Syria's Army resumed heavy shelling of the rebel hubs of Homs and Hama on Saturday, monitors reported, as international envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Russia in a new push for peace.
Mortar rounds rained down on the flashpoint central city of Homs and nearby town of Qusayr from early morning, killing at least 10 people, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least 20 people were reported killed nationwide, among them four government soldiers.
The fiercest regime assault targeted Saraqeb in the northwestern province of Idlib which was stormed by troops backed by 26 tanks that “took up position to split the town in two,” activist Nureddin al-Abdo told AFP.
Residents cowered indoors as explosions rattled Saraqeb and troops swooped to make arrests, he said from the town where there is a considerable rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) presence.
One civilian and three soldiers died in Saraqeb, said the Observatory.
The Army also used mortars to pound the town of Qalaat al-Madiq in the central province of Hama, which troops have been trying to seize for the past two weeks, added the Britain-based monitoring group.
Activists reported fierce overnight clashes between troops and mutineers in and around the capital, after a day of protests under the rallying cry “Damascus, here we come”.