Syrian anti-regime activists say government shelling has killed 16 people, mostly rebels, near Damascus.

Secretary of State John Kerry (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The attack near the Syrian capital comes as Secretary of State John Kerry lobbies European allies to back Washington's proposed military action against the Syrian regime.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says President Bashar Assad's troops fired mortars and artillery early Saturday at opposition fighters' positions near Moldokhiya, an agricultural area south of Damascus, killing 14 rebels. Two civilians also died in the shelling, The Observatory said.

The groups also reported heavy fighting between rebels and Assad troops around the Christian village of Maaloula. The attack, which started Monday, was reportedly spearheaded by al-Qaida-linked fighters and has added to fears of Syrian religious minorities over the role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks.

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