x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Syria's Assad makes rare public appearance at power station

The Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad makes rare public appearance at Damascus power station, as explosions rip through the capital.

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (right) with his minister of electricity, Imad Khamis, during a visit at Umawyeen electricity station to celebrate workers’ day.
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (right) with his minister of electricity, Imad Khamis, during a visit at Umawyeen electricity station to celebrate workers’ day.

AMMAN // The Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad made a rare public appearance yesterday, visiting a Damascus power station.

It came as two bombs exploded near the city centre, wounding 15 people. The state news agency, Sana, said the blasts were caused by two improvised explosive devices that went off on Khalid bin Walid street and the nearby Bab Mesalla Square.

It said the bombs had been planted by "terrorists," a term the government uses to describe opposition rebels.

However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Bab Mesalla explosions were caused by rockets that fell in the area. It said initial information indicated that there were casualties, but the number could not be obtained immediately.

Mr Al Assad's visit to the power station, his first public appearance since March 20, took place on International Workers Day, also known as May Day.

Syria's state television broadcast footage of him speaking to the employees at the Umayyad Electrical Station in the Tishrin Park district. "They want to scare us, we will not be scared," he said.

"They want us to live underground, we will not live underground. We hope that by this time next year we will have overcome the crisis in our country."

Photographs of the visit also appeared on a Facebook page used by the Syrian presidency.

The visit came just a day after a powerful bomb blast rocked the capital. At least 14 people were killed in Tuesday's explosion, the second in the heart of the capital in two days. Rebels have been trying to create a supply line from Jordan, so that arms supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar can be shipped in for assaults on the city.

Meanwhile, the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, rebuked the leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah militant group, a day after he said that Syrian rebels would not be able to defeat Assad's regime militarily.

Hassan Nasrallah had warned that Syria's "real friends", including his Iranian-backed militant group, could intervene on the government's side. The coalition said it hoped Hizbollah would stay out of the Syrian war.