At least 25 people have been killed and their bodies mutilated by "terrorists" near Aleppo, Syrian state media has reported.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) cited "official sources" as saying armed terrorist groups had kidnapped an undetermined number of civilians in the rural village of Daret Azzeh, near Aleppo.
The terrorist groups committed a "brutal massacre against the citizens", kidnapping them, shooting them and mutilating their lifeless bodies, Sana said.
While 25 people are known to have been killed in the attack, the "fate of the rest of the kidnapped people is still unknown", the report warned.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 26 men believed to be pro-government shabiha, or paramilitary fighters, had been shot dead by rebels.
In a further conflicting report of the incident, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said a dozen shabiha militia fighters had been killed by members of the Free Syrian Army as they sought to raid homes in the village.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) said Daret Azza is under intense shelling from the regime's forces.
SOHR said four senior army officers, including two brigadier generals and two colonels, defected and joined the opposition on 21 June. On the same day, a Syrian fighter pilot flew his MiG-21 fighter jet to neighbouring Jordan, where he received asylum.
The LCC said the latest surge in violence follows the deaths of at least 128 people on 21 June, while further massacres have been reported in the towns of Douma and Inkhel.
Additional protests were also reported across the country.
More than 1 million Syrians need humanitarian aid
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said about 1.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, as the increase in fighting is forcing more people to flee their homes and hampering relief efforts.
Continued violence was reported as shelling in Idlib, Daraa and Homs provinces resulted in the deaths of at least another six people.
Aid workers trying to entering Homs were forced to turn back after encountering gunfire, as clashes continued in the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
The Syrian government claimed "armed terrorist groups" shot at the delegation, Sana reported.
According to the UN, more than 10 000 people have been killed since an initially peaceful uprising against the government started in March 2011. Activists groups estimate the death toll to be over 15,000.