BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa has told a Lebanese newspaper that neither the forces of President Bashar al-Assad nor rebels can win the war in Syria.
The newspaper, al-Akhbar, released only limited excerpts on Sunday from the interview appearing in Monday's edition, and it was far from clear that Sharaa's comments represented the view of the government.
Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim in a power structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority, has rarely appeared in public since the revolt erupted in March 2011. But he is still the most prominent figure to say in public that the crackdown will not win. The paper, which generally takes a pro-Assad line, said Sharaa had been speaking in Damascus.
In the first phase of the civil war, Damascus was distant from the fighting.
After 21 months of fighting and more than 40,000 dead, rebels have now brought the war to the capital, without succeeding in delivering a fatal blow to the government.
But nor has Assad found the military muscle to oust his opponents from the city.
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RFI radio: "I think the end is nearing for Bashar al-Assad."
On the ground, one main focus on Sunday was the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus. Fighter jets bombed the camp, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an area where rebels have been trying to advance into the city, opposition activists said.
The attack was part of a month-old campaign by Assad's forces to eject rebels fighting to overthrow him from positions that are beginning to hem Damascus in. Yarmouk, on the southern fringes of the Syrian capital, falls within an arc of territory running from the east of the city to the southwest from where rebels hope to storm into the government's main redoubt.
Opposition activists said the deaths in Yarmouk, to which refugees have fled from other fighting in nearby suburbs, resulted from a rocket fired by a warplane hitting the mosque.
A video posted on YouTube showed bodies and body parts scattered on the stairs of what appeared to be the mosque.
The latest battlefield accounts could not be independently verified due to tight restrictions on media access to Syria.
It was the first reported aerial attack on Yarmouk since a popular uprising against Assad erupted 21 months ago and evolved, after he tried to smash it with military force, from peaceful street protests into an armed insurgency.
Syria is home to more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees, most living in Yarmouk, and both Assad's government and the rebels have enlisted and armed Palestinians as the uprising has mushroomed into a civil war.
Heavy fighting broke out 12 days ago between Palestinians loyal to Assad and Syrian rebels, together with a brigade of Palestinian fighters known as Liwaa al-Asifah (Storm Brigade).
Clashes flared anew after Sunday's air strike between Palestinians from the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Syrian rebels together with other Palestinian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Some PFLP-GC fighters were killed, the London-based Observatory said.
Opposition activists and the Observatory said many families were trying to escape the internal Yarmouk clashes.
INFANTRY COLLEGE CAPTURED
In the latest of a string of military installations to fall to the rebels, the army's infantry college in northern Aleppo was captured on Saturday after five days of fighting, a rebel commander with the powerful Islamist Tawheed Brigade said.
In Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, insurgents first reported seizing the infantry college on Saturday, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said later that day there was still fierce fighting going on.
The commander whose Tawheed brigade took part in the assault said the rebels had surrounded the college, located 16 km (10 miles) north of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, three weeks ago.
"At least 100 soldiers have been taken prisoner and 150 decided to join us. The soldiers were all hungry because of the siege," the commander, who spoke on condition he was not further identified, told Reuters by telephone.
Desperate food shortages are growing in parts of Syria and residents of Aleppo say fistfights and dashes across the civil war front lines have become part of the daily struggle to secure a loaf of bread.
Violence continued across the country. Syrian forces killed 25 people in the town of Helfaya in Hama province when they shelled it with warplanes and artillery for the first time since February, opposition activists said.
Ten fighters were killed in shelling in Deraa, the cradle of the revolt against Assad.
Damascus has accused Western powers of backing what it says is a Sunni Islamist "terrorist" campaign to topple Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect affiliated with Shi'ite Islam. It says that U.S. and European concerns about Assad's forces possibly resorting to chemical weapons could serve as a pretext for preparing military intervention.
In Lebanon, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Islamist Hezbollah militia group, said the rebels could not win in Syria.
"The situation in Syria is getting more complicated (but) anyone who thinks the armed opposition can settle the situation on the ground is very, very, very mistaken."
Syrian rebels accuse Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Muslim group, of sending fighters to neighbouring Syria to help Assad overcome the largely Sunni Muslim revolt. Hezbollah denies these accusations.
(Writing by Mark Heinrich and; Stephen Powell; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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