At least six people were killed, including a young girl, as Syrian forces on Tuesday launched a major assault on Herak, a town in the southern province of Daraa, a monitoring group said.
The girl was shot dead by a sniper, while at least five soldiers were killed in clashes with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Large military forces, including tanks and armoured troop carriers, launched an assault on Herak. Explosions and heavy machinegun fire were heard," the Britain-based monitoring group added, citing residents.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, denounced the heavy shelling of Herak, which it said targeted houses and mosques, as well as a search operation that saw troops burn homes, loot and carry out arrests.
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Elsewhere, "tanks and troop carriers besieged the locality of Tibet al-Imam," in central Hama province, the LCC said.
In Maaret al-Numan, a town in the northwestern province of Idlib, a 23-year-old man was shot dead by sniper fire, according to the Observatory. Security forces also killed two others in Idlib.
After fleeing the battered Baba Amr district in the flashpoint central city of Homs, the rebels regrouped in nearby Rastan, which according to the Observatory and activists came under artillery fire on Sunday and Monday.
"The regime is going to try and increase the pressure on Rastan, there are preparations underway to carry out an assault because it is clear that the city is not under its control," said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Observatory.
Rastan, bombed intermittently since February 5, is located on the motorway linking Damascus to northern Syria.
Qusayr, another town in Homs province mainly under rebel control, was also targeted by heavy bombardment, according to Anas Abu Ali, an official with the FSA.