The UN Security Council has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the killings of dozens of men, women, and children in a Syrian town.
The UN says at least 108 people were killed and 300 wounded in the May 25 attacks in Houla, near Homs. More than 30 of the victims were children.
The Security Council said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting on May 27 that the attacks "involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood.”
The 15-nation council also "condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse" in Houla. It did not say who was responsible for these close-range attacks.
The nonbinding statement said those responsible for the killings must be held accountable and demanded that President Bashir al-Assad withdraw heavy weapons from Syrian towns.
Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition said at least 30 people were killed on May 27 when the army shelled the central city of Hama. The reports cannot be independently verified.
After the Security Council session, Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said there was "a clear footprint of the government" in the Houla massacre.
France’s Deputy UN Ambassador Martin Briens said the Assad regime was plunging Syria "into horror and chaos" and was threatening regional stability.
However, Syria's UN envoy Bashar Jaafari said accusations of government responsibility were part of a "tsunami of lies" against Damascus, which has blamed "terrorists" for the May 25 bloodshed.
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Alexander Pankin said "it still remains unclear what happened and what triggered what."
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is traveling to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said Britain would lean on Russia to get Syria to implement the peace plan of international envoy Kofi Annan.
In April, the Syrian government and the opposition pledged to implement a six-point plan brokered by Annan, including a cease-fire and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from urban areas.
Annan was due to visit Damascus on May 29 to try to revive the peace process.
The UN says at least 10,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad started in April 2011.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters