Heavy fighting continued in Syria's second city of Aleppo on Saturday, while Damascus was described as tense but calm. On Friday, the UN Security Council voted to extend the mission of UN observers in Syria by 30 days.
Fierce clashes have been reported in and around Damascus for a sixth straight day, with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad storming the town of Shaba, just outside of the capital.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces first shelled the town with artillery, then entered on foot.
Much of Damascus was reported to be calm but tense on Saturday morning, but the Observatory said government forces had shelled the southern neighborhoods of Al-Kaddam and Assali overnight.
A second day of fighting was also reported in the city of Aleppo, with the Observatory reporting clashes between government troops and rebels in the Salaheddin neighbourhood.
The Local Coordination Committees reported "an exodus of residents of the neighborhood because of fear of regime bombardment and an offensive" in Salaheddin.
Fighting has intensified since Wednesday, when a bombing in the capital killed four members of President Assad's inner circle, including his defense minister and intelligence chief.
The opposition claimed responsibility for that attack and government forces subsequently launched a counter-offensive in an effort to recover lost ground in Damascus in particular .
At least 240 people were killed across Syria on Friday and 550 over the past 24 hours, according to the Observatory. These like all other casualty figures coming out of Syria are virtually impossible to confirm independently due to severe restrictions on journalists working in the country.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted on Friday to extend the mandate for the UN observer mission in Syria by 30 days. The vote was a rare moment of accord among the Council members, a day after Russia and China had vetoed a draft resolution that would have allowed the UN to impose sanctions on Assad's regime.
pfd/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)