By Li Min, Sina English
AN 11-year old boy described how he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother and played dead as gunmen burst into his home and killed six members of his family during a massacre in Houla, central Syria.
The young survivor's chilling account emerged as the international community denounced in concert the weekend rampage that left at least 116 people dead and prompted fresh outrage against al-Assad regime.
It comes as UN special envoy Kofi Annan was scheduled to have talks overnight in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad, which is seen as the last hope of salvaging his peace plan.
The young survivor said gunmen arrived in his district about 3pm on Friday, several hours after shells started falling on Houla.
"They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks," the boy said. "They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name."
Shivering with fear, the boy stood towards the back of the entrance to his family home as gunmen then shot dead every family member in front of him.
"They shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn't hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I'm dead."
Apparently convinced their work was done, the gunmen moved to other areas of the house and looted the family's possessions, the boy said. On the way out of the house, the boy said the gunmen found the three men they had been looking for. They killed them all.
He waited until the armoured personnel carriers had moved from his street, then ran to his uncle's house nearby where he hid.
Throughout a 15-minute conversation, the boy stayed calm and detached until he was pressed on how he knew the gunmen were pro-regime militia men, known as al- Shabiha. The irregular forces have been widely accused by residents of Houla of entering homes and slaughtering families. At least 49 of the dead are children and many appear to have been killed at close range.
Damascus has denied its forces were responsible for the massacre, and again blamed terrorist groups.
Houla is a stronghold of the Free Syria Army in Homs province. Many military defectors have returned there to live with their families.
The regime in Damascus suggested a UN inquiry should be established to verify what took place in Houla.