International envoy Kofi Annan is due to visit Syria within the next 10 days, according to foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, who broke the news on twitter. This comes after nine army deserters were killed in an ambush by Syrian security forces near a north Damascus suburb as fighting between armed rebels and troops raged around the capital overnight, a monitoring group said Monday.A militant group meanwhile claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zor last week and vowed to continue launching attacks.
The deserters were killed as they were retreating under cover of darkness from the village of Jisr al-Ab near Damascus’s Douma suburb, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
On Sunday, at least 60 people were killed across Syria, including 40 in an assault by regime forces on a village in central Hama province.
The watchdog, based in London, had on Sunday reported fighting between rebels and regime troops near Douma, during which a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a team of UN observers.
No one was hurt in the blast, which came as UN observer mission head Major General Robert Mood and peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous were leading observers around the north Damascus suburb.
Syrian soldiers who were on the spot have attributed the blast to an RPG rocket but UN observers have not commented on the nature of the explosion.
Heavy fighting was also reported during the night between regime soldiers and rebels in other parts of Damascus province, the Observatory said.
The clashes took place mainly in the Jisrain and Kfar Batna localities, according to the watchdog, which added there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Explosions were also heard in Deir al-Zor, Syria’s main eastern city, the Observatory said.
Violence in Syria continues despite the presence of UN observers to oversee a truce that came into effect on April 12 but which has been consistently violated by both sides.
Meanwhile, a militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in eastern Syria last week that killed nine people and said attacks would continue, in a statement posted on the Internet on Monday.
Al-Nusra Front said it was behind the attack on Saturday which targeted military installations in Deir al-Zor. The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified, according to Reuters.
“There was a limit to the ferocity of the dogs of the regime in Deir al-Zor at which they had to be punished, so the soldiers of al-Nusra front undertook this mission,” read the statement on an Islamist web forum.
“The blessed operations will continue until the land of Syria is purified from the filth of the Nusayris (Alawites) and the Sunnis are relieved from their oppression.”
The uprising against four decades of Assad family rule has been led by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, many of whom are resentful of a political and military elite dominated by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs.
The Syrian government points to bombings as proof it is confronting foreign-backed militants, not a home-grown uprising.
Al-Nusra Front has previously claimed responsibility for bombings in Damascus and Aleppo. However, they later denied having a role in the attacks.
No civilians were killed in the bombing in Deir al-Zor, al-Nusra said in the statement, adding it had previously cancelled operations because “innocent people” were at its target site.
The group, whose full name means “the support front for the people of Syria,” has emerged during the revolt, which began as a peaceful protest movement but has become increasingly militarised as rebels fight back against a government crackdown.
The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-regime network of activists on the ground in Syria, said that in the wake of the fighting, Kafr Sousa in the south of the capital saw the “arrival of huge reinforcements” of regime troops.
More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in Syria since an anti-regime revolt broke out in March 2011, according to the monitoring group.