 25-year-old woman who gave her name as Fatima said she saw men in uniforms arriving in the late afternoon in a nearby street where members of the extended Abdel-Razzaq family lived.
Fatima said she assumed that the soldiers were conducting a routine raid, but then she began to hear shooting, which continued for at least an hour.
According to the videotaped testimony of the few survivors, the soldiers were accompanied by irregular shabiha militiamen from surrounding villages and moved through the homes shooting everyone they found.
“First they shot the other family, then they shot our family,” a teenage girl named Noura, shot in the abdomen, said on camera from a makeshift hospital bed last week. “I pretended I was dead so they wouldn’t shoot me again.”
“They were Assad’s army soldiers. I saw them, and they were Alawites,” recounted another woman, who said she also played dead after she and her four children were shot. “One was shooting, and another was finishing those who were not dead.”
Among the first to arrive at the scene after the shooting stopped was an activist who uses the name Hamza al-Omar.
He said he walked through the open door of the first house he encountered and saw the bodies of four children, a man and a woman. In an adjoining room were four more dead children and a teenager. One had been shot at close range in the jaw. Another had had an eye ripped out. Two of the children had been handcuffed before being shot.
“I went into a panic. I started running through the streets looking for wounded people. I didn’t find any,” he recalled. “All were dead. I didn’t count the houses. The scene was the same in every one. There were women stabbed in the face. Children with their throats slit. Some of the children were shot in the ear for the bullet to come out through the other ear.”
Altogether, 73 people had been killed, most of them women and children, and 62 of them members of the Abdel-Razzaq family, according to activist Abu Osama, who took videos of the scene and helped remove the bodies. Throughout the evening, he said, residents ferried the dead in cars and trucks to a mosque in the central Taldo district, even as shelling continued.
Later that night, about 3 a.m., a second round of killings occurred, claiming 12 members of the Sayid family. That incident occurred in an area under the control of Syrian security forces. The following day, the pro-government al-Dunya television station filmed the aftermath, blaming the attack on “terrorists.”
The official Syrian Arab News Agency has reported that rebels targeted members of the Sayid family because they are related to a Syrian lawmaker and refused to join the opposition.