Beirut • President Bashar Assad of Syria said Wednesday that his government’s battle against opposition forces would need “time” and that a proposal floated by Syria’s opponents to create buffer zones inside the country was unrealistic.
In excerpts from an interview with Assad that will air on a private Syrian channel Thursday night, the president framed the conflict and Syria as a “global and regional war,” praised the heroism of his army and criticized officials in neighboring Turkey, who have raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria.
“Will we go backward, because of the ignorance of some Turkish officials?” he said.
“We are moving forward,” Assad added. “The situation, practically, is better.”
In the excerpts, the president also addressed persistent rumors that he had gone into hiding, perhaps somewhere outside Syria’s capital, saying he was in the presidential palace in Damascus. Assad last appeared on television 10 days ago, when he visited a Damascus mosque during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
The interview comes after days of fierce fighting in the capital’s suburbs, including in the city of Daraya, where hundreds of people were said to have been killed over the last week as the army tried to rout armed opposition fighters who made a base in the city. Opposition activists said at least 11 people had been killed in fighting in the eastern suburbs of Damascus on Wednesday, where the government has said it is pursuing “cleansing” operations.
In an article published Wednesday in the British daily The Independent, residents of Daraya raised the possibility that opposition fighters were behind some of the killings last week. One woman said in the article that she saw at least 10 bodies on the road, before government troops had entered Daraya. Another man said some victims, including civil employees and off-duty conscripts, might have been killed because of their association with the government.