Syrian opposition activists say around 50 people were killed in violence across the country on Friday. This comes as the UN warns of a growing humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing fighting.
Those killed included at least 26 pro-government militiamen who died at the hands of rebels in the northern town of Darat Azzah, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
State television reported that "armed terrorists committed a brutal massacre against 25 citizens in Darat Azzah," giving a slightly lower death toll.
The British-based organization said 24 civilians were also killed after Syrian troops shelled rebel strongholds in the central province of Homs, Daraa in the south and Idlib near the border with Turkey.
The violence fuels fears that the country could be sliding into full-blown, sectarian-tinged civil war as majority Sunni Muslims lead a revolt against Alawite President Bashar al-Assad.
The killings come a day after nearly 170 people, mainly civilians, were killed in one of Syria's bloodiest days since an ineffective United Nations-backed ceasefire came into effect in April.
As the conflict drags on, the UN said on Friday that the number of Syrians in need of humanitarian aid had risen dramatically in the past three months.
"The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. It is now estimated that up to 1.5 million people need humanitarian assistance," the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.
At the end of March, experts had put the figure at one million.
The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, has also said the number of refugees fleeing the conflict to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey has reached more than 86,000.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he has urged Syria's government to do more to implement a peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
After a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem, Lavrov told state television: "We called on them (the Syrian regime) to back up their declarations about readiness to implement the Kofi Annan plan with deeds."
"They have already done a lot but they can and must do much more," Lavrov added.
Lavrov said Muallem promised that the Syrian government was ready to withdraw troops from Syrian towns as long as the rebel opposition did the same.
Moscow, an ally of Damascus, has come under pressure from Western nations to do more to help stop the conflict in Syria.
tj/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)