Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has made a rare trip outside Damascus to meet Syrians displaced by the country's three-year civil war.

In photos released on Assad's official Twitter account and published by state news agency Sana, Assad is shown visiting the Dweir shelter in Adra, northeast of the capital, on Wednesday.

He is pictured standing beside his bodyguards, talking to women and hugging children.

Adra, considered a strategic gateway to Damascus, has been the scene of frequent clashes between Assad's forces and rebels.

Control of the town and its adjacent industrial park remain contested, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Assad rarely makes public appearances, and most of those have been within the confines of the capital.

He was last reported at a public event in January when he attended prayers at a Damascus mosque.

Source: AFP