The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation in Syria, condemning a massacre in which 108 people were killed including men, women and children in the Syrian village of Houla.
The council was briefed on Sunday in a closed-door session by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous as well as via video-link by Gen Robert Mood, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, on the killings that took place on May 25 and in the early hours of May 26 of a reported 108 civilians, including over 30 children.
On Saturday UN observers went to Houla, a village near Homs, and confirmed the killings as well as the wounding of hundreds of civilians. They also confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired in the area.
In a letter sent to the Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that, "while the detailed circumstances are unknown, we can confirm that there has been artillery and mortar shelling. There have also been other forms of violence, including shootings at close range and severe physical abuse."
In a statement, the Council condemned the killings "in the strongest possible terms" as well as the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by physical abuse.
"Such outrageous use of force against civilian population constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043 to cease violence in all its forms, including the cessation of use of heavy weapons in population centres," the statement said.
The members of the Security Council reiterated that all violence in all its forms by all parties must cease and those responsible for acts of violence must be held accountable.
They also demanded that the Syrian government immediately cease the use of heavy weapons and immediately pull back its troops and its heavy weapons from in and around populated areas and return them to their barracks.
On Sunday, Ban, Mood and the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan, issued statements in which they strongly condemned the killings and urged that those responsible be held to account.
The killings have also sparked outrage from the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who said that these "shocking" killings in a populated neighbourhood are a flagrant violation of international law and the commitments made by the Syria, and from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"This outrageous crime against such young children who have no part in these battles points to a new urgency in finding solutions to the Syrian conflict. Such a massacre cannot go unpunished," said Sarah Crowe, spokesperson for the Executive Director of UNICEF.
The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the violent uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 14 months ago.