DAMASCUS, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad declared late Tuesday that his country was "at war" as fighting loomed near the capital, upgrading previous claims that the country was plagued by only scattered militants.
The new choice of words raised serious concern over the future of the country, which plummeted into unrest 16 months ago.
Analysts believe the newly-assembled government needs to strengthen unity as unfolding events show the conflicts facing the country might escalate into a full-scale war.
CROSSFIRE NEAR DAMASCUS
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told his cabinet in a speech broadcasted by state television.
"When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war," he said.
On the same day when Assad made his ominous remarks, suburban Damascus saw one of the heaviest fights since the beginning of the crisis.
According to state media, government forces were engaged in a fierce gun-battle with forces of opposition "Free Syrian Army" when attempting to clear off militants at Qudssaya, several kilometers from the capital.
Government forces killed and captured dozens of militants and some of the captured were foreign nationals, state media said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group which compiles reports form rebels, said the battle took place near the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Qudssaya and both sides were observed using mortars and tanks.
The event marked the first time the government forces used artillery this close to the capital, the organization added.
A political analyst at the Damascus University who declined to be named said the government's first use of artillery near the capital, though may not indicate the rebels had infiltrated the capital region, showed that if authorities fails to wipe out the opposition, key government facilities would fall under the threat of rebel attacks.
Militants Attacked a pro-government TV station 20 km south of the capital early Wednesday, killing three journalists.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the insurgents stormed the office building of al-Ekhbariah TV and detonated bombs, causing severe damage to the building.
They also took away many technical equipment, al-Zoubi added.
The al-Ekhbariah was private-owned but had been vocal in support of the government. It was believed that the rebels attacked its office in retaliation.
The Arab League has recently asked the Nilesat and Arabsat satellite operators to stop broadcasting Syrian TV channels, in a bid to crank up the pressure on the Assad government.
The decision was condemned by the Syrian government, which accused the pan-Arab group of trying to mute the voice of the Syrians.
Analysts believe if official programs were blocked from the two satellites, Syrians could lose access to official information and be forced to turn to other media that are less friendly to Assad.
Since the prolonged conflict flared up last March, gruesome footages of violence had been continuously uploaded onto popular video sites such as Youtube.
The footages, though rarely verified, drew vehement criticism and harsh sanctions from the West after being aired by Western media.
Assad admitted in an interview with Russian media that Syria had lost badly to the West on the information front.
Insurgents' assault on the pro-government media, seen as a move to hush the voice of the Syrian government, may give rebels an upper hand in the battle on information, analysts said, noting such a victory comes easier here than on the battlefield, but is nevertheless effective.
ECONOMIC SANCTIONS PAINFUL
In his address to the cabinet Wednesday, Assad also urged the government to draft reasonable financial and exchange rate policies to steady domestic interest and exchange rates.
Frequent economic sanctions from the West have crippled the country's economy. Assets of Syrian companies and officials are frozen and foreign trade has also slowed to a trickle.
The European Union Foreign Affairs Council on Monday imposed a new round of sanctions on Syria, freezing the assets of six entities and banning an additional person to travel.
The organization said the sanctioned supported or took part in the crackdown of the uprising.
The sanctions are taking their toll on the Arab Republic, driving up commodity prices while slashing currency value and the people's purchasing power. The unemployment rate also hovers high as normal social life has all but stopped in some parts of the country.
When they feel the pain of war, common people can easily lose confidence in the government, some analysts say.
A woman working at a five-star hotel in Damascus told Xinhua that she wished her employers would pay her in the U.S. dollar or the euro, which is stronger than the Syrian pound.
The Syrian pound was traded at 47 to one dollar in March, 2011, and plunged to over 100 to one dollar a year later.
What Assad faces now is no longer a common protest but a "real war," which means keeping his seat would require much more than winning in the field.
Quenching the revolt, winning on the information front, and maintaining economic stability all have to be put high on Assad's agenda during these trying times, as the calamity facing the country shows no signs of lifting.