Syria: No talks with rebels until they're crushed

Syrians inspect the site of a car bomb that ripped through Jaramana, a mainly Christian and Druze suburb of Damascus, on September 3, 2012. AFP/GettyImages

(AP) BEIRUT - The Syrian regime said Monday there will be no dialogue with the opposition before the army crushes the rebels, the latest sign that President Bashar Assad is determined to solve the crisis on the battlefield even if many more of his people have to pay with their lives.

The statement comes a day after activists reported that August was the bloodiest month since the uprising began in March 2011.

"There will be no dialogue with the opposition prior to the Syrian army's imposition of security and stability in all parts of the country," Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi told reporters at a news conference in Damascus.

The opposition has long rejected any talks with the regime until Assad is removed from power.

Muhieddine Lathkani, an opposition figure based in Britain, responded to the minister's comments by saying "the key to any dialogue will be the departure of Assad and dismantling of the regime's security agencies that committed all these crimes."

Lathkani told The Associated Press by telephone that after that happens, there could be a dialogue.

Earlier in the day, the new U.N. envoy to Syria acknowledged that brokering an end to the civil war will be a "very, very difficult" task.

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Activists on Sunday said some 5,000 people were killed in August, the highest toll in the 17-month-old uprising and more than three times the monthly average. At the same time, the U.N. children's fund, UNICEF, said 1,600 were killed last week alone, also the highest figure for the entire revolt.

The two major activists groups raised their total death toll for the entire revolt to at least 23,000 and as high as 26,000.

The civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when Assad's forces began widely using air power for the first time to try to put down the revolt. The fighting also reached Syria's largest city, Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the uprising.

Last week, Assad said in an interview that his armed forces will need time to defeat the rebels, an acknowledgement that his regime is struggling to defeat the tenacious rebels and another indication that the civil war will be even more drawn out and bloody.

In the latest violence on Monday, activists said more than 100 people were killed - many of them in two air raids that knocked out large parts of buildings in the northern province of Aleppo. Government warplanes bombed the town of Al-Bab killing at least 19 people and the Aleppo neighborhood of Myasar where 10 people, including four children, were killed.

(At left, CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports on the latest violence in Syria for CBS Evening News.)

The two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, said the airstrikes targeted a residential area in the northern town of al-Bab, about 20 miles from the Turkish border. The Observatory said 19 people were killed in the air raid; the LCC put the death toll at 25.

An amateur video posted online showed men frantically searching for bodies in the rubble of a white building smashed into a pile of debris. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.

An amateur video from Myasar showed men digging through the rubble and cutting metal to pick up the dead buried under the debris. A dead girl and a man were seen being removed in the video.

Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who heads a Beirut-based think tank, said the government is using MiG warplanes to bomb targets on the ground with missiles ranging between 110 pounds and 440 pounds.

"Those bombs fall in a shape that looks like a barrel, then explode when they hit the ground," he said.

Syrian officials said a bomb attached to a taxi blew up in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing five people and wounding 23. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Activists, meanwhile, reported scattered violence in regions across the country, including the Damascus suburbs, the region of Deir el-Zour in the east, Daraa in the south and Idlib and Aleppo in the north.

The Observatory said 100 people were killed Monday while the LCC put the number at 205, many of them in Aleppo province.

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