Syria Defiant

January 7, 2013

Syria’s state media reported earlier today that government troops were successful in stopping last night’s rebel attack on a police school in the northern city of Aleppo. The attack occurred on the same day that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Syrians to fight the rebel opposition driven by what he characterized as “religious extremists.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said regime forces killed and wounded members of a “terrorist group” in the fighting late Sunday, but the agency failed to provide a number for the killed and wounded.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a former commercial hub, has been a major front in the civil war since July, with battles often raging for control of military and security facilities such as the police school. Rebels have made progress in capturing territory around Aleppo, as well as in the east and in the capital Damascus, bringing Syria’s civil war closer to the seat of Assad’s power.

In yesterday’s speech, Assad outlined terms for a peace plan, but he dismissed any chance of dialogue with the rebel opposition, labeling them as “murderous criminals.” Bashar al-Assad addresses supporters in Damascus

This was Assad’s first public speech in six months, and he  appeared confident in the hour-long address. He vowed to continue the battle “as long as there is one terrorist left.”

The United Nations now estimates that 60,000 people have been killed in the civil war since that conflict began.

As violence spilling across Syria’s border with Turkey has increased in frequency, the international community has resolved to contain and constrain Syria’s border incursions.

Roughly 400 U.S. military personnel are being deployed to Turkey to help man Patriot anti-missile batteries. Turkey formally asked NATO for the missiles in November to bolster security along its 560-mile border with Syria. Turkey has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the frontier, and it responded in kind when Syrian military opened fire across its borders, fanning fears that the civil war could spread to destabilize the region.

The 400 U.S. troops will man two of the Patriot batteries out of a total of six batteries that have been promised by NATO allies. Two other anti-missile batteries left a Netherlands military base this morning en route to the Turkish border. Roughly 300 Dutch soldiers will man the Dutch  batteries. Germany has been tapped to send the final two anti-missile batteries requested by the Turkish government.

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