Protest Funeral Procession
Protest Funeral ProcessionReuters

The Lebanon-based Daily Star reported Monday that 13 French Soldiers have been captured by Syrian forces.

The paper cited pro-Assad sources in Damascus it said were affiliated with anti-Israel terror groups saying the soldiers had been seized by troops loyal to Assad in field hospitals in Homs.

According to London's Daily Telegraph, however, the French Foreign Ministry dismissed the report, insisting that "not a single French soldier is on Syrian soil."

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "We deny the idea that there are French troops on the ground in Syria."

The report of captured French soldiers comes as Western powers wrangle over whether to mount a Lybia-style campaign in support of Syria's rebels.

Meanwhile, Syrian artillery began pounding the rebel city of Rastan on Monday, killing seven civilians.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the seven, including four children, were killed when a house was hit.

The shelling came as Red Cross teams began distributing relief supplies to refugees from the central city of Homs.

At least 700 civilians were killed and thousands wounded in four straight weeks of shelling of the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs.

Raids in Hama and shelling on the border town of Qusair were also reported.

The shelling of Rastan coincided with a call from China on all parties to "unconditionally" implement a cease-fire and "end the violence."

"The Syrian government and all parties concerned should immediately, fully and unconditionally cease all acts of violence, particularly violence against innocent civilians," China released.

Beijing maintained, however, its firm opposition to the imposition of universal sanctions by the United Nations.

Human rights groups reported there were ongoing clashes in the villages around Idib, where 57 army defectors were summarily executed over the weekend.

A Syrian intelligence officer was captured by fighters from the Syrian Free Army in the fighting, the reports say.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has presided over a bloody crackdown for over a year that has resulted in at least 7,300 civilian casualties.