DAMASCUS, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Intense violence engulfed Saturday three suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus, witnesses told Xinhua, as the state-media boasted the army's advancement on ground, particularly in northern Aleppo province.
Witnesses said clashes and gunfire escalated Saturday at the Damascus suburbs of Qudsiah, Harasta and Barzeh.
They said many residents of Qudsiah opted to leave their homes in anticipation of intense clashes between the government troops and armed rebels.
In Harasta, clashes renewed and the situation "doesn't bode well," a witness said.
In Barzeh, meanwhile, intense clashes were reported to have been taking place at the orchard area connecting Barzeh to Harasta, witnesses said.
The state-run SANA news agency said the Syrian troops conducted a qualitative operation at al-Baladieh square in Barzeh, killing a number of "terrorists," a term used by the Syrian government to brand the rebels.
Clashes in the suburbs of Damascus have become increasingly common despite the lull every now and then in those areas.
In Aleppo, SANA said a total of 22 gunmen were killed Saturday in clashes with government troops in Tal Zarazir, adding that the troops also dealt deadly blows to armed insurgents in Wadihi and Kafr Dael, once a bastion of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Aleppo, a city of 3 million, has emerged as a key battleground in Syria's civil war.
The clashes there hit a new high after rebels announced Thursday the start of a "decisive battle."
SANA said the army has been dealing deadly blows to the armed militias in Aleppo, adding that scores are killed on a daily basis.
In separate accounts, the oppositional Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said as many as 40 Syrians were killed Thursday. It said the toll includes 20 unarmed civilians, three of them children, five rebel fighters and 18 members of government forces.
The observatory reported violence mainly in Aleppo, suburbs of Damascus, and southern Daraa and central Homs provinces among others.
The activists' account could not be checked independently.