DAMASCUS, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday that the Syrian army is the most capable of confronting terrorism, according to state news agency SANA.


In a statement on the occasion of the 71st anniversary of establishing the Syrian army, the president said Syrian army "will always remain the pillar of security and stability in Syria and the region."


"Today we stand at the threshold to a pivotal stage in the homeland's history, which requires that we all be more vigilant and prepared and that we double efforts and work with determination until victory is achieved," he said.


The army marks its 71st anniversary on the first of August, while its troops have been stretched out in the battles across the Syrian territory for over five years.


The Syrian army engaged in intense battles on Monday, as the rebels unleashed a wide-scale offensive in the northern province of Aleppo.


Several jihadi groups, including the Jaish al-Fateh, or the Conquer Army, and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was previously known as the Nusra Front before breaking ties with al-Qaida and changing its name, unleashed a broad offensive in the southern countryside of Aleppo on several fronts to break a siege imposed recently by the Syrian army.


The battles were coupled with airstrikes on rebel-held areas and rocket fire by the rebels on the government-controlled parts of Aleppo.


SANA said at least 11 people were killed and 52 others wounded on Sunday, when rebels fired improvised rockets on government-controlled districts in Aleppo.


Earlier in the day, the al-Fateh Army, or the Conquer Army, which is an ally to the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, announced in a video message the beginning of a big offensive to break the Syrian army's recent advance in Aleppo.


Late last week, the Syrian army stormed the Bani Zaid area, a main rebel stronghold in the eastern part of Aleppo.


The progress came a week after the army severed the last rebel supply route connecting rebel-held areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo, with rebel-controlled parts in the eastern part of the city.


Severing the Castello road has dealt a strong blow to the rebels inside Aleppo.


Well-informed sources from Aleppo told Xinhua that the army units managed to foil the rebels' offensive that was launched on Sunday amid intense battles.


A military source told Xinhua on Sunday that very intense battles are taking place south of Aleppo on several fronts, adding that medium and heavy weapons are being used, as well as airstrikes on the rebel positions.


"The intense battles are still raging till now," he said.


Politically, the Syrian authorities, once again, stressed readiness to take part in the upcoming round of the Geneva talks on the Syrian crisis.


Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad reaffirmed the Syrian government's readiness to embark on a new round of Syrian talks in Geneva without preconditions.


He made the remarks during his meeting with the visiting Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, who arrived in Syria earlier on Monday for talks with Syrian officials about the political process for Syria.


Mekdad pointed out that all concerned parties need to focus on fighting terrorism as a prelude to any political process.


He also explained to Ramzy the latest developments in the city of Aleppo and the initiative of President Bashar al-Assad in granting amnesty for militants and settling their status if they surrendered themselves to the authorities.


For his part, Ramzy told reporters following his meetings with Syrian Foreign Ministry officials that "During the meeting, I talked about some issues related to the political process, including the political transition and how to make it credible."


Previous talks in Geneva between the Syrian army and the opposition ended with no tangible results.


Observers believe each party is trying to empower their stance on ground ahead of the talks, and the Aleppo battles are a sign of that.

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