As Pope Francis called for the two sides of the Syrian civil war to “boldly negotiate” peace in the three-year conflict, Assad made a rare public appearance in the town of Maaloula, a historic Christian town known as one of the world’s oldest Christian settlements.
The town was recently held by rebels that oppose Assad’s regime, but Syrian army forces – backed by soldiers from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement – recaptured it earlier this week.
During a visit to the town’s Christian sites, Assad was photographed holding religious artifacts – some of which had been damaged.
“Even the worst terrorists cannot erase our heritage and civilization,” Assad said, according to Syrian state television. The regime refers to anti-government rebels as terrorists.
* * *
He calls them terrorists? Well, a lot of them, possibly a majority, are just that.