DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Syria's embattled president says the unrest in his country has gotten "much better" after 18 months of violence in which thousands have died.
Bashar Assad made the assertion in an interview airing Wednesday with pro-government al-Dounia TV, CNN reported.
"This military is carrying out its duties," Assad said in a portion of the interview released Tuesday. "The armed forces, the police and the security forces are carrying out heroic duties [in] every sense."
"The battle is a battle of perseverance," he added. "But we will go over all of this and explain it with one sentence and that is we are moving forward. Realistically, the situation is better."
Opposition groups said 23 people were killed Tuesday in an aerial attack on the northwestern province of Idlib.
Hundreds of people in Damascus died in the past few days in a government crackdown, they charged.
The United Nations has estimated at least 17,000 people have died since anti-Assad demonstrations began in March 2011. Human rights and rebel groups put the tally much higher.