Thirty-three killed in overnight shelling across Syria

Shelling in Deraa, Syria
Eighteen people were killed by shelling in the Syrian town of Deraa Photo: ITV News

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that eighteen people, including 12 women and children, were killed overnight by shelling in the Syrian town of Deraa, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 15 months ago.

Fighting was also reported in Damascus, Homs and other cities, killing 33 people in total, the group said, showing neither side was respecting a UN-backed ceasefire, the failure of which has left outside powers divided on what to do next.

"We didn't sleep all night, the situation is a mess, all kinds of explosions and heavy weapons," said Adnan, a resident in the southwestern town of Deraa near the Jordan border.

"We could hear the blast from the rockets hitting in the neighbourhood nearby. If we were afraid, you can imagine how afraid our children are," he said via Skype.

UN observers patrol suburbs in Damascus to assess the damage of fighting
UN observers patrol suburbs in Damascus to assess the damage of fighting Credit: ITV News

Two massacres of civilians in the last two weeks have added urgency to talks among foreign powers on what to do since the ceasefire, supposed to take effect on April 12, has failed to stop the violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow - which has shielded Assad from UN sanctions pressure - was not opposed to his departure, but only against that outcome being imposed on Syria from outside.

"If the Syrians agree (about Assad's departure) between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution," Lavrov told reporters. "But we believe it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside."

Lavrov was speaking one day after his deputies held consultations with US special envoy Fred Hof, in Moscow to push for a transition in Syria that would see Assad leave power.

Lavrov reiterated his call for an international conference in support of the envoy Kofi Annan's failing peace plan and said "there was no outright rejection" of this initiative from the United States expressed during the Moscow talks, despite Russia's recommendation that Iran take part.

"We want this event to be effective. In order to be effective all the sides with any influence on the sides in the Syrian conflicts should be represented there. Iran is one such country," Lavrov said.

A burnt out building in Syria
Activists posted pictures of bullet-scarred buildings ablaze Credit: ITV News

In the Syrian capital of Damascus, once a relatively safe Assad stronghold, loud explosions were heard overnight after residents reported some the fiercest fighting between rebels and security forces a day earlier.

UN monitors who visited the site of fighting released a video showing shattered storefronts and six torched and blackened buses. They said some buildings appeared to have been hit by rocket propelled grenades and saw the body of a Syrian soldier on the street.

In Homs - centre of the armed insurgency where the rebellious Baba Amr district was razed by security forces in March - activists reported some of the worst shelling since then.

Some posted pictures of bullet-scarred buildings ablaze. Video uploaded by activists showed clouds of dust and flames bursting from concrete buildings as heavy blasts rocked the old city. The images could not be verified.