Syria: Military Moves To Retake Restive Damascus Suburbs In Weekend Of Violence

Forces loyal to President Assad have exchanged fire with rebels in Damascus in an effort to retake parts of the capital.

Six soldiers have been killed in the fighting, according to the state-run Sana news agency.

Activists report that 26 civilians have died in fighting in Kfar Batna, Jisreen, Saqba and Arbeen during Saturday and Sunday.

Speaking to Reuters, a protester in Saqba said: "Mosques that have turned into field hospitals are requesting blood. They cut off the electricity. Petrol stations are empty and the army is preventing people from leaving to get fuel for generators or heating."

Elsewhere, 10 soldiers were killed when a military convey was attacked in Kansafra in the west of the country, according to Sky News.

The figures remain unconfirmed due to restricted access for western journalists.

The deaths come as the United Nations prepares to hold talks on the deepening crisis in Syria.

The head of the Arab league, Nabil Elaraby, is due to address the UN in New York on Tuesday in the hope of gaining support for the League's latest plan that would see Assad step down.

Arab League foreign ministers are then due to meet next Sunday, following Saturday’s suspension of the monitoring mission in protest at the ongoing violence.

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for President Assad to end the violence.

He said: “What is important at this time is not the monitoring mission. The monitoring mission may be helpful in assessing the situation. But even before… the Syrian leadership should have [taken] firm, decisive action... to stop the violence.

“President Assad as the leader of Syria, he has a responsibility to resolve this situation and engage in political dialogue. Most important he must stop immediately the bloodshed.”

According to the UN, more than 5,000 people have died since the protest began 10 months ago. Syrian officials claim that more than 2,000 soldiers have died in the unrest.