World

Syrian president acknowledges recent setbacks in war after series of losses to rebels

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria.  (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center background, speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria.  (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center background, speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left center, shakes hands with students during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria. (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left center, shakes hands with students during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Syrian President Bashar Assad has acknowledged recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him.

The rare admission of battlefield losses follows a series of significant rebel advances in northern and southern Syria. Assad spoke during a public appearance at a school in Damascus on Wednesday, surrounded by cheering students.

He said it was normal to have "gains and losses and ups and downs" in war.

However, Assad promised a comeback for his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels who recently took over a strategic town in northern Syria near the border with Turkey.