Syrian opposition activists say at least 200 people have been killed in an assault by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on a village in the central Hama province, Western media reported.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists in Syria, said up to 200 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in the village of Tremseh on Thursday.
Other sources put the death toll at 250.
Pro-government Shabiha militiamen attacked the village after it came under heavy shelling by government forces on Thursday, the group said.
The Local Coordination Committees opposition group said 220 people had been killed. The group put Thursday’s death toll nationwide at 287.
The Syrian government blamed "terrorist groups."
UN and Arab League envoy for Syria Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" at reports of mass killings.
"I am shocked and appalled by news coming out of the village of Tremseh, near Hama, of intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters,” Annan said.
“I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms.”
"This is in violation of the government's undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and its commitment to the six-point plan," he said.
Annan said UN observers were ready to travel to Tremseh to investigate the killings.
"It is desperately urgent that this violence and brutality stops and more important than ever that governments with influence exert it more effectively to ensure that the violence ends - immediately," he said.
France urged the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution against Damascus.
“This tragedy shows how much the first step towards a cessation of violence must be taken by the Syrian government,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
Moscow condemned the massacre, called for an immediate ceasefire and demanded an investigation.
“We consider it crucial that all parties concerned immediately stop the bloodshed and violence against civilians,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.