BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's longtime vice president said Sunday that his regime and the rebels are both going down a losing path after 21 months of civil war, a rare admission by a top government official that President Bashar Assad's victory is unlikely.
The comments by Farouk al-Sharaa came as an Islamist faction of Syrian rebels captured an infantry base in the northern city of Aleppo, and Syrian warplanes blasted a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, killing eight people and wounding dozens, activists said.
Al-Sharaa told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that neither the rebels nor the Assad regime can "decide the battle militarily." It appeared to be an attempt to show that the rebels are not the solution to the Syria conflict, and their victory might bring chaos to the country.
Balancing that, he said the Assad regime "cannot achieve change."
The solution to the conflict must come from within Syria, al-Sharaa said, adding that any political settlement "must include stopping all types of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers."
The Assad regime has long rejected Western involvement in the civil war and has called for talks with the opposition. Most rebel groups refuse to meet with Assad, demanding his removal from power before laying down their arms.
Excerpts of the interview were posted on Al-Akhbar's English-language website late Sunday. The full interview will be published on Monday, the newspaper said.
Last week more than 100 nations, including the U.S., recognized the new Syrian opposition council as the legitimate representative of the country, a boost for the opposition forces that have been bombing regime targets in and around Damascus, once an impregnable stronghold of the Assad regime.
In the latest blow to Assad, rebels overran a military base in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, the second military installation to fall there in a week.
A statement by the al-Tawheed Brigade said the rebels "fully liberated" the military facility in Aleppo on Saturday. It was posted on al-Tawheed's official website on Sunday and said the Islamist rebel brigade's commander was killed in the battle.
The complex, known as Hanano Barracks, includes an army base, a recruiting center and a military school.
The Al-Tawheed Brigade is one of the largest rebel groups operating in Aleppo, which has been a major front in the civil war since July.
One of the videos posted on the group's website shows the body of a man the narrator says is "the hero and martyr who was killed on the day of liberating the infantry school," apparently the Al-Tawheed commander, Col. Youssef al-Jader. A boy said to be the commander's son is seen crying as he leans over the dead man.
In a related development, Egypt said Sunday that it has evacuated more than 4,000 of its nationals from Syria over the past few months. The Cairo Foreign Ministry statement did not give further details. Egypt's national airline halted flights to and from Syria last month because of the deteriorating security situation.