The former is not a stranger to artillery fire being directed indiscriminately into civilian neighborhoods. But the assault on Saraqib - near the Turkish border - is a new target for Assad's forces.
Syrian forces pounded the already battered city of Homs with tank and mortar fire and troops raided a rebellious northern town on Saturday, leaving 10 civilians and four soldiers dead, opposition activists said.
With the year-long bloodshed showing no signs of abating, the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, flew to Moscow in an effort to secure strong Russian support for his efforts to bring about a ceasefire and open political dialogue.
While Western and Arab states are calling for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down first, Russia is putting the onus on the armed rebels and their foreign supporters to halt their year-long uprising, saying its long-time ally Syria was ready for talks.
"Russia sees an immediate end of violence in Syria is a priority," the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday, a day ahead of Annan's meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.
"... the key task is to convince the Syrian opposition to sit down at the negotiation table with the authorities and reach a peaceful resolution of the crisis," it added.
On the ground, the idea of a negotiated peace seemed more remote than ever, with clashes reported in numerous locations.
Four died in Homs, the epicentre of the anti-Assad revolt, as the central city suffered another day of what activists said was indiscriminate gunfire and shelling on residential areas.
"The shelling started like it does every morning, for no reason. They are using mortar and tank fire on many neighbourhoods of old Homs," an activist in Homs's Bab Sbaa district told Reuters by Skype.
As usual, Russia has it arse backwards. Assad is attacking the people, not the other way around. If Moscow believes it can save its client in Syria by stalling out the international community, they are mistaken. The rebels are growing stronger, not weaker, and the more Assad delays, the better the odds he won't survive what's coming.