More than 100 civilians have been killed in a new "massacre" in Syria, a watchdog said Thursday, as Russia slammed the United States for blaming deadly blasts at a university campus on the Damascus regime.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the army on Tuesday swept through farmlands north of Homs city causing the deaths. It added that around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting in the central Syria metropolis.
"The Syrian regime carried out a new massacre on Tuesday claiming 106 victims, including women and children," said the Britain-based watchdog, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.
Witnesses said several members of the same family were among those killed; some in fires that ravaged their homes and others stabbed or hacked to death. Among the dead were 32 members of the same clan.
Homs, dubbed "the capital of the revolution" by Syria's opposition, is the most strategic city in the country's largest province, lying on key trade routes near the borders of Lebanon and Iraq, and with its southwestern areas not far from Damascus.
Pro-regime daily Al-Watan reported army advances against "gunmen" -- a term used by the regime for insurgents -- in the area, but activists said there were none there.
The Observatory urged the United Nations to send a fact-finding team to the area to investigate the latest bloodshed.
The reported deaths were the latest to emerge from Syria, where twin blasts on Tuesday tore through an Aleppo campus while students were sitting exams.
At least 87 people were killed in one of the bloodiest attacks of the 22-month conflict, in a city that has suffered some $2.5 billion in damage in six months of bitter conflict, according to Aleppo's governor.
No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo blasts, but the United States blamed government forces for the violence, suggesting they were caused by air strikes on university buildings.
The remarks by US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland triggered an angry Russian response.
"I cannot imagine anything more blasphemous," said Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, describing the killings as a "terrorist act."
Violence erupted again in Syria on Thursday, with the Observatory reporting several air strikes on flashpoints in Damascus province and Kafr Nabuda in the central province of Hama. That attack killed at least four children.
In the Husseiniyeh area near the capital, warplanes dropped three missiles killing 11 civilians, among them seven children, according to the Observatory.
The Observatory gave a preliminary death toll for Thursday of 118 killed -- among them 61 civilians.
Meanwhile, in the majority Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain, in the northern province of Hasakeh, fierce fighting pitted rebels against pro-regime Kurdish fighters.
A senior Jordanian salafist said two prominent jihadists were killed while fighting regime troops with the Al-Nusra Front fighters, among them a brother-in-law of slain Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria's conflict, according to the United Nations, while the Observatory says it has documented more than 48,000 dead.