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Date published: 9/28/2012
BEIRUT--Cellphones in Syria rang, buzzed and chirped Thursday with an ominous text message from the military to members of the armed rebellion: "Game over."
The rebels provided their own response to the regime's warning to surrender and disarm by launching new attacks to drive government troops out of the largest city of Aleppo.
There's no indication that the stalemated civil war has taken a decisive turn in any direction, however, and the bloodshed that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives looks likely to drag on for many more months.
Compounding the grim outlook, sharp disagreements between Syria's foreign friends and foes--on display at the U.N. General Assembly this week--have prevented a diplomatic solution from taking shape.
Syrians with subscriptions to the country's two cellphone service providers said they began receiving the text messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army urging the rebels to surrender their weapons and warning that a countdown to evict any foreign fighters in the country has begun. Those with prepaid phones did not receive a message, according to residents in the capital of Damascus.
The texts appeared to be a kind of psychological warfare against the rebels by the regime of President Bashar Assad. In August, army helicopters dropped leaflets warning rebels in Damascus to disarm and seek amnesty. Government officials were not available for comment.
The messages are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Assad, and rebel supporters shrugged off the regime's warning as a sign of desperation.
Ali, a 28-year-old member of the rebels' Free Syrian Army, said he found the message comical.
"I will never hand over my weapon because the game is not over yet," he said, giving only his first name for fear of reprisals. "It won't be over until Assad's death."
The rebels on Thursday stepped up attacks against regime forces in Aleppo, parts of which they seized two months ago, although they have been unable to dislodge pro-Assad troops from the rest of the northern city of 3 million people.
Opposition activists reported heavy clashes in more than a dozen areas. Government forces shelled several districts, said Mohammed Saeed, a local activist, speaking via Skype. Mortar shells, presumably fired by rebels, also struck several government-held neighborhoods, activists said.