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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Assad: Army Engaged in Fight for Syria's Fate

August 01, 2012

by VOA News

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his army is engaged in a battle against rebels that will determine the fate of the country.

Assad praised the government forces Wednesday in a statement marking the 67th anniversary of the army's founding. He said the army has proven itself through its battle against "criminal" and "terrorist" gangs, saying that the Syrian people see the force as a defender of "just causes."

Assad's comments, published by the state news agency SANA, came as violence continued across the country.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one person was killed in fighting Wednesday between rebels and security forces in a predominantly Christian neighborhood of Damascus. Fighting has been rare in Christian areas of the capital during the 17-month uprising against Assad's rule. The Observatory says more than 20,000 people have been killed since the uprising began.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees also reported shelling Wednesday in Homs and Lattakia.

'Disturbing Pattern'

Meanwhile, in a new report on the government's ongoing assault in the country's largest city of Aleppo, rights group Amnesty International says the violence is the culmination of months of a "brutal crackdown" against dissidents.

“The current onslaught on the city of Aleppo - which puts civilians even more at grave risk - is a predictable development which follows the disturbing pattern of abuses by state forces across the country,” said Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser, Donatella Rovera, who recently spent several weeks in Syria investigating abuses.

Amnesty says large numbers of demonstrators and bystanders have been shot dead in Aleppo by security forces and armed militias working alongside government forces. The group says families of those killed have been pressured to sign statements saying their relatives were killed by "armed terrorist gangs."

The battle for Aleppo - the nation's commercial capital - has been one of the most critical fights in the Syrian uprising.

The United Nations said Sunday that some 200,000 civilians have fled Aleppo and surrounding areas in recent days. Those stuck inside the city are suffering from food and fuel shortages.

World Weighs Options

The United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a Saudi resolution on Syria.

The draft expresses grave concern about the violence and the government's threat to use chemical weapons against what Syria calls foreign invaders. It also calls on Assad to step down.

There are no vetoes in the General Assembly, unlike the Security Council, which saw Russia and China veto three separate resolutions threatening Syria with sanctions for using heavy weapons against civilians.

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