Syrian leaders said Monday that presidential elections will be held June 3, an announcement that came just after two mortar shells exploded near the Parliament building, killing five.
Rebel forces said the shells were a message to President Bashar Assad that he and his supporters are not safe, and that they will continue to fight him as he seeks reelection for another seven year term in June, the Associated Press reports. Although Assad has not yet officially announced his candidacy, he has recently appeared to be in campaign mode, greeting seemingly ecstatic crowds in areas recently regained from rebel control.
Assad has survived three years of civil war in the face of growing international condemnation, especially for his government's alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed over 1,400 civilians near Damascus in August. Eleven of the G20 nations, including the U.S., U.K. and France, signed a statement in September calling Assad's government "responsible for the attack which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime."