Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 15 people overnight in a Sunni Muslim village north-west of the city of Hama, activists said on Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday two women and a child were among those killed in the attack on Sheik Hadid village.
The group said the fighters used guns and knives to kill the residents, calling the raid a "massacre." It said it is not clear if the rest of the men killed were rebel fighters or civilians.
A chemical weapons watchdog says it has received a partial declaration from Syria of its chemical stockpile – the beginning of a process for the containment of Syria\’s arsenal.
A spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Friday: "We have received part of the verification and we expect more."
The Hague-based organisation said it had also postponed a meeting on the issue scheduled for Sunday.
A UN diplomat confirmed to the Reuters news agency that the details had been submitted, saying: "It\’s quite long … and being translated."
Syria is believed to possess around 1,000 tonnes of chemical toxins, and has agreed to destroy them under a joint Russian-US proposal designed to avert a US strike on Syria.
The civil war in Syria has reached a stalemate, according to the country\’s deputy prime minister.
Qadri Jamil told the British British Guardian newspaper that the government of President Bashar al-Assad would call for a ceasefire with the armed opposition if the peace talks in Geneva, sought by world powers, take place.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Jamil said in the interview, whoch was published on Friday.
"This zero balance of forces will not change for a while.
Jamil insisted that he was speaking for the government.
He said that if the long-delayed Geneva peace talks are revived the government would propose a ceasefire monitored by troops from neutral or friendly countries.
This, he said, would pave the way for a peaceful political process free from outside interference.
Nobody should fear, he added, that the regime in its current form would continue.
"For all practical purposes the regime in its previous form has ended. In order to realise our progressive reforms we need the West and all those who are involved in Syria to get off our shoulders," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.N. report about last month\’s chemical weapons attack in Syria confirms that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad\’s forces carried out the attack.
Kerry told reporters at the State Department Thursday that the facts are not complicated.
"Sarin was used. Sarin killed. The world can decide whether it was used by the regime which has used chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the weapons, or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don\’t control to fire rockets they don\’t have containing sarin that they don\’t possess to kill their own people. And that without even being noticed, they just dissembled it all and packed up and got out of the center of Damascus controlled by Assad. Please."
In an earlier interview with the U.S. network Fox News, President Assad denied his forces launched the poison gas attack that killed hundreds near Damascus. He said he is fully committed to disposing of his government\’s chemical arsenal, and he promised to abide by a U.S.-Russia deal aimed at destroying the chemical stockpiles by the middle of 2014.
Assad described the situation as "complicated," saying destruction of the weapons would cost about $1 billion and would take a year or "maybe a little more."
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
Source: TOE and agencies