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Syrian activists say violence is raging nationwide ahead of President Bashar Assad's speech

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A boy is seen through a car window as he rides on the back of a truck in the streets of Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. The revolt against President Bashar Assad that started in March 2011 began with peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people, according to a recent United Nations recent estimate. (AP Photo/ Andoni Lubaki) (The Associated Press)

Syrian activists are reporting heavy clashes between rebels and government forces around the country hours before President Bashar Assad is expected to address the nation.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels fighting to topple the Assad regime have clashed with troops in the southern province of Daraa, the birthplace of the uprising in March 2011. Violence also raged in the rebellious suburbs of Damascus Sunday, with rebels trying to push through the government's heavy defenses in the capital.

Assad last spoke publicly in November, vowing to Russia Today TV that he won't step down.