BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Rebel fighters in Syria said they had taken control of a strategic town on the Turkish border on Tuesday, and the international envoy to Syria said in Damascus that he had yet to receive any response from President Bashar al-Assad to proposals he delivered to halt the country's deepening war.
During an hourlong meeting with domestic dissidents, the envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, declined to discuss the substance of any proposals, according to Hassan Abdel Azim, one of six people who attended the meeting. The envoy said only that "he discussed offers proposed by regional, international and opposition figures," Mr. Abdel Azim said.
"There was no reply on behalf of Assad," he added.
Some Syrian opposition members, citing meetings with Mr. Brahimi before he traveled to Damascus on Sunday, said they had expected him to push a plan that would keep Mr. Assad in power temporarily while stripping him of much of his authority. Some also had expected Mr. Brahimi to tell the Syrian president that he was running out of time to make a deal to leave the country safely, along with senior members of his government.
The prospects for a breakthrough seemed dim. Many opposition figures have said they would oppose any deal that would allow Mr. Assad to remain in power. A senior member of Mr. Assad's Baath Party said Tuesday in Damascus that it was unlikely that the president would accept any offer that curbed his power and prevented him from running in future elections.
Regarding international proposals for a unity government of current officials and members of the opposition, the party member said that Mr. Assad "will accept a national coalition government, but under his command."
The party member said the only hope for a deal would require Russia and the United States to agree on its outlines, and for Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to press rebel groups they support to stop fighting.
Mr. Brahimi's visit to Damascus was not announced beforehand, reflecting security concerns as the fighting draws nearer to the seat of the government's power. In the last week, emboldened rebel groups have pushed aggressively to capture territory in the capital's suburbs and near the city of Hama, in west-central Syria.
Heavy fighting was reported Tuesday in the eastern suburbs of Damascus and north of Hama, where government forces and rebels have been fighting each other from neighboring villages. In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian state news agency said the army was "inflicting heavy losses" on armed groups in the area.
In northwestern Syria, rebels said they had wrested control of the town of Harem, on the border with Turkey, after months of fighting. In October, a Reuters photographer traveled with the rebels as they came under attack from government warplanes and snipers. The photographer witnessed ferocious street battles and scenes of brutality, including what appeared to be at least one summary execution of a government loyalist by armed rebels.
Amateur video posted on the Internet on Tuesday showed rebel fighters strolling through a medieval citadel in the town, gazing up at its stone arches. Government fighters, who had used the fortress as a base, had apparently departed in a hurry, leaving their bedding, pots and pans, a boot, and a helmet behind.
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.