AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian air and ground bombardment killed at least 27 people in eastern neighborhoods of Damascus on Wednesday, prompting thousands of people to flee the area, opposition activists said.
Many more were killed when troops briefly entered several districts after the shelling and air strikes, carrying out summary executions before withdrawing, the activists said.
The civilian exodus was the largest from the area since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began, they said.
Syrian state curbs on foreign media make it difficult to verify accounts by both sides in the 17-month-old conflict.
Obaida Omar, an activist in Ain Tarma, said troops entered the house of his neighbor, a carpenter, and killed him as they conducted house-to-house raids.
"He had managed to send his family away. I entered after the troops left and found him hacked (to death). I saw the bodies of three other men with bullet holes to their heads in another building the army stormed," Omar said by phone.
An activist who gave her name as Reem and who has relatives in the area, said: "Basically, anyone who has a car or got hold of transport fled."
She said the bombardment had killed eight people in the Jobar district. The rest of the casualties were reported in Zamalka, Irbin, Kfar Batna, and Ain Tarma to the east, a string of working-class Sunni Muslim suburbs that surround the capital.
Activists said most residents of these areas were fleeing towards Damascus or northwards towards the town of Dumair.
Assad has been increasingly using his best-equipped and best-trained forces, based on hilltops in and around Damascus, to maintain a grip on the capital, where rebels have been staging hit-and-run attacks against the army.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Alistair Lyon)