Syria activists say 310 people killed, in bloodiest day since onset of anti-Assad unrest
Syrian intelligence chief succumbs to wounds following attack earlier in the week; UN says up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in recent days.
Syrian activists said on Friday that 310 people were killed across the country on Thursday in what was the single deadliest day of fighting since the beginning of the revolt against President Bashar Assad's regime.
Syria's civil war escalated dramatically in the past week as rebels closed in on the capital Damascus and launched their most serious blow yet on Assad's inner circle, killing three top aides in an assassination.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday at least 93 of those killed Thursday were government troops.
The Local Coordination Committees, which documents civilian deaths, said 217 civilians were killed Thursday.
Syrian pposition activists and rebel sources said on Friday that rebels had withdrawn overnight from the central Damascus district of Midan after coming under heavy bombardment.
"It is a tactical withdrawal. We are still in Damascus," Abu Omar, a rebel commander, said by phone, adding that President Bashar Assad's forces backed by armored vehicles subsequently entered deep into the district and are now in control of its main market area.
Death tolls are difficult to verify in tightly controlled Syria which places severe restrictions on journalists.
Syrian TV said troops recovered control of a rebellious neighborhood in Damascus Friday.
Also on Friday, Syria's intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar has died of wounds suffered in a bombing on Wednesday which killed three of President Bashar Assad's top security officials, Hezbollah's Al-Manar television reported.
Meanwhile, United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday that up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours to escape fighting in their country.
"We have reports we are trying to verify that thousands of Syrians overnight and yesterday crossed into Lebanon. So far reports vary between 8,500 and 30,000 people may have crossed in the past 48 hours," said Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Borders remain open...people continue to flood into Lebanon."
One million Syrians are also believed to be internally displaced within the country as of last week, she told a news briefing in Geneva. The figure came from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent whose previous estimate was that 500,000 were uprooted.