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      Assad vows to retake every inch of Syrian soil — with ceasefire hours away

      Assad vows to retake every inch of Syrian soil — with ceasefire hours away Assad vows to retake every inch of Syrian soil — with ceasefire hours away Assad vows to retake every inch of Syrian soil — with ceasefire hours away
      Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters in Paris in 2010. (Remy de la Mauviniere/AP)

      Syria

      Assad vows to retake every inch of Syrian soil — with ceasefire hours away

      By Davide Mastracci

      Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised to retake every inch of Syrian soil taken from the regime, mere hours before a ceasefire was set to take hold between forces in the country's civil war.

      On Monday, in a rare public appearance, Assad spoke to congregants gathered for Eid al-Adha prayers in a mosque in Damascus.

      Assad expressed dismay that, "after five years, some people still haven't woken up from their fantasies," and vowed to retake "every area from the terrorists and to rebuild."

      Assad has often labelled all forces fighting against his regime as terrorists.

      The speech took place in the Daraya suburb of Damascus, which, until last month, had been a stronghold for forces attempting to topple Assad.

      A two-day ceasefire, brokered by the US and Russia, will begin at sunset on Monday. The deal calls for US-backed opposition, and the Russian-backed regime, to refrain from attacking each other, though the regime will still be able to target Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) targets.

      The two states, who have backed opposing forces throughout the conflict, have been in negotiations for months to attempt to put an end to the fighting.

      If the ceasefire holds for a week, the US and Russia will embark on a joint air-strike campaign against IS and JFS, seen as among the most radical rebel forces.

      JFS recently cut all official ties with al Qaeda, seemingly in an attempt to escape their designation as a terrorist group and further embed within rebel forces.

      The deal, however, requires that "moderate" rebel forces, as designated by the US and Russia, distance themselves from, and denounce, IS and JFS, or risk being hit in the strikes.

      The deal will also allow aid workers, currently on standby, to deliver supplies to civilians caught in the protracted siege of Aleppo.

      Opposition groups have not yet endorsed the deal, and some believe it will inevitably benefit the regime by further fracturing an already divided rebel force. JFS hoped their departure from al Qaeda would allow for a unified opposition to topple the regime.

      In the hours leading up to the ceasefire, however, the regime pressed on with air strikes on opposition targets, killing at least 70 people in Aleppo and Idlib.

      This had led some to believe the regime is not taking the ceasefire seriously.

      Speaking with the Telegraph, Dr. Farida, who works in a hospital in the rebel controlled eastern Aleppo, said, "I do not believe in the ceasefire, it is a big lie. I do not believe they will stop bombing—my daughter wanted to go out and play on the swings today, but I am afraid of the bombs so I didn't let her out."

      Several ceasefire attempts between the two forces have failed over the past few years.

      Follow Davide Mastracci on Twitter: @DavideMastracci

      Topics: syria, assad, war & conflict, islamic state, defense & security

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