UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sharply criticized the Syrian government on Friday for its latest deadly attacks on civilians, saying that the April 10 ceasefire deadline endorsed by the UN Security Council was "no excuse for continued killing," and demanding that the Assad regime keep its pledge to halt all military operations, a statement by Ban's press office said.

He suggested the killings were tantamount to a violation of Security Council demands that Damascus move toward a ceasefire.

"(Ban) strongly condemns the latest escalation of violence," the statement said. "He deplores the assault by the Syrian authorities against innocent civilians, including women and children, despite the commitments by the Government of Syria to cease all use of heavy weapons in population centers."

"The 10 April timeline to fulfill the Government's implementation of its (ceasefire and troop withdrawal) commitments, as endorsed by the Security Council, is not an excuse for continued killing," it said.

At least 27 Syrian soldiers, rebels and civilians were killed in violence on Friday, opposition activists said, four days before an April 10 deadline to stop the use of heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns agreed by President Bashar Assad as part of a UN-backed peace plan.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has said the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6 a.m. local time on April 12, if Damascus meets its deadline 48 hours earlier to pull back troops from cities and cease using heavy weapons.

Damascus has accepted the deadlines.

“The Syrian authorities remain fully accountable for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," Ban's statement said. "These must stop at once."
"The Secretary-General demands that the Government of Syria immediately and unconditionally cease all military actions against the Syrian people," it said.

The UN Security Council, including China and Syria's staunch ally, Russia, on Thursday unanimously adopted a so-called "presidential statement" endorsing the deadlines for an end to the Syria conflict and warning Damascus it would consider "further steps" if it failed to live up to its commitments.

Ban said the latest violence ran counter to what the 15-nation council had demanded of Syria.

"Such actions violate the consensus position of the Security Council, as expressed in its Presidential Statement of 5 April, for a peaceful political settlement to the Syrian crisis to be ushered by full implementation of all aspects of (Annan's) six-point (peace) proposal," his statement said.