Mourners clap for Yaser Raqieh, who was killed near Hama by forces loyal to regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Mourners clap for Yaser Raqieh, who was killed near Hama by forces loyal to regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Reuters

Violence continues to rage in Syria, with fighting between the regime's forces and rebel defectors reported across the country.

Activists reported clashes between Syrian troops using helicopters and rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the central town of Rastan, which is currently held by the rebels.

Shelling by government forces was also reported in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, in the southern region of Daraa, the northern province of Aleppo, in the suburbs of Damascus and in Deir el-Zour in the east, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists also reported loud explosions in the al-Attareb region of Aleppo andin the coastal city of Lattakia, along with shelling in nearby al-Heffa.

Despite political pressure and international condemnation, further attacks are being reported on a daily basis, prompting British foreign secretary William Hague to compare Syria with Bosnia.

China and Russia remain opposed to the use of military intervention, but Hague refused to rule out the possibility.

"We don't know how things are going to develop. Syria is on the edge of a collapse or of a sectarian civil war and so I don't think we can rule anything out," Hague told Sky News.

"It is looking more like Bosnia in the 1990s, of being on the edge of a sectarian conflict in which neighbouring villages are attacking and killing each other."

SNC elects new leader

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest umbrella opposition group, has elected a new leader following the resignation of its former head, Burhan Ghalioun.

Ghalioun stepped down over divisions within the group and accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood wielded too much influence.

Abdulbaset Sieda, 56, a secular Kurd who lives in exile in Sweden, is the new head of the SNC.

Sieda said his priorities would be to restructure the divided group and to include more opposition figures from Syria's religious minorities.

"We are now in the process of repairing the relationship between the SNC and the forces working inside Syria so that we may reach common ground among us," he said.

Speaking about the evolution of the conflict on Al Arabiya television, he said: "We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs.

"The multiplying massacres and shelling show that it is struggling," he said

During his first news conference, Sieda ruled out dialogue with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"There is no possibility for negotiations with this regime after all of these brutal massacres committed against the civilians by the hands of its forces and militias," he said.

"Only a negotiation on the transfer of authority and on a transitional stage is possible."

He also called on members of the government and army to defect, which was echoed by a similar call from the FSA.

FSA calls for 'civil disobedience'

The FSA, a group composed of Syrian Army defectors, urged a campaign of mass "civil disobedience" following reports of further soldiers defection from the army.

Syrian rebel army chief Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad denied reports some Kuwaitis, Algerians, Saudis and Pakistanis had joined the FSA.

"Reports indicating the presence of Arab fighters [in Syria] are totally baseless," Kuwait's Al-Watan newspaper quoted Col Asaad as saying.

"There are no non-Syrian members in the FSA, which consists only of Syrian soldiers and officers fighting to protect the revolution," he added.