TEL AVIV – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a meeting yesterday in which he set the goal of entirely quelling the opposition targeting his regime by October, according to a senior Syrian official.

The official, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, said Assad ordered his military to rid the Damascus region of rebels by the end of Ramadan on Aug. 18. He said Assad believes he can clear the opposition from the region of Homs by Sept. 10 and end the insurgency by October.

The official admitted the coming weeks will be “bloody.” He affirmed Russia stands squarely in the Syrian camp.

Assad’s meeting comes as Al Jazeera reported yesterday that the Syrian ambassador to Cyprus, Lamia al-Hariri, had defected and left for Qatar. Al-Hariri is the second Syrian diplomat to leave her post, after Nawaf Fares, the ambassador to Iraq, defected earlier in July.

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Also yesterday, clashes broke out in Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, a week after Assad faced a major setback in the killing of his defense minister in a bomb attack.

While Russia continues to arm Syria, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming and financing the opposition, with the U.S. saying it is providing “non-lethal” aid, including communications assistance. Reports have claimed the U.S. is coordinating arms shipments to the rebel forces.

Turkey has been at the forefront of the opposition targeting Assad’s regime, hosting the rebels and agitating for international military force to oust Assad.

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