A rally to “democratise” Syria will be held in the rebel-held city of Hama in the south on Saturday, state television said.

The statement, which came a day after the army’s announcement of the creation of a “nationalist” force, did not provide details on the location or date of the event.

“The purpose of the rally is to support the Syrian people,” it said.

“We hope to have a large number of participants to participate in this historic event.”

The Syrian military said last week that it would launch a military operation to “liberate” Hama.

The announcement came as the army launched a counter-offensive to capture the southern city of Deir al-Zor, a strategic strategic town where rebel groups have been fighting for control of a vast area since 2012.

It is a major military prize for the opposition, whose members say they will take it to court over their alleged role in a chemical weapons attack in April.

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