At least 24 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded, including women and children, in two separate car bombings southwest of Damascus, Syrian state media reports.

At least 24 civilians, including a large number of children, were killed in two separate car bombings southwest of Damascus on Thursday, state media reported.

Eight people, mostly women and children, were killed by a car bomb in the poor Sunni town of Jdaidet Artuz, state television reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four civilians were killed in the blast.

Less than eight kilometres away, a similar blast rocked the town of Qatana earlier in the day, leaving 16 people dead, seven of them children, state news agency SANA reported.

"This morning, terrorists targeted the residential area of Ras al-Nabaa with a vehicle loaded with explosives, blowing it up in front of the Mikhael Samaan school," the agency said. It blamed the attack on "terrorists," the standard regime for rebels.

Fighting was also taking place in various suburbs of Damascus between government troops and rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, anti-government activists said.

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"The battles are raging in the suburban areas of Daraya, Arbeen, Harasta," said Haytham al-Abdullah, a Syrian activist based in Damascus.

"Jets are using TNT barrel bombs to strike the opposition rebel bases in these areas," he told the DPA news agency.

US officials said on Wednesday that al-Assad's government had begun using Scud missiles and barrel bombs against rebels.

An upsurge in attacks by rebels on state institutions in Damascus has prompted authorities to tighten security around vital facilities, say activists.

The measure comes a day after three blasts targeted the interior ministry, killing at least nine people, activists said.

Source: Agencies