BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that a military operation against the eastern Ghouta area near Damascus would continue and in parallel civilians would be allowed to leave the rebel-held area."There is no contradiction between a truce and combat operations. The progress achieved yesterday and the day before in Ghouta by the Syrian Arab Army was made during this truce," Assad said in broadcast comments to journalists."Therefore we must continue with the operation in parallel with opening the way for civilians to leave." He was referring to a daily humanitarian ceasefire called by Russia from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (0700 GMT to 1200 GMT), which the United States has dismissed as "a joke."