Syrians were burying dozens of bodies Sunday, as activists said the death toll from a five-day massacre in a town near Damascus has reached at least 320.
Government troops are battling to crush insurgents in the Damascus satellite town of Daraya. Activists on Sunday said 200 bodies have been identified, adding that victims died in shelling or by troops going from house-to-house and executing citizens.
Meanwhile, Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa appeared in public for the first time in weeks, ending speculation that he had defected from President Bashar al-Assad's embattled government.
Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa in Damascus, Sunday, August 26, 2012.
The 73-year-old Sunni Muslim met Sunday with a visiting senior Iranian official in Damascus. Sharaa was last seen in public at a state funeral for security officials who died in a July 18 bomb blast.
The Assad government has seen a number of high-level defections in recent months, and up until Sunday, there had been rumors that Sharaa had defected to Jordan, despite the government's denials.
The number of corpses in Daraya and when they died could not be independently confirmed. However, video footage reported to be from Daraya showed a large group of victims. Syrian forces had focused a five-day onslaught on rebel fighters in the town to regain control of the outskirts of Damascus.
Activists say Syrian forces with tanks and combat helicopters also launched new raids in other cities.