DAMASCUS - Syrian forces on Tuesday pounded protest hubs in apparent breach of a ceasefire deal brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Syria said it was abiding by the plan and the rebel Free Syrian Army warned it would resume attacks if the government offensive does not stop. Washington said it hoped the UN Security Council would consider action if Annan concludes that Damascus broke its commitments.

The violence drew sharp condemnation from France and Britain, with even Russia urging its ally to act more decisively to implement the truce.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus begun carrying out the Annan deal by pulling some troops out of certain provinces.

At least fifty-two people including 28 civilians were killed across Syria on Tuesday, the day the government was expected to pull its forces from protest hubs under a United Nations-Arab League peace plan, monitors said.

Meanwhile, at least three senior Syrian generals were killed in the early months of President Bashar al-Assad’s attempts to put down an uprising, according to a government toll sent to the United Nations.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, warned that his group, “as the legitimate representative of the people, will not allow the regime to use the (UN) plan as a licence to kill.” But Muallem insisted Damascus had begun implementing the Annan plan.

“We have already withdrawn military units from different Syrian provinces,” he told a Moscow news conference after talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov said Syria should be more decisive in fulfilling the Annan plan, which most notably calls on Syria to pull troops and weaponry out of cities hit by protests. “We believe their actions could have been more active, more decisive when it comes to the implementation of the plan,” he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington had so far only seen evidence of further “brutality and aggression” from Assad’s forces. “We would certainly hope the UN Security Council would evaluate the situation in Syria if in fact Mr Annan finds that the Assad regime has not abided by its own commitments to begin withdrawal by today,” Carney said.

Germany’s UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, said Syria has not complied with the plan and that international measures must be studied.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Syria of a “clear violation” of common frontiers, while Lebanon demanded an investigation.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed since anti-regime protests broke out in March 2011. Monitors put the number at more than 10,000.