Middle East

PM: Syria to hike pay of frontline soldiers with bonus

Syria's prime minister said on Monday the government would give a monthly bonus of 10,000 Syrian pounds (US$37) to soldiers fighting on the frontlines, a significant pay rise that could boost morale after a series of setbacks for the armed forces.
The army and allied militia have lost large areas of land in the last two months to insurgents including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Islamic State, which has seized the central ancient city of Palmyra.
Analysts and diplomats tracking Syria say the army is overstretched and needs more recruits to fight in battles on several fronts in the conflict.
The bonus pay starts at the beginning of next month and will go to soldiers serving on battlefronts, Prime Minister Wael al-Halaki told a parliament session broadcast on state television. This works out at around $37 at official rates and several dollars less on the black market.
Salaries for soldiers and allied militiamen range from around 14,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds a month according to estimates collected by Reuters. Generals can earn 45,000 pounds or more depending on rank. Civil servants earn around 23,000-25,000 pounds.
The government has raised salaries for state employees and the military by smaller amounts several times since the start of the uprising in 2011. Many Syrians work several jobs to supplement their main income.
Halaki said Syrians knew war was not about "losing a battle here or there" but that the overall result was important. He described the armed forces as strong and deployed across the country.
Syrian state television broadcast hours of army footage set to rousing music on Monday, showing soldiers firing weapons, training in camps and being embraced by citizens.
The steady advances by insurgents on key fronts mean President Bashar al-Assad is under more military pressure than at any point in more than four years of war but his government remains confident the army can defend crucial territory with the help of its allies.

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