World Bulletin/News Desk
Syrian government forces pushed their way into Douma on Saturday after weeks of siege and shelling and fleeing residents spoke of corpses in the streets of the town near the capital Damascus.
The residents said hundreds of people were fleeing the town as government forces swept the streets in search of rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
They reported many bodies buried under the rubble of houses in the town of half a million, 15 km (10 miles) from Damascus.
It was not possible to immediately verify the reports on the day world powers met in Geneva to try and find a way to resolve the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria.
Abdullah, 50, said he and his five children left Douma on Saturday morning.
"I saw at least three bodies on a street corner, some houses were destroyed, others were on fire. Only a few people remained inside the city. Those who can, leave," he said by telephone from a nearby town.
"I saw a body on the side of the street and dogs were gathering around it, it was really horrible... we are all living as refugees inside our country," he added.
Abdullah left in a convoy of 200 people from his neighbourhood. He said eight people were packed into each car. They passed through four checkpoints where soldiers in "full gear" eyed their identity cards before allowing them through.
Syrian forces have used similar tactics countrywide, activists say, of long sieges and shelling before raids.
A 16-month uprising against Assad has morphed into a fight between rebels and the government which labels armed and unarmed dissidents as "terrorists."
Other residents reported hundreds of people fleeing Douma.
Call for Red Cross help
Abo Omar, another resident, said rebels withdrew from Douma on Friday night after an intensive 10-day government offensive.
"How can the rebels continue fighting with limited guns, facing tanks and helicopters? Now Assad's army is in control of the town," he said, adding that hundreds had been arrested.
"We are calling on the Red Cross and the (Syrian) Red Crescent to go inside the town and remove the bodies. Some of the bodies have started to decay," said Abo Omar.
He said many of the dead were buried under the rubble of houses.
Mohammed Doumany, an opposition activist who also left the town said: "There is no electricity or water, no communication. The situation was really horrible."
"Security forces are going into hospitals and we fear for the lives of the wounded," he added.
Syrian forces also on Saturday fired mortar bombs at major cities, activists said.
Live stream video footage posted by opposition activists in the eastern desert city of Deir al-Zor showed smoke rising from apartment blocks as continuous explosions rang out.
Activists also reported shelling in Homs, Idlib and Deraa.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that government shelling and heavy clashes between the army and members of the rebel Free Syrian Army have killed 16 people so far on Saturday.
Opposition activists accuse the international community of inaction. Diplomacy has failed to produce an agreement between Western powers, who favour the opposition, and Russia, which has used its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to block Western and Arab moves to drive Assad from power.
Unofficial, incomplete results from Iran's parliamentary runoff election show 33 to 40 of the 68 seats being contested went to allies of President Hassan Rouhani
Russia's state-run TASS reports US and Russia agree on 72-hour cease-fire in Latakia starting just after midnight Saturday
Syria’s Kurdish National Council slams PYD parading dead bodies of FSA fighters as 'brutal and barbaric'
'The violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities,' UN human rights chief says
'This announcement came after a request from the Americans and the Russians, who met in Geneva to calm down the situation in Damascus and Latakia'
In the first four months of the year, authorities deported 14,400 expats, compared with 26,600 in the whole of 2015
Russian and Syrian warplanes have intensified attacks against civilians in Aleppo’s opposition-controlled areas
'The persistent failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court is an example of the most shameful form of realpolitik,' Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says
Iranians has begun voting on Friday in a second round of parliamentary elections with allies of President Hassan Rouhani seeking to wrest seats from hardliners.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim al-Thani proposes free trade agreement involving Turkey and Arab countries
'l could not in any way express how high the stakes are in the next hours and days,' head of UN humanitarian efforts says
'It's no secret that the Syrian army has prepared this decisive battle with its allies. It will not take long to begin, nor to finish,' a pro-regime daily says
The new amendments allow the king to choose his successor, the judiciary's chief and the head of the constitutional council
'The Syrian cessation of hostilities is in great danger and could collapse at any time,' says UN envoy on Syria
US Col. Warren hopes opposition will retake towns within weeks