Syrian troops on Sunday fought rebel fighters and shelled their bastions in the country’s two main cities Damascus and Aleppo, a day after U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned the conflict threatens world peace.
The fighting in Damascus erupted at dawn and was focused in the northeast suburb of Harasta, while the army shelled the southern suburb of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad from several directions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Regime forces had deployed in force in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad on Saturday, sparking clashes with rebels that left eight people dead, some of them cut down by sniper fire, the Britain-based Observatory said.
In Aleppo, a child was killed in shelling during the night of the southwest Fardoss neighborhood, the Britain-based watchdog said, adding that a media activist with a rebel group was killed elsewhere in the northern city.
Regime forces also pummeled the eastern districts of Hanano, Sakhur and Sukari, where two rebels were killed early Sunday in shelling.
Fighting also broke out between the army and rebels in Jamiyat al-Zahra in the west and in Izaa district, the Observatory said.
Violence has raged in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, since July 20 when regime forces launched an offensive in a bid to drive rebels out of the city.
In the central province of Homs, a man was killed in shelling in the town of Tal Kalakh that borders Lebanon, while the town of Krak des Chevaliers also came under shelling, the Observatory said.
Another man was killed by sniper fire in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor while clashes also broke out in the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border.
The violence followed a bloody day in which 115 people -- 71 civilians, 12 rebels and 32 soldiers -- were killed nationwide in Syria, according to the Observatory, which gathers its information from a network of activists, medical workers and other sources on the ground.
Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, warned after meeting President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Saturday that the worsening conflict in Syria threatens both the region and the world at large.
“The crisis is dangerous and getting worse, and it is a threat to the Syrian people, the region and the world,” said the newly appointed Brahimi, who took over as envoy earlier this month from former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
Activists say 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old uprising against Assad. The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.
Late on Saturday, 20 bodies, including a woman’s, were found by residents in a district of Damascus that had been overrun by Assad's troops, the Observatory said.
It was the veteran Algerian diplomat’s first meeting with the Syrian leader since he replaced Kofi Annan as mediator two weeks ago, taking on a mission that he described as “nearly impossible.”
The revolt started as a mainly peaceful street campaign for reform but has become a bloody insurgency that is deepening sectarian rifts in the Middle East.
Louay Hussein, a prominent Syrian opposition activist in Damascus who met Brahimi, said the mediator “knew the map of the crisis ... (and was) optimistic.”
Assad allows a few opposition figures to operate in the country but they have little influence over the opposition in exile and the armed revolt.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting Islamist “terrorists” and accuse regional Sunni Muslim powers of worsening the bloodshed by helping arm the president’s foes.
State news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling Brahimi that the success of his mission hinged on “pressuring countries which finance and train the terrorists, and which traffic weapons to Syria, to stop these actions.”
His comments came a day after Pope Benedict, starting a three-day visit to neighboring Lebanon, branded the flow of arms into Syria a “grave sin” and called for a halt to it.
World powers are deadlocked in the U.N. Security Council along Cold War lines, with the United States and its NATO allies supporting the call for Assad to quit and Russia and China defending him against what they see as outside meddling.
Moscow and Beijing have three times blocked Western-backed attempts in the Security Council to criticize Damascus and threaten sanctions against it.
“I believe that the president realizes more than me the dimensions and the danger of this crisis,” said Brahimi, who has met Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats in Damascus.
The mediator said Assad and his officials had pledged to support his work, adding that he would return to the region soon after talks in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.