Syrian government forces launched two operations in Damascus to root out rebel activists on Wednesday, killing at least 70, the opposition has said.
Troops reportedly went from house to house demanding to see people’s papers, and summarily executed many of their victims, according to activists.
Syrian state TV said “dozens of terrorists” surrendered or were killed in the operation.
Meanwhile, rebels said they attacked an airport near the second city of Aleppo.
Opposition commanders said they used a tank captured from the army to bombard the Menagh air base, which lies between Aleppo and the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border.
They said government forces had used the air base as a staging post for attacks on nearby areas.
Bloody footage The fighting in Aleppo city appears to have settled into a stalemate
State TV, which had initially forecast that the city would be cleared of rebel fighters in just a few days, is now reporting only a few clashes with “terrorist mercenaries”.
The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says the momentum seems to be with the rebels, who have managed to open a direct corridor to the Turkish border.
He says they are clearly bent on making Aleppo the heart of a “liberated zone” in the north, which would hugely increase pressure on the government in Damascus.
But some of the rebels’ tactics are proving controversial.
The prisoners, some of them bruised and bloodied, were put up against a wall half-naked and shot with Kalashnikov rifles.
The opposition Syrian National Council has criticised rebels, and Human Rights Watch has said the incident could be a war crime.
In other developments:
- Syrian soldiers fired on Jordanian troops who were waiting to take in refugees at the border, according to Jordanian officials
- US media report that President Obama approved an order earlier this year allowing the CIA and other agencies to aid the rebels
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting the UK on Thursday and is expected to discuss the Syrian crisis with Prime Minister David Cameron
- The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says almost three million Syrians need help with food and farming
Witnesses and activists described heavy shelling and a ground assault on Wednesday in Damascus’s south-western suburb of Jdeidet Artouz.
One resident told Reuters news agency the soldiers had inspected his ID, and then let him go.
He later saw bodies of at least 35 men.
“Almost all of them were executed with bullets to their face, head and neck,” said the man, who identified himself as Fares.
On Thursday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published a more detailed account of the assault, saying said pro-government forces arrested about 100 people and tortured them.
“On Thursday morning after the operation the bodies of 43 people were recovered. Some of them had been summarily executed,” the organisation said in a statement.
Other activist groups gave higher figures for the number of deaths.
An army spokesman told state TV that a number of armed men had clashed with government forces who had raided a farm.
Another regime assault on the southern Damascus suburb of Yalda also resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, activists said, without providing any further details.
Activists estimate some 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted in March last year.