A suicide bomb attack at a government building in central Damascus has killed at least four people and wounded more than a dozen.
The bomber detonated himself using an explosive belt at the Syrian defence ministry in the Jisr al-Abyad area in the capital’s centre, according to state media and a monitoring group.
Elsewhere, activists and residents say rebels have taken control of parts of an ancient Christian town in the Qalamoun region, about 60 kilometres northeast of Damascus.
Hardline Islamic brigades first began attacking Syrian forces in Maaloula three days ago.
The mother superior of a convent there said 12 nuns had been abducted by opposition fighters and taken to a rebel-held town. She added she had received a call from one saying they were still alive.
Residents have fled to Damascus, fearing they will be punished for supporting the government and for being Christians.
The majority of the residents still speak a version of Aramaic, the language of Christ.