BEIRUT - International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said after talks with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday that the escalating conflict in
the country posed a global threat.
Activists say 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old uprising against Assad. Late on Saturday, 20 bodies, including a woman's, were found
by residents in a district of Damascus that had been overrun by Assad's troops, a watchdog said.
"This crisis is deteriorating and represents a danger to the Syrian people, to the region, and to the whole world," Brahimi told reporters in Damascus after speaking with
Assad for an hour at the presidential palace.
It was the veteran Algerian diplomat's first meeting with the Syrian leader since he replaced Kofi Annan as mediator two weeks go, taking on a mission that he
described as "nearly impossible".
The revolt started as a mainly peaceful street campaign for reform but has become a bloody insurgency that is deepening sectarian rifts in the Middle East. Activists
say 160 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Friday.
Assad's forces and the out-gunned but increasingly effective rebel fighters seeking his overthrow have ignored appeals to end the conflict, which continues to
affect most of Syria's main cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Deir al-Zor.
"Ten men and a woman were found in a house in Tadamon," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "Another nine were found in a separate
building and all had gunshots to the body," he added, quoting residents.
Over the past two days, the army have been conducting street to street raids of Tadamon after days of government artillery strikes and helicopter attacks
aimed at killing rebel fighters.
Damascus residents reported hearing heavy overnight bombardment followed by the sound of jet planes swooping over the capital shortly after 7 a.m.
(12.00 a.m EDT) on Saturday.
One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said black smoke was rising from the southern Damascus neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad, which neighbors
Tadamon, on Saturday afternoon.
"There is very strong shelling to the south of Damascus. The roads have been closed and there are tanks," the resident said.