Troops pounded a rebel hideout near Damascus as renewed violence across Syria killed at least eight people on Wednesday, a rights watchdog said.
Residents of Douma, about 13 kilometres (eight miles) from the capital, reported heavy shelling at dawn and bursts of gunfire in the town, where rebels have apparently sought refuge, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In Damascus itself, clashes erupted briefly between a security patrol and rebels in the neighbourhood of Maisat, but there were no casualties, said the Britain-based Observatory.
In northwestern Idlib province, near the town of Jisr al-Shugur, one civilian was killed and three wounded by heavy machinegun fire from regime troops, and snipers killed an elderly man who was plowing his field.
“Jisr al-Shughur is near the Turkish border and has had a significant presence of rebels since the beginning of the revolt,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
In the same province, in the village of Ahsem, an army checkpoint was targeted by an explosion followed by gunfire, the Observatory reported.
Clashes between regime forces and armed rebel groups in the village of Marata, in northwestern Idlib province, killed one soldier, said the watchdog.
Shots were also heard early Wednesday in several districts of the central city of Homs, an opposition stronghold where two civilians were killed, according to the watchdog.
Two security forces members were killed in eastern Deir Ezzor, the scene of heavy shooting and explosions, and a pro-regime gunman was killed in Aleppo, Syria’s second city in the north.
A roadside blast wounded six troops escorting UN observers in the southern city of Daraa, an AFP photographer reported.
Major General Robert Mood, the head of the 60-strong UN mission, was in the convoy but escaped unharmed along with 11 other observers and his spokesman Neeraj Singh, said the photographer who was travelling with them.
In the village of Manshiya, near Daraa, several soldiers were killed and wounded when an explosion targeted their vehicle.
The Observatory accused the Syrian authorities of forcing into exile “thousands of young men” from the coastal city of Banias, among the first to rise up against the regime.
“The state intelligence services have pursued a deliberate policy to exile young men from rebel neighborhoods of southern Banias for months,” it said in a statement.
“The intelligence forces target the young men, threatening to arrest them and their wives on charges of supporting the uprising, and blackmail them with threats of extortion.”
The watchdog asserts that nearly 5,000 of these young men have fled abroad “for fear of being arrested, tortured and killed.”
UN envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday said his peace plan that went into effect April 12 but has since been regularly violated by both sides to the conflict was “probably the last chance to avoid civil war” in Syria.
Nearly 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since an anti-regime uprising erupted in mid-March last year, according to the Observatory.