Syria's Bashar Al Assad makes rare visit to Aleppo

The president attended Eid prayers in Aleppo city after opening repaired section of a power plant

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Syria's President Bashar Al Assad took part in Eid Al Adha prayers in Aleppo city on Saturday during his first visit to the former rebel stronghold in more than a decade.

Mr Al Assad, accompanied by his family, travelled to Aleppo province on Friday to tour the city and reopen a power station that was once held by rebels.

He performed Eid Al Adha prayers at Sahabiy Abdallah bin Abbas mosque, according to the state news agency Sana, which published photos of Mr Al Assad surrounded by a crowd of clerics and worshippers clamouring to greet him.

The eastern part of Aleppo city was held by rebels and extremist factions for four years before it was recaptured in 2016 with Russian military support, marking a major turning point in the civil war that began with a popular uprising against Mr Al Assad in 2011.

Photographs published by the president’s office showed the president, his wife, Asma, and their two sons and a daughter walking through the covered market in Aleppo, one of the city’s landmarks that was badly damaged during the conflict. Parts of the market are now being renovated.

Mr Al Assad also toured the centuries-old Ummayad Mosque, known as The Great Mosque of Aleppo, where renovation work has been continuing for years.

Before the war, Aleppo city — considered to be one of the world's longest continuously inhabited — boasted markets, mosques and public baths, but a siege of the rebel-held area left much of it in ruins.

Fighting damaged as much as 60 per cent of Aleppo's Old City, according to estimates by the UN's cultural agency, Unesco.

Before touring the city, Mr Al Assad visited a power station in the eastern part of Aleppo province, according to his office and Sana.

Sana said he restarted a part of the power station that was renovated and is ready to produce up to 200 megawatts. The report said work was under way to repair parts of the station.

He was also present for the recommissioning of a water pumping station, the Syrian presidency said on Telegram.

Much of Syria's infrastructure was destroyed during the civil war. Government-held parts of the country experience more than 12 hours of power cuts a day as production is far less than its needs.

Syria’s Prime Minister Hussein Arnous recently told parliament that the country’s needed about 7,000MW but produces only a little over 2,500MW.

Syrian government forces now control much of the country, thanks to its allies Russia and Iran, but rebels groups have held on to the north-western Idlib region neighbouring Aleppo, while areas on the Turkish border are still controlled by Ankara-backed groups and the rival Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: July 09, 2022, 1:10 PM