Dubai Syrian troops fired on protesters in Aleppo on Friday and small demonstrations were also reported from Damascus as regime forces launched an offensive to retake rebel-held districts in the capital.

Soldiers opened fire to disperse a large demonstration in Aleppo while activists staged demonstrations elsewhere also under the slogan “the Ramadan of victory will be written in Damascus”. Rebel forces began marking the beginning of Ramadan yesterday.

The troops and rebels were locked in fierce fighting across several districts in Damascus and Aleppo. “Violent clashes are taking place in the Salah Al Deen, Azimiyah, Akramiyeh and Ard Al Sabbagh neighbourhoods between the regular army and the rebels,” reports said,

Syrian rebels claimed yesterday still to be in control of an Iraq-Syria border point they captured a day earlier, as Iraqi forces upped security and shut down the crossing.

The Albu Kamal border point, one of three between the two countries that a senior Iraqi official said were in the hands of the rebel Free Syrian Army, was the site of heavy clashes on Thursday.

A Syrian brigadier-general and 20 other military officers, including four colonels, were among 710 people who fled from Syria to Turkey overnight.

The latest defections brought the number of Syrian generals sheltering in Turkey to 22, the official said. A total of 43,387 Syrian refugees are registered as living in Turkey.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, up to 30,000 Syrians have fled into Lebanon over the past 48 hours.

The developments came as Russia’s envoy to Paris said he believed Syrian leader Al Assad was ready to go “in a civilised manner” but Syrian ministry denied his statements.

Also yesterday, General Hesham Ikhtiyar, the head of Syrian national security wounded in a Damascus bomb blast that killed three senior officials, died of his wounds.