(AFP) Syrian troops pounded and raided several rebel bastions across the country and clashes erupted in Homs early on Tuesday, as 14 people were killed in violence nationwide, a watchdog said.
Syrian forces clashed with armed rebels before dawn Tuesday in Homs where a soldier was killed amid "intermittent shelling" of several neighbourhoods of the central city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Clashes took place this morning between regime forces and rebels in the vicinity of the Baba Amr neighbourhood which has been under regime control since last March," the Observatory said.
"Columns of black smoke were seen rising from the area," the Britain-based monitoring group said.
"The battles are very tough," said a rebel commander from Baba Amr, whose Free Syrian Army unit has fought regime forces on the edges of the Homs district for several days.
"We are still fighting, but we haven't made it into Baba Amr today. Our aim is to take the district back," Nasser Nahhar told AFP via Skype.
In rebel hands for several months up until March this year, Baba Amr was shelled relentlessly by regime forces for a month.
The Local Coordination Committees, made up of anti-regime activists on the ground, reported that regime troops bombarded the Homs province town of Rastan with "fierce and continuous shelling since dawn."
The Observatory reported that a civilian was killed in rebel-held Rastan, which government troops have tried to overrun since February.
Rastan residents are facing food shortages and electricity is "completely cut off," the LCC said.
Also in Homs, in the rebel district of Khalidiyeh, two people were killed, the Observatory said, including a rebel commander.
In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, regime forces killed three civilians during raids in the Al-Jura neighbourhood, the Observatory said.
Elsewhere in the Deir Ezzor province, the oil hub of Syria, a pipeline was bombed, the watchdog said. An oil pipeline in Homs province was also attacked, it said but gave no further information.
In the northern city of Aleppo, one civilian was shot dead during the night as he participated in a demonstration, the Observatory said. Regime forces also carried out raids and arrests in Syria's second city.
Elsewhere in the province, a rebel fighter was killed in clashes with regime forces.
Government troops also shelled the northern Damascus suburb of Douma, killing five people, and also pounded the Qalamun district in the province.
In all at least 14 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday, the Observatory added.
And in the northwest province of Idlib, violent clashes broke out between regime forces and rebels in a village on the Syrian-Turkish border. Local activists said government troops used artillery in the fighting.
The Observatory said there were reports of army defections following the clashes.
The latest violence comes after dozens were killed on Monday, while according to the Observatory more than 14,400 people have died since the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011.
The Observatory says most of the dead are civilians, but it counts rebel fighters who are not deserters from the army as civilians.