ALEPPO: Syrian troops on Tuesday pounded Aleppo to thwart a rebel advance in Syria's second city, activists said, as Hollywood star Angelina Jolie visited a Jordanian camp for refugees from the conflict.
Violence and bloodshed were reported in other parts of Syria as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was set to meet members of the Syrian opposition in Cairo ahead of a planned visit to Damascus for talks with officials, his spokesman said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was also in Cairo for talks with President Mohamed Morsi on Syria, amid a diplomatic flurry in the Egyptian capital where Syrian neighbours also gathered to discuss the conflict.
Brahimi would meet "representatives of the Syrian opposition as well as activists and Syrian intellectuals," his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told.
The envoy began on Monday what he called a "very difficult" mission to bring peace to Syria, where nearly 18 months of conflict has killed more than 27,000 people according to a watchdog, and over 20,000 according to the UN.
"I realise it's a very difficult mission, but I think it is not my right to refuse to give whatever assistance I can to the Syrian people," Brahimi said in Cairo, adding he planned on going to Damascus within a "few days."
Syria's pro-government newspaper Al-Watan, quoting a "private" source, said that Brahimi would travel Saturday to Damascus, where the UN-Arab League envoy said he expected to meet President Bashar al-Assad and civil society figures.
A day after nearly 140 people were reportedly killed across Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said bombardments by troops saw fighting ground to a standstill in Aleppo amid reports a civilian refuge was struck.
The overnight shelling targeted several Aleppo neighbourhoods, said the Britain-based Observatory which relies on activist and witness accounts.
A resident said rebels tried to storm the central Aleppo district of Midan but were repelled. "Last night the army launched an operation and pushed them north, back toward Bustan al-Basha," the source said.
In the Aleppo province town of As-Safira, "mortar fire from an air defence battalion targeted residential buildings and a school, where many refugees from disaster-stricken areas sought refuge and shelter," according to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists on the ground.
The Observatory said it was unable to immediately confirm the report.
The United Nations says more than 1.2 million Syrians, over half of them children, have become internally displaced in the country while an estimated 250,000 refugees sought shelter in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Their plight was put again under their spotlight on Tuesday as US actress Jolie, a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), toured a UN-run camp in northern Jordan along with High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.
"We encourage the international community to do all that it can to support the refugees," Jolie told a joint news conference at the Zaatari camp, with Guterres and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at her side.
"It is very emotional to be with people who are wondering who is on their side," said the Oscar-winning actress who in June donated $100,000 to aid Syrian refugees.