Assad Makes Rare Public Appearance for Holiday

Syrian President attends prayers at a Damascus mosque to mark the holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

Bashar Assad
Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad made a rare public appearance on Friday for holiday prayers at a Damascus mosque, state media reported, according to AFP.

Assad attended morning prayers at the Al-Hamad mosque in northwest Damascus on Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the SANA news agency reported.

He was accompanied by "high-ranking officials from the (ruling Baath) party and from the state," it added.

Photographs published by the news agency showed a smiling Assad surrounded by religious figures, according to AFP.

A photograph published by the president's official Twitter account showed him kneeling in prayer beside other officials.

The mosque's imam, Sheikh Mohammad Sharif al-Sawaf, "prayed to God to save Syria, its leader, its army and its people, and to bring victory against its enemies".

"The Syrian army will continue to defend the country," Sawaf said in his sermon, SANA reported.

Damascus has been largely spared the devastation wrought on other Syrian cities by more than four years of civil war, although there has been periodic mortar and rocket fire by rebels entrenched in the suburbs.

Assad has made few public appearances since the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011.

He recently met with UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, and the two agreed to continue talks to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict.

At the same time, the regime has continued to use barrel bombs - crude weapons made of containers packed with explosives and scrap metal, that are typically dropped from helicopters - against civilians, especially in Aleppo.

Their use has been criticized by human rights groups because of the indiscriminate death toll they cause among civilians when dropped on residential areas.

Assad, however, has repeatedly denied using barrel bombs and has suggested in interviews that no such weaponry exists.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)