BEIRUT - Seventeen people, including 10 women, were killed overnight by shelling in the southern Syrian town of Deraa, where the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted 15 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The group, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of sources inside the country, reported fighting in the town between the army and rebels after the shelling.

In the capital Damascus, which was once relatively secure from the unrest, it said explosions were heard overnight after some of the fiercest fighting between rebels and security forces loyal to Assad. The main road south from Damascus to Deraa was blocked by burning tires, it said.

In addition to the deaths in Deraa, the Observatory said 44 civilians were killed across the country on Friday, nearly half of them in the central province of Homs and in Damascus districts and suburbs.

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