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Assad makes rare appearance in Damascus mosque

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made his first public appearance since July.

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Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made his first public appearance since July, for Eid prayers. (Salah Malkawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made his first public appearance since July, for Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque.

Assad has not appeared in public since a bombing last month that killed four of his top officials, including his brother-in-law. 

Newly appointed Syrian prime minister Wael Nader al-Halqi and foreign minister Walid al-Moallem accompanied Assad to the services, which mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Reuters reported. Vice President Farouk al-Shaara, whose rumored defection was denied Saturday by officials, was not in attendance. 

al-Halqi is replacing former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, the highest-ranking Syrian official to defect to the opposition so far, according to Reuters. 

Though the embattled Syrian leader usually marked Eid in al-Amawi Grand Mosque, he and regime members chose to pray in the less grand Rihab al-Hamad Mosque, Al-Arabiya reported, which observers speculated was chosen because is it a more secure venue.

As Reuters reported: 

In the footage broadcast on Sunday, Assad sat cross-legged during a sermon in which Syria was described as the victim of terrorism and a conspiracy hatched by the United States, Israel, the West and Arab states but which would not "defeat our Islam, our ideology and our determination in Syria".

Pro-Assad forces continue to fight rebels in Damascus and elsewhere in the country, including reported shelling of a mosque in Homs during Eid prayers, according to Al-Arabiya. 

Elsewhere in Syria, rebel forces staged protests to mark Eid, the Associated Press reported.

Video posted by activists online showed a large group of worshippers in a mosque in Damascus shouting, "There is no God but Allah and Assad is the enemy of God," while clapping their hands over their heads, according to the AP. 

More from GlobalPost: Syrian officials deny Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa's defection

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120819/assad-makes-rare-appearance-damascus-mosque