The Syrian government and rebels accused each other of killing at least 20 people in an explosion in the city of Hama. The Arab League has requested the UN speed up the dispatching of ceasefire monitors to Syria.
An explosion in the restive city of Hama killed at least 20 people on Thursday. President Bashar Assad's government blamed "terrorist" bomb-makers for the blast while opposition groups said the deaths were the result of government shelling.
The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, had said earlier that a military rocket had inflicted the carnage and put the death toll at more than 50.
The explosion was another blow to a two-week-old peace plan backed by the United Nations that aimed to halt all violence in Syria.
Opposition wants Security Council meeting
After the blast, the Syrian National Council (SNC), an opposition group, appealed for the UN Security Council to denounce the violence.
"We are calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council so that it can issue a resolution to protect civilians in Syria," the SNC said in a statement. "Hama in recent days, and following a visit by UN observers, witnessed a series of crimes ... that left more than 100 people dead and hundreds wounded because of heavy shelling."
A pair of UN observers tasked with monitoring the ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is now based permanently in Hama. Just 15 of the total 300 observers are currently in place.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Thursday said he had asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to speed up the dispatching of observers.
"The UN is faltering on sending the observers to Syria," al-Arabi told the opening session of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Violence and killing have not stopped in Syria."
Syria said it has removed tanks and troops from populated areas as called for by Annan's peace plan, but the former UN head said on Tuesday that Damascus had failed to meet all its commitments and the situation remained "unacceptable."
France on Wednesday called for tougher action - including military intervention - in Syria if the government does not uphold its agreement under the ceasefire. Turkey also said it was considering how to respond to ongoing violence in Syria.
"In the face of developments in Syria, we are taking into consideration any kind of possibility in line with our national security and interests," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish parliament. "Planning what kind of measures we will take if tens of thousands of people end up on our border is a requirement of being a big state."
The Council of Europe also called Thursday for an international embargo to placed on all arms shipments to Syria.
More than 9,000 people have died in Syria since violence erupted there in March 2011, according to statistics from the United Nations.
sms/jw (AFP, AP, Reuters, DPA)