Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Updated | 7:32 p.m. As my colleagues Anne Barnard and Alan Cowell report, Syrian state television broadcast footage of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in the city of Homs, touring the ruined neighborhood of Baba Amr, which was recently brought back under government control after a weeks-long military assault.
The state broadcaster posted a video report on its YouTube channel that showed Mr. Assad surrounded by residents, apparently discussing the need to repair the damage without reference to what caused it.
The report shows that after Mr. Assad was told that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the neighborhood had been repaired, he asked the team to press ahead with its work and keep the public informed, “so that they know when life can go back to normal.”
Voices in the crowd of supporters around the president shouted, “We are with you till death!” and “God, Syria, Bashar, and that’s all!” Mr. Assad later told them: “The government wasn’t late, but it was giving everybody a chance.” He then promised: “We will all work together to rebuild Baba Amr, and it will be better than it used to be.”
Close observers of the video posted online by activists last month, during the bombardment of Baba Amr, noted that the first building shown in the report appears to be a mosque in the neighborhood which was filmed at the height of the shelling.
Near the end of the report, the video showed a government building at the entrance of Baba Amr, where there were tanks and a checkpoint during the government’s struggle to regain control of the neighborhood.
While the president’s tour of the district appeared to be part of an effort to present an image of a government in control, Shakeeb Al-Jabri, a Syrian activist based in Beirut, noted that the state channel did not broadcast Mr. Assad’s tour live from a city where military action has apparently continued into this week.
Although the fight for Baba Amr is over, the Syrian opposition activist Mulham Al-Jundi drew attention on Tuesday to dramatic video of intense shelling, recorded, he said, on Monday in al-Hamidiyeh, another Homs neighborhood.
Last week, an opposition group in Washington called Syrian Christians for Democracy issued a statement denying that rebel fighters had expelled Christians from al-Hamidiyeh. The group wrote:
In regards to the story published in Agenzia Fides on 3/21/2012 about the Christians of Homs who were forced to flee their homes, firsthand accounts have clarified that the perpetrators were members of the Syrian army who overtook the Christian neighborhood near al-Hamidiye street and commandeered a number of Christian-resident buildings for strategic control over the city. The Christians were indeed forced to flee their homes, but rumors of the violence against them by terrorist groups or otherwise members of the opposition are both unverified and noxious.
The group added:
The source of this misinformation campaign can be traced back almost exclusively to the controversial figure of Mother Agnes Mary of the Cross, head of the Catholic Media Center in Damascus. Mother Agnes maintains close ties to the Assad and Makhlouf families who use the Catholic Media Center to organize press events and trips to Syria for a handpicked group of European journalists from the “Reseau Voltaire” media group.
This week, a video report from Human Rights Watch appeared to document abuses by forces loyal to Mr. Assad as they took control of other parts of Syria. In a report illustrated with witness testimony and video, the rights group claimed that “Syrian government forces have endangered civilians by using them as human shields during recent arrest operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria.”