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Syria's Assad at Eid prayers in town surrendered by rebels

President Bashar al-Assad appeared at prayers in Daraya where rebels recently surrendered after a punishing government siege
Bashar al-Assad (4th from R) performs the prayer of the Muslim holiday of the Eid al-Adha (AFP)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance on Monday, at prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the town of Daraya, which was recently surrendered by rebels.

State media showed the embattled leader attending worship at the Saad Bin Moaz mosque in the town outside Damascus that was previously a rebel stronghold.

After years of government siege and fighting, its remaining residents and rebel fighters evacuated the town in late August under a deal with the government which has since retaken control.

Assad was joined at the prayers by a number of members of his ruling Baath party, as well as several ministers and members of parliament.

The mufti, or Muslim cleric, presiding over the prayers, hailed Daraya as an example for Syria, which has been ravaged by conflict since 2011.

"Daraya is living proof for all Syrians that the only option available to you is reconciliation and abandoning fighting," said Adnan al-Afiyuni, mufti for Damascus province.

Rebel fighters said they had been forced to agree to the deal with the government after the siege created a humanitarian crisis for Daraya's remaining residents.

But the government has touted the deal, and other similar agreements, as the best way to achieve local ceasefires and end the violence.

More than 290,000 people have been killed and more than half the population has been displaced since the conflict began in 2011.