Activists say Syrian government shelling since Friday has killed more than 90 people, including many children, in some of the worst violence since an uprising against Syria’s regime began more than a year ago.
The attacks in the central town of Houla also tarnished a fragile six-week-old cease-fire between government and opposition forces.
Videos posted on YouTube purportedly showed images of dead children. The casualty count could not be independently confirmed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the government raids forced residents to flee their homes and prompted an anti-government protest in Damascus Saturday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday condemned the violence and called for arranging a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group attempting to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
The opposition Syrian National Council urged the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency session.
A team of U.N. observers arrived in Houla Saturday to assess the situation.
The violence in Syria has continued despite a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan six weeks ago. A spokesman for the former U.N. secretary-general says Annan will travel to Syria soon for his first visit since presenting the peace plan in March.
Syria’s unrest is having an impact in northern Lebanon, where ethnic clashes between opponents and supporters of President Assad have left at least 11 people dead and more than 100 wounded in recent days.
The U.N. says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the government began its crackdown on dissent in March 2011.
VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from northern Lebanon that tensions there are still running high. “Historically, Syria has wielded a great deal of influence in Lebanon, its smaller neighbor, and even occupied it for years up until a few years ago. Although Syria did withdraw a few years ago, the influence is still there and it is resented by many people. In this particular case, in Tripoli, what happened was a Salafist sheikh, the Sunni Islamist, was killed at a checkpoint. He was known to be opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and this raised tensions with the local Allawite community, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.”