UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan condemned the massacre of more than 90 civilians in Houla, in the embattled Syrian province of Homs, as a "brutal" breach of international law by the Assad regime.
The UN mission said 92 bodies, 32 of them children aged less than 10, had been found in Houla after heavy artillery shelling by Damascus forces.
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UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said both men "condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children.
"This appalling and brutal crime, involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms," said the statement issued on behalf of the UN secretary-general and the Syria envoy.
"Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held accountable."
Ban and Annan reaffirmed that UN observers who went to Houla had "viewed the bodies of the dead and confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighborhood."
The White House said it was "horrified" by the brutal attack: National Security Council spokeswoman Erin Pelton said Saturday that the attack serves as a "vile testament to an illegitimate regime" of President Assad.
Bodies of the Houla victims (Photo: Reuters)
The White House said the Syrian regime responds to peaceful political protest with "unspeakable and inhuman brutality."
France, the UK and Germany also condemned the carnage in Houla, saying it was a "brutal tragedy."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that London will press for an urgent session of the United Nations Security Council: "Our urgent priority is to establish a full account of this appalling crime and to move swiftly to ensure that those responsible are identified and held to account," he told reporters.
"We are consulting urgently with our allies on a strong international response, including at the UN Security Council, the EU and UN human rights bodies," he added.
Hague further urged the Syrian regime to grant UN monitors "full and immediate access" to Houla and halt all military options.
UN inspectors in Houla (Photo: Reuters)
France also condemns the massacre at Homs' province, as Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged greater international action.
"I am making immediate arrangements for a Friends of Syria group meeting in Paris," he said in a statement quoted by Paris' media.
"I condemn the atrocities committed daily by Bashar Assad on his own people. With these new crimes his murderous regime plunged Syria further into horror and threatens regional stability," he said.
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle echoed Paris and London's sentiment, saying he was "horrified" by the reports of the Houla massacre.
"I am shocked and horrified by the news that dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed in attacks by the security forces of the Assad regime," Westerwelle said in a statement. "Those responsible must be punished."
The massacre will heighten the importance of a trip that Annan is to make to Syria in coming days. The UN Security Council is to discuss Syria on Wednesday.
News agencies contributed to this report
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