Syria has dispatched reinforcements to the Christian village of Maaloula where rebels have fought government troops this week.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdul-Rahman said the government forces include tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
Fighting in Maaloula began early on Wednesday when Islamist fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra stormed in after a suicide bomber struck an army checkpoint guarding the entrance.
The hit-and-run attacks on the ancient village, one of the few places where residents still speak Aramaic, highlighted fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of extremists among those fighting to topple the government.
Maaloula had been firmly in the government’s grip despite sitting in the middle of rebel-held territory east and north of the capital.