NEW: Activists report 62 killed in Damascus and its suburbs, including an entire family
Video shows Syrian VP in Damascus after defection claims
An opposition activist says Daraya is under fire because it revolted against the regime
440 people were reported dead Saturday, including more than 200 bodies found in Daraya
A day after more than 440 bodies were recovered – the highest single-day death toll to date in the nation’s civil war – at least 160 more people were found dead in Syria on Sunday.
Here are some of the latest key developments in the country’s 17-month crisis.
On the ground: Daraya becomes a horror story
On Sunday, 62 people were killed in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The LCC said 21 people, including an entire family, were found dead in the Damascus suburb of Daraya.
It said 48 people were killed Sunday in Daraa, the town south of Damascus near the Jordanian border where Syria’s uprising began.
CNN spoke by Skype to an activist named Osama, who said the army was executing families in their homes in Daraya and stealing some possessions. He said shelling began last Monday and the military closed all the ways in and out, but he kept in contact with people inside Daraya through the Internet.
He was told the army moved into the neighborhood on Friday and began sweeping through buildings where families were taking cover.
At least 50 bodies were found in one apartment basement, he reported.
Saturday’s death toll included more than 200 bodies found in Daraya, but it was unclear when those victims were killed.
CNN cannot independently verify reports of death tolls, as the Syrian regime has severely limited access by international journalists.
It’s not surprising that Daraya came under attack, opposition activist Rafif Jouejati said.
“Daraya is being targeted because it is the closest to the capital, and it is one of the first cities that revolted against the Assad regime and was the spearhead of the peaceful demonstrations in the beginning of the revolution,” said Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the LCC.
“I believe the regime thinks that the only way to end the revolution is (to) kill, kill, kill. Deep down, they know they are failing, but they want to destroy as much as possible before it is over.”
But the Syrian government had a different take on the situation in Daraya:
“The armed forces cleared the town of Daraya in Damascus countryside from terrorists … eliminating a large number of them,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Inside Damascus: VP surfaces
New video shows Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa in Damascus holding an official meeting in the capital, despite reports this month that he had defected.
The video, distributed by Reuters, showed al-Sharaa meeting with a top Iranian official, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who according to Syrian state media arrived in Damascus on Saturday.
Iran’s state-run Press TV also reported that al-Sharaa had met with an Iranian official “amid anti-Assad TV’s defection rumors.”
More than a week ago, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army said al-Sharaa had fled the regime.
Syrian state-run TV, at the time, did not explicitly say whether al-Sharaa had defected, but reported that the vice president’s office issued a statement saying al-Sharaa “has never at any moment thought of leaving the homeland to whatever direction.”
Had al-Sharaa defected, it would have marked the highest-level departure from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime yet. A stream of Syrian officials resigned from the regime in recent weeks, including Republican Guard Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas and Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. Like al-Sharaa, the men are Sunnis who held top posts in a government dominated by the country’s Alawite minority.
Observers view al-Sharaa’s power and influence as more significant than the prime minister, who only served in the post for weeks. Al-Sharaa has more clout as a long-time prominent, loyal member of the regime’s old guard. He served as foreign minister under al-Assad and his late father, Hafez, for more than 20 years and has been vice president since 2006.
The region: Turkey denies sending aid to rebels, slams the Syrian government
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rejected claims that his country was shipping weapons to Syrian rebels in their quest to oust al-Assad, the Anadolu news agency reported Saturday.
“These are the arguments which authoritarian regimes had always used to conceal their internal problems,” Davutoglu told the NTV news channel, according to Anadolu.
Davutoglu added, “No regime fighting its own people can survive long. (The al-Assad regime) has months, and maybe even weeks – not years.”
CNN’s Yousif Basil and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.