DAMASCUS  - Syrian armour moved on protest centres and a general was gunned down in Damascus on Saturday as the bloodshed showed no signs of abating, even spilling over into Lebanon.

The Syrian National Council, or SNC, said Arab recognition of the opposition umbrella group was imminent, ahead of key talks in the Egyptian capital on the crisis. In Aleppo, tensions escalated as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces stepped up security after twin car bombs killed 28 people and wounded 235 in Syria’s second city on Friday, activists said. Twenty-five people were killed across Syria on Saturday, all but six of them civilians, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Tank shelling killed 10 civilians in Homs, nine of them in the rebel stronghold neighbourhood of Baba Amr, Abdel Rahman told AFP. Dozens were wounded.

Assad’s forces have been waging a brutal weeklong onslaught on the central protest city of Homs that has killed more than 450 people, rights groups say.

Security forces advanced into Zabadani, another main centre of resistance near Damascus, before the rebels withdrew to avoid any civilian casualties, said Abdel Rahman.

A general was shot dead outside his Damascus home, state media said. If confirmed, it would be one of the most brazen attacks on the top brass in the capital since the uprising erupted in March last year.

“An armed terrorist group this morning assassinated brigadier general and doctor, Issa al-Khawli, the director of Hamish hospital, outside his home in the district of Ruknaddin,” SANA state news agency said.

In Lebanon, two people died and 24 were wounded in fierce clashes between Sunni Muslims hostile to Syria’s regime and Alawites who support it, a security official said.

“A Sunni and an Alawite were killed and 24 people were wounded in clashes that continued since Friday between people from the neighbourhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh” in the northern city of Tripoli, he told AFP. Ten of the wounded were Lebanese soldiers, including a sergeant in critical condition.

The two sides fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other in the bloodiest clashes since June, when six people died in the wake of demonstrations against Syria’s government.

Sunni-majority Tripoli has in the past few years been the scene of intense clashes between Sunni supporters of the anti-Syrian opposition and Alawites loyal to a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Iran and Syria.

Assad hails from the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Syrian state media blamed “terrorists” for Friday’s double car bomb attacks on security posts in Aleppo.

The rebel Free Syrian Army accused the “criminal” regime of launching the attacks “to steer attention away from what it is doing in Homs, Zabadani and elsewhere.”

A report citing unnamed US officials said the bombings were likely to have been carried out by the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda, along with attacks on Damascus in December and January.

McClatchy Newspapers said the incidents appeared to verify Assad’s charges of Al-Qaeda involvement in the uprising against his 11-year rule.

And Iraq’s deputy interior minister said on Saturday that Jihadists are moving from Iraq to Syria, as are weapons being sent to Assad’s opponents.

“We have intelligence information that a number of Iraqi jihadists went to Syria,” Adnan al-Assadi told AFP, adding that “weapons smuggling is still ongoing” from Iraq to Syria.

On Saturday, snipers were deployed and at least three armoured vehicles seen entering Sakhur, an Aleppo neighbourhood with simmering dissent against Assad’s regime, one activist said.

Some residents who lost family members in the bombings were frustrated by the authorities’ refusal to hand over their bodies, an activist who identified himself as Mohammed told AFP from Aleppo.

Th commercial hub has been largely spared the violence that rights groups say has killed more than 6,000 people in Syria since breaking out.

In Doha, the SNC’s Ahmed Ramadan said the group has “confirmations of an Arab recognition that will soon take place, though not necessarily on Sunday,” when the Arab League meets on Syria.

Turkey said, meanwhile, it plans to lodge a formal request to the UN for an aid operation to help Syrians suffering a “humanitarian tragedy.”