At least 43 people have died in two days of Government shelling of a rebellious suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, activists say.
The barrage is part of a fierce government offensive aimed at regaining control of parts of Damascus where rebels operate, particularly Douma. A local activist said the shelling was "relentless" throughout yesterday and exploding shells killed people in their homes.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 41 people died in all-day shelling of Douma yesterday, including three children and five members of a single family. At least two more were killed today.
"They (government troops) are trying to bring Douma under control, but they are being met by fierce resistance," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the group's director. He said most of the dead were civilians.
The Local Co-ordination Committees network said 59 people were killed yesterday, most of them in Douma.
Amateur videos posted by activists online showed bloodied bodies lying on blankets in a room and others shrouded in white sheets and placed on stretchers. "A new massacre by (president) Bashar Assad," cried a man holding a dead girl in a pink blouse, a large gash on her face.
The violence around the capital's suburbs mirrored fighting across many parts of Syria that killed dozens of other people yesterday, according to the groups.
Much of the violence that has gripped Syria has been sanctioned by the government to crush dissent. But rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several huge suicide bombings this year suggest al Qaida or other extremists are joining the battle.
A bomb blast rocked central Damascus yesterday near a busy market and the country's main justice complex, wounding at least three people and sending a cloud of black smoke into the air.
World powers will meet tomorrow in Geneva for talks on Syria, but few observers expect a breakthrough. Syria has the protection of Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, and has so far been impervious to international pressure.
www.syriahr.com/(Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)