Syrian activists have accused government forces of carrying out another massacre – claiming as many as 100 people were killed Wednesday in the central province of Hama.
Unconfirmed reports published by the BBC said more than 20 children and 20 women were among those killed in the village of al-Qubair. Activists said the deaths were caused by a combination of bombardment and close-range attacks.
More from GlobalPost: Syria bans Western diplomats, including US ambassador
Syria's Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network, said 78 villagers died in total. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in London, put the figure at 87, while the opposition Syrian National Council originally said 100.
The Syrian government denied responsibility for the massacre, with state television reports blaming a terrorist group for carrying out "nine murders" in the village.
UN observers are seeking to investigate the reports but have been denied access to the area by Syrian soldiers, Reuters reported. The head of the monitoring mission, General Robert Mood, said civilians had warned observers that their safety would be at risk if they entered al-Qubair.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the massacre "shocking and sickening, according to Agence France Presse. He also said, "They are working now to get to the scene and I just learned a few minutes ago that while trying to do so, the UN monitors were shot at with small arms."
UN spokesman Farhan Haq later said, "The mission reports that, around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) local time today, a four-vehicle convoy from the mission was hit by small arms fire in Hama, while en route to investigate yesterday's alleged killings," according to AFP.
Ban said, "Any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity."
Wednesday's violence comes less than two weeks after 108 people were killed in the town of Houla.
More from GlobalPost: When the BRICs crumble
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the latest alleged killings "simply unconscionable," the Associated Press reported.
Speaking from Istanbul, Turkey, where she is attending the Global Counterterrorism Forum, Clinton said the US was disgusted with what she called "state-sponsored violence."
"Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity," she said, "and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes."
The UN-Arab league envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, is due to address the UN Security Council later today, the BBC reported, where he is expected to ask for the creation of a contact group to help end the violence in Syria.