For the past week, rebels have been launching attacks in the area, most notably in the nearby village of Morek, where they hope to seize control of the country's main north-south highway, preventing the regime from getting supplies to its forces further north in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
On Saturday, one rebel group threatened to storm two predominantly Christian towns nearby if their residents did not "evict" government troops they said were using them as a base to attack nearby areas.
The activist accounts could not be independently verified due to restrictions on reporting in Syria. The Syrian government does not respond to requests for comment on its military activities.
The attack coincided with the start of a two-day visit by Lakhdar Brahimi, who represents the U.N. And the Arab League, to meet with top Syrian officials.
Brahimi has made little apparent progress toward ending Syria's crisis since assuming his post in September, mostly because the sides appear more interested in fighting it out than in sitting down for talks.
Brahimi did not speak publicly upon arriving in Damascus for a two-day mission, and it was unclear whether he would present new ideas to end the war. His trip appeared troubled from the start.
Instead of flying directly to Syria as he had on previous visits, Brahimi landed in Beirut and traveled to the Syrian capital by land because of fighting near the Damascus airport, Lebanese officials said.
The Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, said Brahimi was expected to meet Syria's foreign minister later Sunday and President Bashar Assad on Monday.
The trip is Brahimi's third since taking the job following the resignation of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan after both sides disregarded a cease-fire he brokered in April.