Syrian state media likened the current crisis to the war with Israel. Damascus denies it is facing a popular uprising, instead blaming the violence on a foreign conspiracy linked to its support for anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
"There are few differences between the current aggression and the circumstances during the October War, as Syria is facing an enemy armed with Western and Israeli weapons aiming at destroying the Syrian state and punishing its people for foiling all the hegemonic and hostile schemes planned for the region," the official news agency SANA commented.
In comments marking the anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Syria's defense minister said the government is ready to give amnesty to rebels who repent and that those who don't "will be crushed under the feet of our soldiers."
Al-Freij, who became defense minister in July after his predecessor was assassinated, also said Syria's "armed forces are intent to bring back security and stability to our beloved Syria."
"The most dangerous parts of the conspiracy have been passed and the killing is on its way to decline," he said.
Al-Freij, who rarely makes public statements, spoke as Syrian troops launched a major offensive to retake rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, the central city of Homs and towns near the border with Lebanon.
Despite his claims of government troops being on the brink of restoring stability, the violence across the country shows no signs of abating. Activists say that at least 30,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011.
Lebanese security officials meanwhile said Syrian troops backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships began a major attack against rebel-held areas near the Syrian town of Quseir adjoining Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The Lebanese-Syrian border has also been the site of deadly border incidents.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said no shells fell on the Lebanese side of the frontier Saturday. They added that Lebanese troops were put on high alert in the border area to make sure the fighting does not reach Lebanon.
The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, reported intense shelling in rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Homs. They said the government shelling of the town of Taibeh near Homs killed at least 10 people and wounded dozens.
A Syrian official said government troops on Saturday captured the strategic Sakhour roundabout in Aleppo after days of heavy fighting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The fight for Aleppo, a city of 3 million that was once a bastion of support for Assad, is critical for both the regime and the opposition. Its fall would give the opposition a major strategic victory and control of a stronghold in the north near the Turkish border. A rebel defeat, at the very least, would buy Assad more time.