Syria's Assad: We are in a 'real state of war'
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told his new government yesterday to spare no effort to win what he now calls a full-scale war.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last night pronounced his country to be in a state of war and told a new government to spare no effort in achieving a victory.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Mr. Assad said in a speech broadcast on state television, according to Reuters. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
The comment, made during a speech to his newly appointed cabinet, is Assad's first pronouncement of war; he has previously dismissed Syria's conflict as an armed insurgency led by foreign militants. News organizations and international leaders, including some at the United Nations, began describing the conflict as a civil war weeks ago.
But the rebel forces now number between 10,000 and 15,000, according to US estimates, and they have stepped up their campaign, staging bolder, higher-impact attacks, CNN reports. They've also benefited from several high-level defections from the Syrian Army.
Today, gunmen stormed the headquarters of pro-government TV station Al-Ikhbariya south of Damascus, leaving seven people dead and kidnapping several more before blowing up station buildings, the Associated Press reports. "What happened today is a massacre, a massacre against the freedom of the press," Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi said in comments broadcast on state-run Syrian TV. "They carried out a terrifying massacre by executing the employees."
Meanwhile, the outskirts of Damascus are home to the site of some of the fiercest fighting the capital area has seen. Violence so close to the center of the capital – roughly five miles from the city's oldest open air markeplace and downtown – has been rare. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the Globe and Mail that today's fighting marked the first time the regime forces have used artillery in such proximity to Damascus.