At least 92 civilians have been killed in Syria as violence returned to the restive country, the United Nations has confirmed.
According to activists, the town of Houla in Homs Province suffered shelling on Friday, leading to the deaths of men, women and children in what is the worst bloodshed since the start of the U.N peace plan.
It has also been reported that civilians were fired upon by forces loyal to the country's president, Bashar Al-Assad, during protests in Damascus and Aleppo.
Videos have appeared on YouTube purporting to show the aftermath of the artillery barrage in Houla, with the blood-soaked bodies of children being placed in makeshift mortuaries.
According to the head of U.N. team monitoring the supposed ceasefire, "Military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed."
Major General Robert Mood said: "The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells."
The Norwegian added: "Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible."
The exact number of people killed over recent days isn't clear due to restrictions on reporting in Syria.
Syrian opposition put the total at more than 100, while the Syrian government news agency reported that 13 had instead been killed by anti-government insurgents,
"More than 110 people were killed (half of whom are children) by the Syrian regime's forces", the Syrian National Council said in a statement.
The violence was sparked by anti-government forces retaliating to shelling by Assad's forces, according to The Guardian.
Local activist Abu Yazan told the paper that the shelling killed 12 people, with 106 killed by pro-regime thugs called "shabiha".
He said: "They killed entire families, from parents on down to children, but they focused on the children."
The attacks come as the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who arbitrated a ceasefire between government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), prepares to return to the country.
The ceasefire deal has been repeatedly violated, and Annan is returning to the country to attempt to renegotiate a pact.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently blamed President Al-Assad for reneging on a peace deal in recent months.
Ban condemned the "unacceptable levels of violence and abuses" that have been happening daily in the Middle Eastern country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, issued a strongly worded statement claiming that the UN has blood on its hands.
It said: "We have reported the siege of the city and the death of a civilian this afternoon, yet no monitors moved into the area.
"We therefore inform the UN monitors that if their mission is merely to report breaches to the ceasefire and document the number of those killed in Syria, then the ink they are using is the blood of the Syrian people, we hope their consciences awake soon."
The UN is moving monitors into Houla on Saturday, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|