TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said government forces have to rid the city of Aleppo of terrorists under its constitutional mandate to protect the civilian population.

“That's our mission, according to the constitution, according to the law, that we have to protect people, that we have to get rid of those terrorists from Aleppo. This is where we can protect the civilians,” he said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster SRF conducted on Tuesday and posted on SRF’s website on Wednesday.

“How can you protect them while they are under the control of terrorists? They’ve been killed by them, and they’ve been controlled fully by the terrorists. Is it our role to sit aside and watch if that's how we can protect the Syrian people? We need to attack the terrorists, that’s self-evident,” he added.

Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, has been divided roughly in two since 2012, with the government controlling the west and terrorists the east.

Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), currently controlling parts of it.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.