Syrian president Bashar Assad claims his country's "crisis" is drawing to a close, even as his forces unleashed tank shells on opponents and US sanctions took aim at the Syrian leader and his senior aides.
Mr Assad received a boost when a call for nationwide strikes fell flat and long-time ally Russia vowed to stand against any UN resolutions that would sanction Syria.
Syria has banned foreign journalists and prevented coverage of the conflict, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts coming out of the country or gauge the strength of the unprecedented protest movement.
On Wednesday, witnesses said the Syrian army shelled Talkalakh with tanks for the fourth consecutive day. Syrians fleeing to Lebanon in recent days have described horrific scenes of execution-style killings and bodies in the streets in the western border town.
Activists say at least 27 people have been killed there since last week.
"They are bombing us with tanks, it's been going on for days," a resident told The Associated Press by phone from just outside the town of some 70,000 people. "Security forces are making random arrests, there isn't one security apparatus that they have not sent to the town," he added.
More than 5,000 people have crossed from Talkalakh across a shallow river into Wadi Khaled on the Lebanese side of the border in recent weeks.
The violence across Syria has sparked international condemnation and efforts for new sanctions against the Syrian leadership after more than 850 deaths since the uprising began in March.
In Washington, officials said the Treasury Department planned sanctions on Mr Assad and six members of his inner circle. It would mark the first time that sanctions would hold him personally accountable for actions of his security forces.
In Berlin, Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle also pushed for a second round of European Union sanctions that would target Mr Assad.