GENEVA, May 26 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan on Saturday strongly condemned the killings of more than 90 people in violent-hit Syria.
They condemned "in the strongest possible terms the killing, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh (or Houla), near Homs," according to a joint-statement released on Saturday.
It said observers from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria have viewed the bodies of the dead and confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighbourhood.
They said in the statement that "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."
"Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account," read the statement.
Ban and Annan demanded that the Syrian government immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and reiterate that all violence in all its forms in Syria must cease.
Annan is contacting the Syrian authorities to convey in the clearest terms the expectations of the international community, and he will also do so during his forthcoming visit to Syria, according to the statement.
Ban and Annan also extended their profound sympathies to the families of the victims and to the wounded, and underscore their grave concern about the lack of protection for civilians in Syria.
According to earlier reports, UN observers in Syria confirmed the massacre that took place overnight in Syrian's central village of Houla and claimed the lives of more than 90 people, including 32 children.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, condemned "in the strongest possible terms the brutal tragedy that occurred Saturday in the village of Houla," warning that the ongoing violence would eventually lead the country to a civil war.
Speaking during a press briefing on Saturday, Mood said that "last night, we had fighting and shelling in the village... it involved artillery, tanks machine guns... we received reports this morning that there were significant losses in Houla."
Mood said he deployed observers to the village on Saturday morning, adding that "they were able to confirm with their own eyes the death of 32 children under the age of 10 years old... They counted additional bodies of women and men, estimated the number of being approximately 60."
Earlier in the day, the country's state-TV showed footage of the carnage in Houla, blaming armed extremists of carrying out the slaughtering there, contrary to what activists said as government troops carried out the massacre.