Oct. 6 - President Bashar al Assad makes a rare public appearance to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier as civil war rages in Syria and cross border skirmishing with Turkish forces threatens to destabilize the region. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Syrian President Bashar al Assad visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in Damascus on Saturday (October 6) to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1973 Middle East war. State television carried pictures of Assad laying the wreath at the monument at Mount Kassioun on the outskirts of the capital in the company of military and civilian dignitaries. Assad has seldom been seen in public since the uprising against his rule started in March 2011. At the start of the 1973 war Syria and Egypt brought Israel to the brink of defeat with coordinated surprise attacks on its borders during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. But during the tree-week conflict that ensued they failed to retake the Golan Heights which Israel had seized during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Saturday was the fourth day of Turkish cross border strikes in retaliation for mortar bombs and shelling by Syrian forces that killed five Turkish civilians further east on Wednesday (October 3). The strikes and counter-strikes are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria's conflict, which began as a democracy uprising but has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones. They highlight how the crisis could destabilize the region. Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan said on Friday (October 5) his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a "fatal mistake" by testing its resolve. Damascus has said its fire hit Turkey accidentally. NATO-member Turkey, once an ally of Assad but now a leading voice in calls for him to quit, has nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory and has allowed rebel leaders sanctuary. Its armed forces are far larger than Syria's.