FILE - This Aug. 25, 2013 file photo shows black columns of smoke rising from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood in East of Damascus, Syria. U.S. intelligence agencies did not detect the Syrian regime readying a massive chemical weapons attack in the days ahead of the strike, only piecing together what had happened after the fact, U.S. officials say. One of the key pieces of intelligence Secretary of State John Kerry later used to link the attack to the Syrian government _ intercepts of communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the strikes _ was in the hands of U.S. intelligence agencies but had not yet been "processed," according to senior U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian anti-regime activists say government shelling has killed 16 people, mostly rebels, near Damascus.
The attack near the Syrian capital comes as Secretary of State John Kerry lobbies European allies to back Washington's proposed military action against the Syrian regime.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says President Bashar Assad's troops fired mortars and artillery early Saturday at opposition fighters' positions near Moldokhiya, an agricultural area south of Damascus, killing 14 rebels. Two civilians also died in the shelling, The Observatory said.
The groups also reported heavy fighting between rebels and Assad troops around the Christian village of Maaloula. The attack, which started Monday, was reportedly spearheaded by al-Qaida-linked fighters and has added to fears of Syrian religious minorities over the role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks.