Activists say Syrian warplanes and helicopter gunships have struck targets in a central village in what appears to be preparations for a ground offensive on the rebel stronghold.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian warplanes conducted at least eight air strikes on the town of Kfar Zeita in Hama province. It had no word on casualties.

A Hama-based activist who goes by the name of Yazan Shahdawi said that by the afternoon there had been about 20 strikes, as well as artillery shelling.

Saturday's bombardment of the central town came two days after government forces captured the nearby town of Halfaya.

After retaking Halfaya, troops are now are better positioned to defend nearby Christian and Alawite communities that support President Bashar Assad.