Syrian rights activists say government security forces have stormed a suburb of the capital that has been a hub for protests during the 10-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a large number of troops entered Douma Thursday morning. The group had reported army deserters took control of the town on Saturday.
Photo Gallery: Pro-anti government protests
Meanwhile, the Arab League says the withdrawal of monitors from Gulf Arab states will not hinder its work in Syria.
A league official said Wednesday that 15 Mauritanians, 10 Palestinians and six Egyptians will go to Syria within a week. They are replacing monitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose governments said they were certain "the bloodshed and killing of innocents would continue" in Syria.
Gulf Arab nations have become increasingly supportive of international action against Syria in recent weeks, as pro-Assad forces have continued attacking peaceful protesters and fighting deadly battles with army defectors.
But Russia says it will not support international action on Syria that may include sanctions or military intervention.
Moscow is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council. It joined China last October in vetoing a Western-backed resolution that would have condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown on the revolt.
Also Wednesday, the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch in the northern town of Idlib, Abdulrazak Jbero was shot dead in an attack the country's state news agency (SANA) blamed on "terrorists." An ICRC statement said he was riding in a "vehicle clearly marked with a Red Crescent emblem" and expressed shock at the killing.
The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. But U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said Wednesday her agency has stopped compiling a death toll for Syria's deadly crackdown because it is too difficult to get information. Pillay said some areas are totally closed, such as parts of the central city of Homs, "so we are unable to update that figure."
Syrian authorities say terrorists have killed about 2,000 security force members since the unrest began.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.