Assad gives televised speech saying battle with rebels continues
UPDATE 1130 GMT: In a televised address, Bashar al-Assad says that his army has not yet defeated rebels although the regime has blocked Western designs to topple him:
Talking about foiling the Western project doesn’t mean we are victorious; the battle is still going on, and the signs of victory are there, but victory itself is another thing.
He paid tribute to Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah: “Their direct support – politically, economically and militarily – has made possible advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war.
Assad said he welcomed Russian “de-escalation zones”, invoking “reconciliation” agreements — the regime’s label for the capitulation of opposition areas. However, he did not mention the breaking by his forces of a Russian-brokered ceasefire in and near Damascus.
He rejected a federal Syria — which would include Kurdish autonomy and possible confirmation of opposition-held territory — despite signs that it might be accepted by Russia as well as Assad foes like Turkey:
We will not allow enemies and rivals to achieve through politics what they failed to achieve through terrorism. We must work seriously from now to build the future Syria on solid bases.
Everything related to the destiny and future of Syria is a one hundred percent Syrian issue, and the unity of Syrian territory is self-evident and not up for debate or discussion.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Assad regime warplanes and artillery — and a suspected chlorine attack — pounded opposition-held areas in and near Syria’s capital Damascus on Saturday, only a day after Russia had supposedly brokered a truce with a prominent rebel faction.
The Russian Defense Ministry had said that it arranged a ceasefire, taking effect at 9 p.m. on Friday, with the Failaq al-Rahman faction.
But the regime resumed bombardment of Jobar, in northeast Damascus, and Ein Tarma, within hours. Video showed clinics treating patients for breathing problems from what activists said was another “toxic gas” attack.
The regime military used chemicals, probably chlorine, on seven occasions in July. Five attacks were on Jobar and Ein Tamra, where pro-Assad forces have tried for months to break rebel resistance.
“After the first few hours…there were many violations midnight they dropped barrel bombs and from the morning there have been strikes across the [East] Ghouta [area],” said Failaq al-Rahman spokesman Wael Alwan.
Alwan and the White Helmets civil defense also pointed to attacks and casualties on other Damascus suburb, with at least five civilians killed in Hamouriya and Zamalka.
Despite airstrikes and bombardment as well as the chemical attacks, the pro-Assad offensive has been unable to make significant gains and has reportedly taken heavy casualties. Rebels said this week that more than 50 pro-Assad troops had been killed and more than 80 wounded.
Russia announced a “de-escalation zone” in East Ghouta earlier this month, with Russian military police supposedly manning checkpoints on the perimeter. However, Moscow was vague about the boundaries of the zone, and pro-Assad forces and their allies have not stopped their assaults in and near Damascus.
“This shows the lack of seriousness by the Russia to put pressure on the regime,” Alwan said on Saturday.