Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shakes hands with a soldier in Daraya, on August 1, 2013
A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 1, 2013 allegedly shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shaking hands with a soldier in Daraya, southwestern of the capital Damascus. © - Sana/AFP
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shakes hands with a soldier in Daraya, on August 1, 2013
AFP
Last updated: August 1, 2013

Assad visits ex-rebel bastion near capital

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a visit on Thursday to the town of Daraya outside Damascus, a former rebel bastion now mainly under government control, state television reported.

In his first known visit outside the capital since March 2012, "President Assad is currently inspecting a unit of our armed forces in Daraya on the occasion of Army Day," it said without airing immediate footage with its report.

Assad is rarely reported to have travelled outside the capital since an uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011.

The Daraya visit came as he sent an Army Day message to troops telling them he was "sure of victory" over rebel fighters.

The president's Facebook page carried a picture of Assad shaking hands with a soldier in what appeared to be a former battlezone.

Daraya, a mostly Sunni town, neighbours rebel districts south of Damascus.

In August 2012, rebels announced the discovery of more than 300 bodies in what they branded a massacre by Assad's forces. The tally later rose to more than 500, according to the opposition.

In March of last year, Assad visited Baba Amr, a former rebel bastion in the flashpoint central city of Homs.

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