An attack on a Syrian village on Tuesday killed or injured around 200 members of President Bashar Assad's Alawite minority sect, activists said, but it remained unclear who was behind the assault.
Casualty counts varied, but several activists said they could confirm 10 dead. They blamed Assad's forces for the attack, which they said involved the shelling of a house in which at least 200 Alawites were hiding.
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The opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 125 were hurt or killed in a series of explosions that destroyed several houses in the town of Aqrab.
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"We cannot know whether the rebels were behind this attack, but if they were, this would be the largest-scale revenge attack against Alawites," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
There were no reports on Syria's state media.
The circumstances of the attacks were unclear and impossible to verify independently. Syrian authorities tightly restrict the activities of journalists.
Kids among wounded
Wounded children, apparently Alawites from Aqrab, appeared at an opposition field hospital in the town of al-Houla, a few kilometres (miles) away, where they were interviewed by activists in videos published on YouTube.
Three young boys interviewed said they and at least 200 other people had been held inside a house as human shields by militias loyal to Assad.
"We were inside the house with shabbiha, they said they were protecting us from the rebels. The rebels started telling us come out, no one will hurt you. The shabbiha wouldn't let us leave," said Mohamed Judl, a young boy covered in a blanket, shivering as he was interviewed by an activist at the clinic.
A rebel interviewed on Skype said there had been fighting and shelling in the town for four days.
Syria's majority Sunni Muslims have mostly led the revolt against Assad. That has caused friction with minorities such as Alawites, who have largely stood by the president.
Sectarian bloodshed has previously hit both Hama province, where Aqrab is located, and neighboring Homs province.
AFP contributed to the report
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