UNITED NATIONS, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Sunday condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the killings of more than 100 people in Syria, saying that those responsible for the massacre should be held accountable.
"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh (Houla), near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood," said a press statement issued by the 15-nation Security Council at the end of a closed door emergency meeting that began here on Sunday afternoon.
"The members of the Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse," the statement said. "The members of the Security Council extended their profound sympathies and sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and underscored their grave concern about the situation of civilians in Syria," the statement said.
At the closed door meeting, the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Major General Robert Mood, told the council via video-link from Syria that UN observers at the scene now estimated that some 108 people were killed in Houla, Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters outside the council chamber. He said that the observers confirmed from examination of ordnance found on the spot that artillery and tank shells were fired.
Initial reports said that more than 90 people were killed in Houla, near the Syrian city of Homs, on Friday.
Syria on Sunday denied the involvement of the government troops in the deadly carnage in the central village of Houla two days ago, blaming "hundreds of heavily armed gunmen" who also attacked soldiers in the area for the killings.
"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 centers," the statement said.
"The members of the Security Council reiterated that all violence in all its forms by all parties must cease," the statement said. "Those responsible for acts of violence must be held accountable."
"The members of the Security Council requested the secretary- general, with the involvement of UNSMIS, to continue to investigate these attacks and report the findings to the Security Council," the statement said.
"The members of the Security Council demanded that the government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and immediately pull back its troops and its heavy weapons from in and around population centers and return them to their barracks," the statement said.
"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter," the statement said.
"The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support to the efforts of the joint special envoy for the implementation of his six-point plan in its entirety and requested him to convey in the clearest terms to the Syrian parties, and in particular the Syrian government, the demands of the Security Council," the statement said.
The six-point plan, proposed by Kofi Annan who is the joint special envoy of the UN and Arab League for Syria, calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, a daily halt in fighting for the delivery of humanitarian aid and treatment for the wounded, as well as talks between the government and opposition.
Annan's plan has been widely backed by the international community and accepted by the Syrian government.
Annan, who was former UN secretary-general, is scheduled to fly to Damascus on Monday in a bid to put an early end to the Syrian crisis that has lasted for 14 months. He is expected to brief the Security Council on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Annan, in a joint statement issued on Saturday, condemned "in the strongest possible terms the killing," which they described as "appalling and brutal crime" and that "those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account."
On Friday, Ban told the council in his 12-page letter, which was obtained by Xinhua, that "The overall situation in Syria remains extremely serious and there has been only small progress on some issues," Ban said, referring to the implementation of the six-point plan proposed by Annan.
"There is a continuing crisis on the ground, characterized by regular violence, deteriorating humanitarian conditions, human rights violations and continued political confrontation," he said. "There continues to be daily violent incidents across the country, leading to a large number of deaths and injuries, albeit at a lower scale than immediately before 12 April 2012."