Syrian rebels killed at least seven pro-government militiamen in a Damascus suburb on Wednesday, activists told Reuters, and an explosion wounded eight soldiers escorting UN ceasefire observers in the southern province of Daraa.
The Damascus attack with rocket-propelled grenades on a bus carrying the fighters through the suburb of Irbin prompted the army to seal off the area and respond with shelling, activist Mohammad Saeed said.
Cross-border firing also reported on Wednesday by Lebanese residents in the border town of Al Qaa, who alleged the troops fired across the border into Lebanon, killing a 75-year-old woman and wounding her daughter.
A rights watchdog said troops pounded a rebel hideout near Damascus on a day that claimed at least eight lives across the country on Wednesday.
Residents of Douma, about 13 kilometres 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.
The blast that hit troops escorting UN observers was “a graphic example of violence that the Syrian people do not need,” said UN observer chief Major General Robert Mood.
“It is imperative that violence in all its forms must stop,” Mood was quoted by observer spokesman Neeraj Singh as saying.
Mood, Singh and 11 other observers were in the convoy, but none was hurt.
“We remain focused on our task,” Singh told AFP, adding that the total number of observers in Syria now stands at 70.
Aleppo has witnessed significant unrest in recent days, according to activist accounts.
While the UN monitors’ team is expected to grow to 300 in coming weeks, “the number of our military observers today is 70, and will be more than 100 in the next two days,” Singh said.
The opposition Syrian National Council accused the regime of being behind the Daraa blast.
“We believe the regime is using these tactics to try to push the observers out amid popular demands to increase their numbers,” SNC executive committee member Samir Nashar told AFP.
UN is preparing a major aid operation, backed by a $180 million appeal, but has yet to reach agreement with Damascus on how the assistance will be delivered.