Syria in full-scale 'civil war' - UN peacekeeping chief
The fighting in Haffeh started last Tuesday when rebels clashed with security forces setting up checkpoints to tighten their grip on the town, which lies close to the Mediterranean port city of Latakia as well as the Turkish border.
Twenty-nine civilians, 23 rebels and 68 soldiers have been killed since then and state forces appear intent on seizing control of the rebel-held town. "The question is, at what price?", the Observatory's director, Rami Abdulrahman, said.
Rebels said they were trying to smuggle trapped civilians out of Haffeh, a Sunni Muslim town in the foothills of the coastal mountains which form the heartland of the ruling minority Alawite sect.
They said hundreds of their fighters were facing a tank and helicopter-backed assault by forces loyal to Mr Assad.
"Every few days we manage to open a route to get the wounded out, so some families were able to escape yesterday," said one rebel in Haffeh, who called himself Abdulwudud.
"The situation is dire. Forget the weapons, people need medicine and food. As you know, we're in a state of war in Syria. The army could enter Haffeh in minutes if it wanted but it is trying to crush it instead," said rebel commander Abdulaziz Kanaan, speaking from Turkey.
State television said security forces were continuing "their pursuit of remnants of the terrorists who attacked residents".
A foreign ministry statement also reiterated that Syria was committed to Mr Annan's peace plan, but said the agreement gave Damascus the right to prevent attacks on the army and on state institutions.
A United Nations report into children in armed conflict said that children as young as nine had been victims of killing, maiming, arbitrary arrest, torture, sexual violence and use as human shields.
"In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian Armed Forces, the intelligence forces and the Shabbiha militia," it said.
There were also credible reports of children being recruited by the rebel Free Syrian Army, it said, and in one incident in March the army and Shabbiha placed children aged 8 to 13 in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel raiding a village.