The fighting in Syria has taken an especially brutal turn as some 47 people, all women and children, have been reported killed in a massacre in the opposition stronghold of Homs, just as the U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said negotiations were on the "right track" to stop the slaughter. The bodies showed signs of incredible brutality, and both sides are blaming the other for the atrocity. Sky News and the Telegraph both reported the bodies of 26 women and 21 children had been found with stab wounds, some with their throats cut. "Some of the children had been hit with blunt objects on their head, one little girl was mutilated and some women were raped before being killed," said Hadi Abdallah, an activist in Homs quoted by both outlets. Syrian state television blamed the killings on "armed terrorist gangs" out to discredit the regime, Sky reported. But opposition activist Mulham al-Jundi told The Guardian he had extensive video proof that "only Assad's Shabbiha [mercenaries] are raping women and killing kids."
The disturbing news comes as Annan gave a hopeful report Monday from his mission to Syria over the weekend, though he left without securing a deal. "This is the beginning of a process and the joint special envoy feels the process is on the right track, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters. "He has left a set of concrete proposals with Bashar on a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and political dialogue, and expects to hear from him shortly." Back in New York, the United Nations plans to spend Monday figuring out what to do to quell the violence. According to the Associated Press: "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold bilateral talks as ministers from the 15 council nations attend an open Security Council meeting to look ahead after last year's Arab uprisings." Russia is the Syrian government's most powerful ally, and it has blocked previous U.N. resolutions on Syria, so a lot will be riding on that talk.