Syrian forces have reportedly retaken contested parts of the capital, Damascus, in what activists have described as the fiercest fighting of the 10-month uprising.
About 2,000 soldiers in buses and armored personnel carriers were involved in the Damascus offensive, along with at least 50 tanks, Reuters reported. Activists said the Sunday skirmishes in the neighboring areas of Damascus and across Syria have killed 60 people, according to the BBC.
"It's urban war. There are bodies in the street," said one activist, speaking from Kfar Batna.
Reuters, citing activists, reported late Sunday that armored forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad finally took back control of the capital's eastern suburbs from opposition fighters of the so-called "Free Syrian Army."
"The Free Syrian Army has made a tactical withdrawal. Regime forces have re-occupied the suburbs and started making house to house arrests," Kamal, one of the activists, said by phone from the eastern Ghouta area on the edge Damascus.
Human rights groups said 100 people have died since a surge of violence that started Thursday.
The Damascus offensive comes a day after the Arab League suspended its month-old monitoring mission in the country and in the heels of the UN Security Council planning to vote on a resolution calling for President Bashar Al Assad to resign.
(GlobalPost reports: Arab League suspends Syria monitor mission)
Meanwhile, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph, Rankous — a mountain town of 25,000 people about 18 miles to the north of Damascus — had been under bombardment since Wednesday and 33 people were reported dead.
The town "was besieged by several thousand troops led by the elite Fourth Division, under the command of President Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher," the paper reported.
According to the BBC:
Anti-government groups said it had become a "disaster zone" with columns of smoke rising from homes hit by shellfire.
The government assault in the Damascus neighborhoods of Kfar Batna, Saqba, Jisreen and Arbeen, just a few miles from downtown Damascus, was aimed to uprooting protesters and dissident soldiers, The Associated Press reported, citing activists.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reportedly described the fighting was "the most intense near the capital since the uprising began."
"The Syrian regime is trying to finish the uprising militarily now that the case is being taken to the United Nations."
The city is tightly controlled and so has been relatively quiet since the uprising began, the AP wrote. However "its outskirts have witnessed intense anti-regime protests and army defectors have become more visible and active in the past few months."
Meanwhile, Syria's state-run news agency SANA said that "terrorists" had ambushed a bus carrying soldiers in the Damascus suburb of Douma, killing seven soldiers, the AP reported.
It says an explosive device was detonated by remote control as the bus was traveling Sunday in the suburb of Sahnaya about 12 miles south of the capital.