Syrian government troops battled rebel forces Monday in the suburbs of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo with no apparent slowdown in the war.
In an amateur video, Islamist militants said they are withdrawing from the strategic Christian town of Maaloula, near the Lebanese border, as Syrian government forces launched an offensive to wrestle back control.
The militants said they had achieved their objective of taking an army post in the town, famous for having two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria and a number of inhabitants who still speak Aramaic.
The head of Maaloula's Greek Orthodox nunnery denied reports circulated by pro-government groups that rebels had pillaged Christian holy sites in the town.
Meanwhile, government forces continued to shell rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, including the town of Madhamiya, where an alleged chemical weapons attack occurred on August 21.
Airstrikes were reported on rebel positions outside Aleppo, near a strategic highway linking the city with government territory along the coast. Government troops reportedly have made progress in regaining parts of the road in fighting over the past week.