Syrian president Bashar al-Assad made time for a high profile appearance on Thursday amid rumors he had gone to ground following a deadly bombing that targeted his inner circle.
Dispelling rumors he had gone into hiding, Assad on Thursday swore in his new Defense Minister, General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, in a ceremony aired on television by the Syrian News Agency (SANA).
Assad fell out of public view following Wednesday's bombing, leading to speculation his teetering regime may have already imploded. Thursday's swearing in ceremony was clearly inteded as a rejection of such speculation, but fighting throughout the once-impregnable Assad bastion of Damascus continues to intensify.
Also of concern to Jerusalem are the possibility that Assad may, realizing his days are numbered, try to deal Israel a harsh blow on his way down; or, that Damascus' stockpiles of chemical weapons and other advanced weapons systems may fall into the hands of anti-Israel terror groups like Hizbullah.
The dawn attack was the third time in 10 days rebels have tried to seize the Bab al-Hawa gate, a vital commercial crossing in northwestern Syria, opposite the Turkish Cilvegozu gate in Hatay province.
Such raids have also become opportunities for opposition sympathisers among the government soldiers to defect. The rebel Free Syrian Army – the largest anti-Assad insurgency group – is comprosed of over 30,000 Syrian army defectors.
Turkey, which has called on Assad to step down, is giving sanctuary to opposition members and fighters on its soil and is providing shelter to more than 40,000 Syrian refugees fleeing violence at home.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has gone on record saying their is ample evidence to prosecute Assad for crimes against humanity – notably charges that his forces have systemically raped, tortured, kidnapped, and summarily executed dissedents, rebels, and their families – should his regime collapse.