The appalling events of last Friday in which over one hundred people were slaughtered, including a large proportion of children, has prompted Western governments to expel Syria’s ambassador to their countries.

Clearly, they have made a judgment here, namely that the Syrian authorities were responsible for this atrocity.

But is it that clearcut?

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said preliminary figures showed that fewer than 20 of the 108 killings could be attributed to artillery and tank fire.

“According to local witnesses and survivors who have been interviewed, most of the rest of the victims in Taldu, one of the areas of Houla, were summarily executed in two separate incidents which local people are attributing to a Shabia paramilitary group(a pro government militia) ,” said Colville

At least 108 people were killed at the village of Taldu on Friday and Saturday, among them 49 children and 34 women.

 RussiaToday broadcast interviews with local people saying that bandits and thugs were responsible for the slaughter.

One woman said the men had attacked the army and had attacked anyone that had come to help the soldiers.

As well as this, the description of the murders, execution style with throats slit resemble the actions of the death squads that operated in Iraq.

Those paramilitaries were of course attempting to break up the insurgency, a very successful resistance, to a foreign occupation.  In this case, of course, it could be argued, the murderers of Houla and elsewhere in Syria are trying to provoke a response, namely the world’s outrage and the inevitability of an intervention.