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Syria’s Assad Predicts War Victory for His Forces Despite Rebel Attack on Homs

August 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn once again to Syria, where there was another bloody day and the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, called his country’s civil war the fiercest barbaric war in modern history.

Margaret Warner reports.

MAN: Allahu akbar!

MARGARET WARNER: That was a weapons depot, vaporized in a massive explosion today, as rebels rocketed an army-controlled district in the key crossroads city of Homs.

Opposition activists and local residents said at least 40 people were killed and three times that many injured. The attack showed the rebels still going on offense in the face of recent gains by government forces. Those regime gains gave President Bashar al-Assad the confidence to issue a statement today, predicting his forces will win the civil war and to take his first public trip outside Damascus in more than a year.

He addressed troops in Darayya, a suburb, in observance of Army Day.

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PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through interpreter): The power of the army comes from its people. But at the same time, it comes from the support of the people for you, and the Syrian nation strongly stands with you. From when this conflict first started, I have said we will be victorious. Martyrdom is a fate. But our goal is one of victory, and all the nation is awaiting the victory of the Syrian army.

MARGARET WARNER: Photos of destruction in Homs show those victories have come at an astonishing cost. What’s left of the city’s Khalidiya district is now back under Syrian army control.

Homs, 100 miles north of Damascus, is the gateway to Assad’s Alawite sect power base on the coast, and thus a crucial battleground. Farther north, parts of Idlib, Aleppo and Raqqa provinces are held by various rebel groups, but the city of Idlib is under regime control and brutal fighting rages in the commercial hub of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, there are still questions about chemical weapons use in the Syrian civil war. The United Nations says it will soon deploy investigators to three sites. The U.N., U.S. and other countries have concluded chemical weapons have been used, but with mixed judgments as to who’s responsible.

Meanwhile, as the fighting grinds on, President Obama approved arms shipments to some rebels, but many of them say it may be too little, too late.