Street battles raged at the gates of the Syrian capital on Monday as President Bashar al-Assad’s troops sought to consolidate their grip on suburbs that rebel fighters had taken only a few miles from the centre of government power.
Russia, a UN Security Council and one of Syria's few allies, said Assad’s government agreed to talks in Moscow to end the Syrian crisis, but a major opposition body rejected any dialogue with him, demanding he step down.
Activists and residents said Syrian troops now had control of Hamouriyeh, one of several districts where they have used armoured vehicles and artillery to beat back rebels.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 21 civilians, six members of the security forces, and two deserters were killed in violence across Syria on Monday.
The UN said in December more than 5,000 people had been killed in the protests and crackdown. Syria says more than 2,000 security force members have been killed by militants.