More than a score of people were killed Saturday in heavy bombardment by the Syrian military of the western border town of Qusayr and in clashes pitting army troops - backed by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah - against the rebels, Syrian opposition activists said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 22 dead and said 18 of them were insurgents who died while trying to defend Qusayr, in what the Syrian opposition said was the heaviest bombardment by government forces since they began their attack on the rebel-held town last Sunday.

As part of the offensive, rebels say 120 civilians - mostly women and children - have been detained by the military.

The opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission and the rebel Free Syrian Army said they feared those people would be either killed or used as human shields.

Qusayr, a town of 25,000 inhabitants, is a strategic enclave for the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels because of its location along a crucial weapons supply route that links northern Lebanon - which is majority Sunni - and the rebel-held Syrian city of Homs.

It is also crucial to the government because it lies on a road between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, a bastion of the country's Alawite minority, the Shiite offshoot to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs. EFE