The Associated Press reports: Bashar Assad attended the swearing-in of his new defense minister Thursday, according to footage shown on Syrian state TV, the first sign of the president since an audacious rebel attack the day before struck at the heart of his regime and killed three senior officials.
Government forces struck back against rebels with attack helicopters and shelling in a fifth straight day of clashes in Damascus. The inability of the military to control the clashes in the capital against lightly armed rebel forces and the deadly bombing of a high-level security meeting a day earlier made Assad’s hold on power look increasingly tenuous.
The whereabouts of Assad, his wife and their three young children have been a mystery since the attack that killed his brother-in-law and his defense minister. Assad does not appear in public frequently, and his absence was notable following such a serious blow his inner circle.
The state TV announcement appeared aimed at sending the message that Assad is alive and well. It said Assad, dressed in a blue suit and tie, wished the new defense minister good luck but it did not say where the swearing-in took place.