DAMASCUS - The cold-blooded slaughter of 90 civilians, including scores of children, in the Syrian town of Houla by Bashar Al-Assad's security forces has invited a storm of condemnations worldwide.
"This appalling and brutal crime, involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, is a flagrant violation of international law," a UN spokesman quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan as saying, Sky News reported on Sunday, May 27.
The massacre was first revealed on Saturday when grisly scenes were posted online showing scores of children slaughtered in Houla, a township in Homs province.
Amateur videos posted on YouTube showed horrifying images of dead children, with at least one child's head partly blown away.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian regime forces have "massacred" more than 90 people, including 25 children, in Houla.
But the Syrian government blamed the deaths on "armed terrorist gangs".
Head of UN mission in Syria Major General Robert Mood called the Houla killings a "brutal tragedy".
Whichever way you look at this, whoever started and whoever responded and whoever contributed, to this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible, Gen Mood told Sky News.
"This indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is unacceptable and I would also say unforgivable."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the killings an "appalling" massacre, saying President Bashar al-Assad's "rule by murder and fear must come to an end".
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council this week.
"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," Hague said, the BBC reported.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called the assault a "horrific crime" and urged the Security Council to "stop the escalation of killing and violence by armed gangs and government military forces," according to Reuters.
The massacre has brought hundreds of angry Syrians to take to the streets to protest the Houla killings.
"We sacrifice our soul and life for you, O people of Houla," chanted the protestors according to an amateur video posted on YouTube for a protest in Kfarnabel, in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Protesters were also angry with failure of the international community to respond to the ongoing killings of civilians in Syria.
"Annan is singlehandedly responsible for the Houla massacre," read a sign carried by a protestor, blaming the special UN-Arab League envoy for continued violence.
The latest flare-up of violence came as Annan, who brokered a repeatedly violated ceasefire last month, finalized plans to return to Damascus.
Syrians say that UN observers failed to intervene to stop the civilian killings.
"We told them at night, we called seven of them, Abu Emad, speaking from Houla, told BBC that their appeals to the monitors failed to produce action.
We told them the massacre is being committed right now at Houla by the mercenaries of this regime and they just refused to come and stop the massacre."More than 12,600 people have been killed in Syria since a revolt against Assad's rule broke out in March 2011, including nearly 1,500 since a UN-backed truce took effect on April 12, according to the Observatory.