After vowing to take the whole of Syria back by force, the President spoke on state television to say the “cessation of hostilities” agreed in Munich would not stop the regime’s offensive against rebels.
“Regarding a ceasefire, a halt to operations, if it happened, it doesn't mean that each party will stop using weapons,” Assad said in comments televised on Monday.
“A ceasefire means in the first place halting the terrorists from strengthening their positions.
“Movement of weapons, equipment or terrorists, or fortification of positions, will not be allowed.”
Reinforcing the government’s definition of a “terrorist” as anyone fighting against it, regardless of ideology, the Syrian President said there could be no ceasefire “without a goal” and the requisite conditions could not be met within the set timeframe of a week.
His comments were reflected by the Russian Prime Minister, who defended his country’s actions in an interview with Time magazine by saying rebel groups were “all terrorists” and “can’t even tell each other apart”.
“They are all bandits and terrorists…it is very difficult for us to tell the difference between the very moderate ones and the not-so-moderate ones, the good from the bad.”
That defence did not satisfy the Turkish government, which opposes Assad’s rule and has invited Saudi Arabian planes and troops to one of its bases in preparation for a possible ground operation.
The Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, accused Russia of acting as a “terrorist organisation” in Syria and called its alleged bombing of four hospitals and two schools “an obvious war crime”.
“If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” Mr Davutoglu said during a visit to Kiev.
“Unfortunately, barbaric attacks on civilians are continuing in Syria and these attacks are being waged by both Russia and terrorist groups.
“Russia and other terrorist organisations - first and foremost, the Islamic State in Syria - are responsible for numerous crimes against humanity.”
Almost 50 civilians were killed when missiles hit at least five medical facilities and two schools in rebel-held areas of Syria on Monday, according to the United Nations, which called the attacks a blatant violation of international law.
At least 14 were killed in the northern town of Azaz, the last rebel stronghold before the border with Turkey, where missiles hit a children's hospital and a school sheltering refugees, while 15 were feared dead at a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan, Idlib province.
The humanitarian organisation said the building was hit by four missiles in what appeared to be a “deliberate attack” on heath facilities.
Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said air strikes were targeting Isis infrastructure and she had no reason to believe that Russian planes had bombed civilian sites.
The Syrian National Coalition, which represents a broad base of rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, urged the international community to act.
In pictures: Russian air strikes in Syria
In pictures: Russian air strikes in Syria
Syrian boys cry following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo
Russian defense ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them
Syrians wait to receive treatment at a hospital following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Alepp
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov speaks at a briefing in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia. Antonov said the Russian air strikes in Syria have killed about 35,000 militants, including about 2,700 residents of Russia
Jameel Mustafa Habboush, receives oxygen from civil defence volunteers, known as the white helmets, as they rescue him from under the rubble of a building following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo
Civil defence members rest amidst rubble in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria
A girl carrying a baby inspects damage in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria
Civilians and civil defence members look for survivors at a site damaged after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria
Civilians and civil defence members carry an injured woman on a stretcher at a site damaged after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria
Volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, help civilians after Russia carried out its first airstrikes in Syria
The aftermath of Russian airstrike in Talbiseh, Syria
Smoke billows from buildings in Talbiseh, in Homs province, western Syria, after airstrikes by Russian warplanes
Russian Air Forces carry out an air strike in the ISIS controlled Al-Raqqah Governorate. Russia's KAB-500s bombs completely destroy the Liwa al-Haqq command unit
Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Navy firing Kalibr cruise missiles against remote Isis targets in Syria
Â© TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Russia claimed it hit eight Isis targets, including a "terrorist HQ and co-ordination centre" that was completely destroyed
A video grab taken from the footage made available on the Russian Defence Ministry's official website, purporting to show an airstrike in Syria
A release from the Russian defence ministry purportedly showing targets in Syria being hit
Russia launched air strikes in war-torn Syria, its first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. Russian warplanes carried out strikes in three Syrian provinces along with regime aircraft as Putin seeks to steal US President Barack Obama's thunder by pushing a rival plan to defeat Isis militants in Syria
Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Navy firing Kalibr cruise missiles against remote Isis targets in Syria, a thousand kilometres away. The targets include ammunition factories, ammunition and fuel depots, command centres, and training camps
Â© TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Its representative to the EU, Mouaffaq Nyrabia, urged the UN to investigate the attacks as a breach of international law and consider Russia’s membership of the Security Council.
“Following agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Munich, this attack clearly demonstrates Russia's lack of commitment to ending this conflict,” he said.
“Since the start of Russia's military intervention in Syria, it has repeatedly targeted civilian areas and health structures across Syria.
If the EU and wider international community are serious about a political solution, they must do more to deter both Russia and the Assad regime from escalating the conflict, killing civilians, and undermining diplomatic efforts towards peace.”
Meanwhile, Turkey has been shelling Kurdish groups considered to be one of the most effective fighting forces against Isis after they seized territory near the Turkish border from other rebels.
Ankara is defines the Kurds as terrorists and is attempting to stop their two stretches of territory along the Turkish border joining up in the city of Azaz.
Additional reporting by agencies
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- Syrian civil war
- Russian Air Force
- Bashar Al-assad
- Ahmet Davutoglu
- War Crimes