Rebel forces and Syrian army units engaged in deadly combat around elite Republican Guard posts in the suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday, as 116 people were killed across the country, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll consisted of 68 civilians, 41 soldiers and seven rebels.
“Violent clashes are taking place around positions of the Republican Guard in Qudsaya and Al-Hama,” eight kilometres (five miles) from central Damascus, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.
Twenty-eight people were killed in and around the capital, including 15 people in Al-Hama and 11 in Qudsaya during shelling by regime troops.
“This is the first time that the regime uses artillery in fighting so close to the capital,” Abdel Rahman said.
“This development is important because it’s the heaviest fighting in the area and close to the heart of the capital.”
Abu Omar, a spokesman for activists in the Damascus region, told AFP via Skype that “all communication has been cut off in and around Al-Hama and Qudsaya.”
He charged that regime forces “stormed the areas with tanks” and also spoke of a “massacre” although he gave no further details.
The official SANA news agency said, meanwhile, that government forces clashed with “armed terrorist groups” in Al-Hama.
“The armed groups attacked citizens and law enforcement forces and blocked the Old Beirut road to use it as a smuggling route for weapons,” SANA said.
“Dozens of terrorists were killed in the clashes,” while others were arrested, SANA said.
Weapons were also seized, including “rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles, machine guns and a large amount of ammunition,” the agency added.
The Observatory reported that five people were killed in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, including a child, as the army pounded several neighbourhoods, while three were killed elsewhere in the province.
Thirteen civilians, including two young siblings, were killed in army shelling in the northwest province of Idlib, where two rebels also died in clashes with the government troops, the Britain-based Observatory said.
In central Hama province, a rebel battalion commander and a defected officer were killed during clashes between the army and rebels, it added.
Seven people were also reported killed in the flashpoint central province of Homs, including three civilians who died in the restive Khaldiyeh neighbourhood of Homs city.
Twelve civilians also died in the southern province of Daraa, known as the cradle of the uprising, during shelling on the town of Kafr al-Shams as the army tried to gain control over the area.
At least one other civilian was shot dead by troops in the northern province of Aleppo.
The Syrian army also faced heavy losses on Tuesday with at least 41 soldiers killed in fierce fighting with rebels in various parts of the country.
On Monday, 95 people were killed, including 61 civilians, as the army pounded rebel strongholds and other towns and cities.
According to Observatory, the government’s suppression of an anti-regime revolt since March 2011 has cost more than 15,000 lives.