UNITED NATIONS - Waking up to a new massacre, the world was shocked on Friday, July 13, by the news of the killing of more than 150 Syrians in a Hama village in one of the worst single days of bloodshed in the uprising against President Bashar Al Assad's regime.
"The army must have got the green light to commit a massacre of this scale, and I bear President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the killing." Rami Abdel Rahman, chief of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
"Some are estimating higher numbers, but even at around 150, especially considering how small the town is, this might be the biggest massacre committed in Syria since the start of the revolution," he added.
Activists said the killing took place in the Sunni Muslim village of Tremseh on Thursday, as the UN Security Council began negotiating a potentially crucial new resolution on Syria.
"More than 220 people fell today in Tremseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions," the Revolution Leadership Council of Hama, another activist organization, said in a statement cited by Reuters.
Armed Assad loyalists known as Shabbiha have been accused repeatedly of cold-blooded indiscriminate killings carried out on the coattails of army offensives into rebel-held districts.
According to rebel leader Abu Mohamad, the army and the Shabiha started to bombard Tremseh Thursday around 11:00 am (0800 GMT) and finished around 9:00 pm.
But a Hama-based activist who identified himself as Abu Ghazi said via Skype that regime troops started shelling the village earlier, at around 6:00 am.
"That was followed by clashes with the (rebel) Free Syrian Army, but the FSA does not have a big presence in Tremseh and could not fight long," the activist told AFP.
"The number of martyrs is very high partly because the army shelled a mosque where scores of people had taken shelter, to treat the wounded and hide from the bomb."
The village, which had a population of 7,000, he said, "is empty now. Everyone is dead or has run away."
"Almost 30 army vehicles arrived, and surrounded the village completely. There wasn't a single way out," said Ibrahim, another activist from Tremseh.
"Anyone who tried to escape through the fields was shot."
UN observers described the killing of more than two hundreds Syrians in a Hama village as "an extension" of a Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) operation.
"The situation in Hama province continues to be highly volatile and unpredictable," the so-called "flash report" from the UN observer mission told Reuters.
"SAAF forces continue to target populated urban areas north of Hama City in a large scale."
"The operation in Tremseh is assessed as an extension of the SAAF operation in Khan Sheikhoun to Souran over the recent number of days," said the two-page report by the UN mission in Syria, known as UNSMIS.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" by news of "intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters" in the village of Tremseh.
"I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms," Annan said in a statement.
The United States and Britain have said the massacre shows it is time for the Security Council to take strong action.
"Reports of (Tremseh) massacre are nightmarish - dramatically illustrate the need for binding UNSC (UN Security Council) measures on Syria," US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice tweeted late on Thursday.
Tremseh is located near Qubeir, where at least 55 people were killed on July 6, according to the Observatory.
Like Qubeir, Tremseh is a majority Sunni town situated near Alawite villages.
The Tremseh massacre could be the worst atrocity in 16 months of fighting between rebels and the forces of al-Assad.
More than 10,000 have been killed in 16 months of bloody crackdowns by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's security forces on anti-regime protestors.
International pressures have failed to halt violence in the pivotal Arab country, prompting speculations of launching a Libya-style military action against Syria.