Damascus: Around 70 people have been killed in an attack on a house in Syria's central city of Hama, according to a report.
The BBC quoted Syrian activists as saying that a massive explosion destroyed several houses in the Mashaa at-Tayyar district in southern Hama, an anti-Assad hotbed.
According to state media, at least 16 people were killed and 12 others wounded when the explosive device went off while "armed terrorist groups" were preparing it in a house.
The activists later posted video on the Internet showing a scene of devastation. An activist group, the grassroots Local Coordination Committee, said the blast was caused by a rocket launched into the building.
On Wednesday, Syrian forces shot dead four civilians on a bus and fighting raged near Damascus, dissidents said, as international pressure mounted on President Bashar al-Assad to honour UN-backed ceasefire pledges to order his troops back to barracks.
The Syria's government says it is committed to UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan's April 12 ceasefire accord, but reserves the right to respond to what it says are continued attacks by "terrorist groups".
Hama has been hosting a small team of United Nations observers, who are preparing the way for a larger UN mission which will arrive to monitor the ceasefire pact.
In defiance of the truce accord, shelling was relentless in Douma, east of the capital, residents said, giving further ammunition to Western states such as France that want broad United Nations sanctions to try to end more than a year of fighting in which 9,000 people have been killed.
As well as urging faster deployment of UN monitors, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris would push for a so-called "Chapter 7" resolution, which would mean punitive sanctions, next month if Assad's forces did not pull back.
"This cannot continue indefinitely. We want to see observers in sufficient numbers, at least 300 ... deployed as quickly as possible," Juppe said.
"If that does not work, we cannot allow the regime to defy us. We would have to move to a new stage with a Chapter 7 resolution at the United Nations to take a new step to stop this tragedy."
(With Agency’s inputs)
First Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 12:46