BEIRUT - An emboldened President Bashar Assad vowed on Monday to take back all of Syria, hours before the start of a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia, which Assad's opponents described as stacked in his favour.
In a gesture loaded with symbolism, state television showed Assad visiting Daraya, a Damascus suburb long held by rebels but recaptured last month after fighters there surrendered in the face of a crushing siege. The Syrian leader performed Muslim holiday prayers alongside other officials in a bare hall in a Daraya mosque.
"The Syrian state is determined to recover every area from the terrorists," Assad said in an interview broadcast by state media, flanked by his delegation at an otherwise deserted road junction.
He made no mention of the ceasefire agreement, but said the army would continue its work "without hesitation, regardless of any internal or external circumstances".
The ceasefire is due to take effect at sundown, and includes improved humanitarian aid access and joint US and Russian targeting of hardline Islamists. But it faces big challenges, including how to separate nationalist rebels from the jihadists.