Syrian forces pressed their assault across the country as international peace envoy Kofi Annan stressed that there could be no deadline to ending the year-long crisis.
A UN official meanwhile said they were investigating reports that Syrian rebels were using child soldiers in their battle against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Clashes were reported in the central flashpoint city of Homs, in Damascus province and other areas, leaving at least 32 people dead, including 19 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least 16 people including four soldiers and two children died as regime forces pounded several neighbourhoods of Homs, the Britain-based watchdog said.
In Damascus province, seven soldiers and five civilians were killed in clashes in two towns — Harasta and Zabadani.
The violence came as Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, said no time limit could be set to ending Syrian crisis, which erupted last March.
“I think only Syrians should decide the issue of Assad’s resignation,” Annan told Russian news agencies in remarks translated into Russian.
“It’s important to sit all Syrians behind a negotiating table,” he said, speaking a day after meeting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The former UN chief said it was “incorrect to give any deadlines” for ending the violence in Syria, in which more than 9,100 people have already been killed, according to monitors.
Medvedev had warned on Sunday that Annan represented the last chance for avoiding a civil war in Syria, promising him Russia’s full support.
Annan is to hold talks on Tuesday with Chinese leaders in Beijing, who he has said he hopes will also back his mission.
Russia and China have vetoed previous resolutions condemning Assad’s regime, but last week backed a UN Security Council peace plan for Syria put forward by the UN-Arab League envoy.
Annan’s plan calls for a halt to fighting, with the government pulling troops and heavy weapons out of protest cities; a daily two-hour humanitarian pause to hostilities; and access to all areas affected by the fighting.
It also calls for the release of people detained in the uprising. However it imposes no deadline on Assad, nor does it call for his resignation.
The former UN chief’s spokesman said in a statement Monday that Damascus had responded to the six-point proposal to end the crisis.
“Mr Annan is studying it and will respond very shortly,” he said.
Medvedev, whose government has come under increasing pressure to act on Syria, discussed the crisis in Seoul with US President Barack Obama on Monday.
Afterwards, Obama acknowledged there had been disagreements in recent months between the United States and Russia, an ally of Assad’s regime.
But he said both agreed “we should be supportive of Kofi Annan’s efforts to end some of the bloodshed that is taking place in Syria”, and that the goal was to have a “legitimate” government in Damascus.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday and Sunday for talks on Syria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Ahead of Annan’s visit Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing “hopes this visit will allow in-depth discussions on a political resolution of the Syrian issue”.
In Turkey, Syria’s fragmented opposition met for talks.
“The aim is for the opposition to agree on a united position and to outline the major points of a national pact,” Mohamed Sermini, a member of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group, told AFP.
But at the United Nations in New York, Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children in armed conflict, told reporters: “We are receiving allegations of children with the Free Syrian Army.”
They had not been able to verify the allegations, she added, giving no further details.
Meanwhile international rights expert Yakin Erturk, a leading member of a UN human rights inquiry into Syria quit on Monday, blaming Assad’s refusal to let in outside investigators.
The crisis is also expected to dominate an Arab summit in Baghdad this week.
On the ground, security forces launched dawn raids in the eastern hot spot of Deir Ezzor, arresting 16 people, and also staged operations in Daraa province, activists said.
In central Hama, an activist said regime forces had raided Kafr Zeita.
“They arrested militants and doctors and burned down their houses,” Abu Ghazi, who was reached through Skype, told AFP.
The observatory said more than 70 percent of the population of Saraqeb in northwest Idlib province had fled a government assault that began on Saturday that had so far killed 18 civilians.