A handout picture released on the Syrian Presidency Facebook page on September 12, 2016, shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (4th from R) performing the morning prayer of the Muslim holiday of the Eid al-Adha at a mosque in a government-controlled area of Daraya. / AFP PHOTO / Syrian Presidency Facebook page /
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance on Monday at prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the town of Daraya, recently surrendered by rebels.
State media showed the embattled leader attending the prayers at the Saad Bin Moaz mosque in the town outside Damascus, which was previously a rebel stronghold.
After years of government siege and fighting, its remaining residents and rebel fighters evacuated the town in late August under a deal with the regime, which has since retaken control.
Assad was joined at the prayers by a number of members of his ruling Baath party, as well as several ministers and members of parliament.
The mufti, or Muslim cleric, presiding over the prayers, hailed Daraya as an example for Syria, which has been ravaged by conflict since 2011.
“Daraya is living proof for all Syrians that the only option available to you is reconciliation and abandoning fighting,” said Adnan al-Afiyuni, mufti for Damascus province.
Rebel fighters said they had been forced to agree the deal with the government after the siege created a humanitarian crisis for Daraya’s remaining residents.
But the government has touted the deal, and other similar agreements, as the best way to achieve local ceasefires and end the violence.
More than 290,000 people have been killed and over half the population displaced since the conflict began.