Regime no longer controls half of Syria, rebels say

The embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad no longer controls half of the country's territory as it battles to crush a 10-month popular revolt, the head of the rebel army said on Tuesday.

"Fifty percent of Syrian territory is no longer under the control of the regime," Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army, told AFP.

He added, however, that this did not mean rebel troops were in control of this territory.

Asaad, who is based in Turkey, said the FSA, emboldened by its growing ranks, was increasingly conducting guerrilla operations against regular army positions before withdrawing to safe positions.

"The operations carried out by the FSA amount to guerrilla operations that consist of carrying out quick attacks against regime forces and then making a tactical withdrawal to safe areas," Asaad added.

He said the FSA, made up of army defectors and sympathizers, was now launching daily strikes against regime checkpoints and was managing to destroy military vehicles before retreating.

Asaad said the army for its part had launched a fierce assault in the last week in a bid to reclaim control of suburbs near the capital Damascus, as well as the central flashpoint city of Homs and the northwestern town of Edleb.

"The army believes... that if it manages to crush the revolt in those areas then this will put an end to the revolt nationwide," Asaad said, adding that his troops were more determined than ever to continue the fight.

"The people and the FSA will continue to resist, the revolt will continue and the regime will collapse.”

He added that the morale of army troops was extremely low.

"That's why they are bombing indiscriminately, killing men, women and children," he said.

The regime's crackdown against the revolt that erupted mid-March has left more than 5,400 people dead, according to the United Nations.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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