To the north and north-west of Homs in central Syria, lie the badlands.

And I say this, even by the vicious, sectarian dimension of the war here.

Up the main road due north for instance, you will reach Talbisah, south of Hama.

And this, they say, is where they shot the video of a young boy being encouraged by a group of older men, believed to be rebel fighters, to brutally kill a man. The video YouTube keeps taking down, but people keep putting it back up.

The video shows a boy being handed a sword and told the captured government soldier is an enemy of God.

The boy attempts to cut the soldier’s head off. He lacks strength of course, to do it.

It’s the latest horror in Syria’s brutal civil war. And so this is how it has developed in this swathe of towns and villages where Alawites, Christians and Sunni live village by village.

So yesterday reports of another mass killing. This time scores of civilians from the minority Alawite community in the village of Aqrab killed after rebels reportedly visited from the al-Houla area a few days ago. According to Aqrab villagers they kidnapped the son of the local Alawite religious leader.

The Aqrabi villagers say they mounted a counter-attack to try and free the hostage. There were armed clashes and injuries.

The villagers say the rebels then came back from al-Houla and took over the place. Most people fled but around 260 were corralled into one section of the village and it is there that they were hit by missiles fired by rebels.

Precisely how this came to be is as yet unclear and this report is only from people Channel 4 News has spoken to both in and near to Aqrab itself.

Until it’s possible to get closer into the area the details of quite what happened and how will remain unclear.

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