Syrian president Assad makes rare public appearance on NYE

In this Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit on the front line in the eastern Damascus district of Jobar, Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited troops near Damascus on New Year’s Eve in a rare public appearance for the leader. Syrian state-run news agency SANA identified the location as Jobar, which is located on the outskirts of Damascus on the front lines of the country's brutal civil war.
Though he has visited troops in the past, Assad has not often been photographed publicly since the conflict began in 2011.
A video from the official YouTube channel of the Syrian presidency shows scenes from the visit, with dramatic music playing over the clip.

“On the New Year, families meet together, but you wanted to be here to protect your people and country, to leave your families behind,” Assad reportedly said to the troops, according to SANA. “Receiving a New Year is everybody’s hope, but the bigger hope is the victory of our armed forces and of all those who fight alongside them in our battle against terrorism."

Images that appear to have been taken outside after dark show Assad greeting soldiers and sharing a meal with them, as some smile and look on. State media described the visit as a morale boost for troops.
International human rights organizations and the UN have said Assad's government forces are behind "mass atrocities" since the country's civil war began, and have repeatedly called on the head of state to step down.

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