But the fighting has defied previous attempts at diplomacy. Residents of Aleppo have told the Associated Press over the past week that jet fighters have been strafing rebel positions. Activists have posted numerous videos on the Internet showing rebels commandeering regime tanks after seizing their bases.
Aleppo has been plagued with violence since mid-July, when rebels first attempted to take it over. The rebels have succeeded in holding several neighborhoods despite daily assaults by regime tanks, helicopters and warplanes.
Syria’s state news agency on Wednesday claimed several victories by government forces in Aleppo, especially in the hotly contested rebel bastion of Salaheddine. It said dozens of “terrorists” were killed, including some with African nationalities.
Rebels gave a different account, saying they had extended their control over the strategic city by taking two police stations.
“Today you are invited to increase your readiness and willingness for the armed forces to be the shield, wall and fortress of our nation,” Assad said.
The regime has characterized the rebellion as the work of foreign terrorists, and Assad said that “internal agents” are collaborating with them.
“Our battle is against a multifaceted enemy with clear goals. This battle will determine the destiny of our people and the nation’s past, present and future,” he said.
The newly appointed defense minister, Gen. Fahd al-Freij, whose predecessor was killed in the July 18 bombing, echoed Assad’s words during a televised speech.
“The armed forces will pursue the remnants of these groups wherever they are and eliminate them, preserving the homeland from their evils and restoring peace and security to the country,” he said.
Assad’s only appearance since the July 18 bombing came in a brief taped segment on state TV as he swore in the new defense minister. But the clip had no audio, and it was unclear where it was shot.
Syria's powerful military, which is vital to keeping Assad in power, has largely held together over the course of the uprising. The pace of defections has risen recently, however. Neighboring Turkey has reported that 28 generals have already crossed the border.
In recent weeks the military has unleashed heavy weapons against the increasingly bold rebels, who have brought the fight to the country’s two largest cities. The military managed to drive the rebels out of Damascus after they made stunning — but short-lived — advances there. Rebels claimed responsibility for the bomb that killed four top Assad aides.
Minor clashes around Damascus continue, however, and residents of the Christian neighborhood of Bab Touma in the old city of Damascus reported a half-hour gun battle early Wednesday.
There was also ongoing fighting in several other cities, including Homs in central Syria. Homs was bombarded by mortars, artillery and rockets, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which cites a network of sources on the ground.View Entire Story
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