Assad visits Damascus Catholic church

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SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad has made a visit to a Christian church in an eastern suburb of the capital Damascus as Christmas is approaching.

Assad made the visit to the Lady of Damascus Catholic Church with his wife Asma on Friday evening where they watched a choir rehearse and took pictures with members of the congregation. The eastern suburb of Damascus where the church is situated has been a target of foreign-backed militants fighting against the government.

l President Assad’s plane will be escorted by four Russian fighter jets during his upcoming visit to Iran. The US-led coalition has been alerted to stand down as the Russian jets will have the permission to fire at will at any incoming aircraft.

‘Four strategic Russian fighter jets will accompany the plane carrying the Syrian president during the visit to and from Iran,’ the Lebanese al-Diyar daily reported on Sunday. The newspaper also added that the Syrian president is due to travel to Tehran via Iraqi airspace.

‘The US-led international coalition’s air command has been warned not to approach Bashar Assad’s plane to avoid engagement,’ it said. Informed sources said on Friday that President Assad is slated to visit Iran in late December or early January.

• Intelligence sources of the Syrian Army disclosed on Sunday that large groups of Iraqi fighters have joined the Syrian army and hundreds more are on the way to partake in the final phase of liberating operation in the the Northern parts of Aleppo province.

‘Some 1,500 Iraqi fighters have joined the Syrian army and are coordinating various aspects of an imminent large-scale operation with the government forces in al-Zahra and Nubl regions Northwest of Aleppo province,’ an official said.

The Syrian army and its allies have advanced against the militant groups in the Eastern, Southeastern, Southern and Southwestern parts of Aleppo province and an operational commander of the Syrian army said ‘the time is now ripe for carrying out a large-scale operation in the Northern battlefields of the province’.