Beirut: Syrian troops advanced on the Islamist-held northern village of Tal Hassel today, prompting jihadist rebels in nearby Aleppo to call for mass mobilisation to counter the offencive.
Fighting raged at Tal Hassel, some 12 kilometres (seven miles) from Aleppo, the country`s pre-war commercial hub, where the regime and rebels have been locked in a bloody standoff for more than a year.
In clashes elsewhere in the country, nine people were killed by shelling in the central city of Homs, the official SANA news agency reported.
And in Damascus, rebel shells struck the city centre, killing two people and wounding 20, SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that relies on activists and other witnesses on the ground, said three people were killed and 30 wounded in the shelling.
The Syrian army has been pounding away at the Damascus suburbs in recent months in a bit to protect President Bashar al-Assad`s seat of power from rebel shelling but has not managed to halt almost daily fire.
An estimated 120,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by Syria`s civil war, which erupted after a fierce government crackdown on pro-democracy protests first held in March 2011.
A security official confirmed the army was advancing at Tal Hassel, and said it was "expanding operations to recover regions captured by terrorists."
"Residents are being very cooperative with the Syrian army, because they were treated very badly by the terrorists."
Jihadist fighters in Aleppo have called for mass mobilisation to counter regime advances after the Islamists suffered a string of setbacks around the northern city.
In a statement posted online, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) called on "all brigades and Muslims to arms to face off against the enemy which is attacking Islamic territory."
ISIL, which includes a large contingent of foreign fighters, also released a grisly video of two jihadists in Aleppo holding up the head of a man they said was an Iraqi Shiite who had been fighting for the regime.