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Last month the international aid group Doctors Without Borders said tens of thousands of Syrians, many of them wounded, are trapped in Deir el-Zour.

In Aleppo, where rebels fought troops to a stalemate last year, the two sides clashed near the air force intelligence building in the Zahra neighborhood.

The state-run SANA news agency said an army unit killed “a number of terrorists and destroyed a convoy of cars that was transporting weapons, ammunition and terrorists” in Deir el-Zour.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi formed a ministerial committee to conduct dialogue with opposition groups, SANA reported. The dialogue is part of efforts to implement a peace plan Mr. Assad outlined in a speech a week ago.

In his first address to the nation in six months, Mr. Assad rejected international calls to step down and offered to oversee a national reconciliation conference, while rejecting any talks with the armed opposition and vowing to continue fighting them.

The speech was condemned by the U.S. and its Western and Gulf Arab allies, while Mr. Assad’s backers in Russia and Iran said his proposal should be considered.

In a rare demonstration in Damascus, dozens of protesters staged a sit-in at the Justice Ministry on Sunday, demanding the minister move against merchants who activists claim are trying to profit from the crisis by raising prices of cooking gas, flour and bread.

Food prices have soared in the past year in Syria as the value of the local currency plummeted because of the conflict and an international ban on oil exports.

• Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this article.