From The Australian, 6 June 2012, by by AFP & AP:
...According to the UN monitors, 108 people -- 59 of them children and 34 women -- were slaughtered in rebel-controlled villages near the town of Houla in central Syria.
The UN says pro-government Shabiha militiamen were responsible for up to 80 per cent of the killings in Houla on May 25 -- cutting throats and shooting their victims at point-blank range after tanks bombarded the villages.
...[Syrian] troops and pro-government militia backed by tanks went on the offensive against rebels, seizing the central town of Kfar Zita after three days of bombardment, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that rebel fighters had withdrawn.
Militiamen looted homes and shops after town residents fled, the observatory said.
On Sunday, it said, 19 Syrian soldiers, eight rebels and 19 civilians had been killed, and 57 soldiers had been killed by the rebels the previous day -- the biggest single day of losses for the military during the uprising.
China was last night hosting summit talks with Russia, which like Beijing has blocked UN Security Council condemnation of the Syrian government for its crackdown, which has cost thousands of lives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin began talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday ahead of a meeting today with Mr Hu's likely successor Vice-President Xi Jinping.
...In talks in St Petersburg on Monday with Mr Putin, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU and Russia "might have some divergent assessments" of the situation in Syria.
But he said they agreed that implementing the troubled peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was the only way forward.
China's ambassador, Li Baodong, said the Houla massacre had dealt a huge blow to Mr Annan's mediation mission, as Beijing took over the UN Security Council for this month.
Mr Annan is to discuss the Syria crisis at the Security Council tomorrow and in talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday.
As international co-ordination picks up pace, a US State Department official was to visit Moscow this week to discuss the Syrian crisis, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.
As many as 2400 of the more than 13,500 people killed since the uprising began have died since the UN-backed ceasefire was supposed to come into force last month, according to the human rights observatory.