Assad calls on army to restore stability

Assad calls on army to restore stability
Members of the Free Syrian Army gather in the back as a burnt tank belonging to government forces is seen in Aleppo province on July 19, 2012. UPI/Khaled Tallawy | License Photo

ALEPPO, Syria, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad Wednesday called on his military to "give the nation back its stability" as fighting raged on in Aleppo.

Assad's comments came on the 67th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab Army, CNN reported.


"The enemy is among us and is using inside agents to destabilize the country and the security of its citizens," Assad said. "Today, as every day, our people look to you as you defend their honor and dignity and give the nation back its stability and give the people a sense of security and comfort and morale."

Earlier Wednesday, intense fighting carried into its 12th day in Aleppo and included fresh regime bombardments of rebel-held neighborhoods and street clashes in other parts of the nation's commercial capital, as the army sought to press forward with its counteroffensive to retake control of the northern Chicago-size city of about 2.5 million that fell into rebel hands last month, opposition activists and state media said.

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Syrian state TV said Tuesday government forces inflicted heavy losses on "terrorist groups" in and around Aleppo. The United Nations said thousands of residents were trapped.


Activists said regime ground troops and helicopter air assaults pounded opposition strongholds in the Salahuddin and Seif al-Dawla neighborhoods in the city's southwest.

Syrian rebels said they maintained control of those neighborhoods and reported taking over at least two important police stations in central Aleppo that a rebel officer said the regime of President Bashar Assad had transformed into "military centers."

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There were no police officers in the police stations, "just security forces and thugs and snipers," Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Okeidi, the head of the Aleppo military council of the Free Syrian Army, told The New York Times.

Rebel commanders said the regime launched its attacks from a military base on the city's southern edge, while rebel commanders and activists said the rebels controlled the city's eastern sections as well as the two large southwestern neighborhoods.

Free Syrian Army commanders told the British newspaper The Guardian their forces have stepped up use of improvised explosive devices, also known as a roadside bombs.

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The commanders said a secret network of informers inside the Syrian army and other parts of the regime passed on regular information about troop movements, allowing the rebels to strike at the army -- most recently blowing up tanks in a large convoy traveling to attack rebels inside Aleppo.


Iraqi insurgents used roadside bombs extensively in their campaign against the U.S. military and other coalition forces in the Iraq War. The devices were also used by Afghan insurgent groups in the 11-year Afghanistan War.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday it gave a Washington-based group clearance to provide direct financial assistance to the Free Syrian Army in a new Obama administration bid to support Syria's opposition.

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The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control approved a license July 23 letting the Syrian Support Group engage in "otherwise prohibited" financial activities with the rebel forces, said the license, seen by United Press International.

The license -- which expires July 31, 2014 -- requires detailed reports to the State Department's little-known Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions. It prohibits shipment of military equipment or hardware, but lets the group send money.

Funds would be raised and vetted by SSG, which would additionally provide guidance to rebel officers on their use, Brian Sayers, director of government relations for the support group, told The Wall Street Journal.

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"Part of our job is to monitor this," he said.

SSG was formed "to promote the establishment of a free, independent and democratic Syria," the group says on its Web site.


"We advocate military intervention by any willing country to ensure saving lives on the ground," the site says.

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