LATEST: Video — Footage posted of 2 Italian Hostages

Millions Suffer as UN Gives Way to Assad Regime Over Aid

President Assad made a New Year’s appearance in Damascus, with State media claiming that he visited troops on the frontline of a months-long battle with insurgents.

Assad reportedly went to Jobar in the northeast of the capital, where Syrian forces have been carrying out a sustained bombardment in an attempt to clear out the opposition. Photographs showed him greeting soldiers, including in front of an armored vehicle, and eating a meal with the troops.


Activists say that Assad’s “PR stunt” was not on the Jobar “frontline”, which is too dangerous to be visited, but two kilometers away in Zablatani:

According to State new agency SANA, Assad said:

On the new year, families meet together, but you wanted to be here to protect your people and country, leave your families behind.

Receiving a new year is everybody’s hope, but the bigger hope is the victory of our armed forces and of all those who fought alongside with them, in our battle against terrorism.

The President wished quick recovery for injured soldiers and hailed those who had died: “We do embrace you, as a society and people, but we derive our morale from you and your high morale.”

The visit comes amid reports of intense Government efforts, including forced service and detentions, to bring personnel into the armed forces and militia.

See Syria Analysis: How Regime’s Hackers Exposed Assad’s Fear — Not Enough Men for the War

Video: Footage posted of 2 Italian Hostages

Footage, dated December 17, has been posted of Italian hostages Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo:

Ramelli and Marzullo, who had worked in Aleppo on humanitarian projects since 2012, were abducted at the end of July.

In the video, the two women “beseech our government and its mediators to bring us back home before Christmas” as “we are in grave danger and could be killed”. They say that “the government and the mediators are responsible for our lives”.

An Italian security source says that negotiations for the release of the aid workers are “in a delicate phase” and asks that negotiators “be allowed to work in silence”.