Pro-government militia and security forces in Syria have killed at least 78 people, including women and children, in the central province of Hama, activists said on Wednesday.
According to a report on VOA, some of those killed in the villages of al-Kubeir and Maazarif were stabbed to death and at least 12 bodies were burned.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was quoted as having said militiamen armed with guns and knives carried out the attack, after regular troops had shelled the area.
The Observatory described a similar pattern of events as recounted from the May 25 massacre in Houla, in which 108 Syrian civilians were murdered, nearly half of them children.
Local activists called for an immediate investigation, according to VOA. There was no comment from the Syrian government.
A UN report on the Houla massacre fingered pro-government thugs known as shabiha, who often operate as hired enforcers for Assad's regime, as having carried out the massacre in Houla.
The report indicated that most of the dead were "killed execution-style, with fewer than 20 people cut down by regime shelling."
Shabiha thugs are known to frequently work closely with soldiers and security forces, but the regime never acknowledges their existence – allowing it to deny responsibility for their actions.
Last Friday, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into the massacre and condemned Syria for it.
In the vote, 41 members voted in favor of the resolution condemning Syria, while Russia, China and Cuba voted against it. Two other countries abstained and one was absent.
Assad rejected claims that his troops were behind the massacre, saying this week that “What happened in Houla is a massacre that we have not seen even from monstrous predators.”
“Terrorism affects us all, without exception,” he added. “What we stand in front of is a conspiracy of sedition, division and destruction of our country. The terrorism we are facing is a real war that has been imposed on us from the outside.”
Violence has continued in Syria despite a peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan.
Meanwhile, Russia said on Wednesday that it is willing to see Assad leave power – but not by force.
A senior Russian diplomat was quoted by Al Arabiya news network as saying Russia is prepared to see Assad leave power as part of a political settlement.
Italian foreign minister Guilo Terzi warned on Wednesday that Assad's policies risk creating a genocide in Syria, unless there is “rapid intervention.”