Today's call to arms from Syria's president is only deepening the mystery over his whereabouts.
Bashar Assad hasn't spoken publicly since the bombing two weeks ago that killed four of his top security officials, including his brother-in-law.
Today, he urged his military to boost its fight against the rebels. But the appeal came in writing, rather than in a speech on state TV.
In Washington, the State Department called Assad a coward for remaining out of sight while trying to marshal his forces in the pages of his army's official magazine, encouraging them to kill additional civilians.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Syria says the situation in the city of Aleppo is worsening. She says international observers have seen warplanes opening fire on the city, where intense fighting has been raging for 12 days. And, she says, rebels now have heavy weapons, including tanks.
Civilians, meanwhile, face shortages of food, water and fuel.
A video posted online appears to show rebels executing a man they identified as a member of a pro-regime militia in a hail of gunfire. Such videos pose a problem for the opposition, which has tried to claim the high moral ground against an authoritarian regime.
211-a-13-(Sausan Ghousheh (SOW'-sun GOH'-shih), U.N. spokeswoman, with reporters)-"well as artillery"-U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghousheh says United Nations observers have seen Syrian warplanes firing on targets in Aleppo. (1 Aug 2012)
<<CUT *211 (08/01/12)>> 00:13 "well as artillery"
212-a-12-(Sausan Ghousheh (SOW'-sun GOH'-shih), U.N. spokeswoman, with reporters)-"in safer neighborhoods"-U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghousheh says civilians are the mission's main concern. (1 Aug 2012)
<<CUT *212 (08/01/12)>> 00:12 "in safer neighborhoods"
APPHOTO CAI103: A Free Syrian Army soldier carries his weapon at the northern town of Sarmada, in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. (AP Photo) (1 Aug 2012)
<<APPHOTO CAI103 (08/01/12)>>
APPHOTO CAI104: In this Tuesday, July 31, 2012 photo, a Free Syrian Army soldier stands at a check point in Maarat Misrin in Idlib province, Syria. Arabic on the barriers read, "no God but Allah," background, and "Free Syrian Army," foreground. (AP Photo) (31 Jul 2012)
<<APPHOTO CAI104 (07/31/12)>>