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Assad observes Eid prayers in suburb his regime starved

Date of publication: 12 September, 2016

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Blog: Syrian president vows to retake all of Syria in a show of defiance in a town besieged by his forces for four years.
In a raw show of defiance by Syria's embattled leader, Bashar al-Assad, the president appeared for Eid al-Adha prayers in a suburb that recently surrendered to regime forces after a brutal four-year siege.

State media reported on Monday that the Syrian leader performed the religious observance in the Saad Ibn Muaz Mosque in Daraya - a suburb that was until recently a symbol of Syrian rebel resistance.

This was a place choked by regime encirclement since 
late 2012; a town on the outskirts of Damascus that saw just a single aid convoy in the past four years - and that arrived with no food on board.

Faced with this cruel "starve or surrender" tactic, rebel groups surrendered the town to regime forces in late August, when fighters and civilians were allowed to leave the city and take shelter elsewhere.

It is against the backdrop of this torturous warfare on the town that Assad appeared on Syrian state TV standing in the front row of prayers held in Daraya.

The footage, vaunted by the regime, was a clear attempt at showing the alleged safety of the newly "liberated" suburb, and even appeared to suggest that the president had driven himself to the mosque.

Standing alongside Syria's Grand Mufti Badreddine Hassoun - a staunch defender of Assad's regime - and several other worshippers, the Syrian president delivered a defiant message:

"I am here with the entire government to send a clear message that we are determined to retake every inch of Syria from the terrorists, to restore peace and stability in the country and to rebuild everything that has been destroyed in the past."



The leader's recalcitrant attitude was echoed by Adnan al-Afyouni - the mufti for Damascus province, who led the small congregation in prayer.

"Daraya is living proof for all Syrians that the only option available to you is reconciliation and abandoning fighting," the cleric added. 

For many watching around the world, however, the scenes of Assad's small circle praying in a small room of bare walls and exposed brickwork will send a different message.

Daraya - like many other cities in Syria once besieged or still under siege - was proof of the Syrian opposition's spirited determination in the face of regime aggression. 

Its fall was evidence only of the Assad regime's bloody determination to cling to power by any means necessary.

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