BEIRUT - Syrian activists fear a new ground assault Friday on Damascus suburbs where military reinforcements poured in as fighting and bombing raged on the outskirts and south of the capital, a watchdog said.
"The army bombed orchards surrounding Daraya where military reinforcements are heading," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing activists on the ground.
"Moadamiyet al-Sham was also violently pounded and large reinforcements were deployed apparently to attack the town," said the watchdog which gathers information from a network of activists and medics across the country.
For several days the air and artillery bombardments have focused on these areas raising fears of an imminent ground assault.
In Damascus itself, the southern districts were bombarded by regime troops, the Observatory said, after shelling and fighting between rebels and soldiers throughout the night in several suburbs.
The city's outskirts are at the heart of the fighting where the regime has launched an operation to reclaim territory within eight kilometres (five miles) of the capital which analysts say it wants to retain in a bid to negotiate a solution to the conflict.
In the north, rebels besieged Menegh military airport which they struck with mortars as electricity was cut off in most parts in Aleppo province, the Observatory said.
Gunfire and explosions were also heard in the province of Daraa in the south, and Banias along the Mediterranean coast, it added.
The Observatory said 77 people were killed on Thursday across the country, half of them in Damascus and its suburbs.
The violence in Syria has so far left more than 42,000 people dead, mostly civilians, since the beginning of the protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad nearly 21 months ago.