Rumors surrounding President Bashar al-Assad's health have circulated for years, with the latest claiming that the Syrian leader has been unwell due to a stroke. These rumors were quashed on Tuesday as Assad met with industrial leaders from the suburbs of Damascus.
A source told Sputnik Arabic that the meeting focused on the issue of reviving local production which would necessarily boost the economy. Those present told the president that they have largely lost their businesses due to the war, but have not given up and opened smaller workshops. They added that they intend to expand production to prewar levels and export their goods to other countries in the future.
"The will to live of the Syrian people has become one of the key factors behind Syria's resilience in the face of hardships. Syrian manufacturers who continue their work despite losses are a source of our national pride," Assad said.
Allegations that Bashar al-Assad had ostensibly suffered a stroke were first published by Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal and picked up by other media outlets over the weekend. Several days prior to these claims, unconfirmed reports asserted that the Syrian president was fatally shot by his Iranian bodyguard.
Damascus has denied the latest allegations, saying that Assad was "in excellent health."
"The reports have been released by media outlets whose policies and sources of funding are known. … They only reflect the wishes of those who write [these allegations]. They also coincide with the changing circumstances in the field and politically," the president's office said in a statement on Facebook. "The Syrian people have become immune to such lies."
In recent months, government forces assisted by Russia and their local allies have achieved major successes on the battlefield, including the liberation of Aleppo. Damascus has also been engaged in the peace process, primarily sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, offering hope that the years-long Syrian conflict which has claimed approximately 400,000 lives could be resolved.
These have been the latest in a long string of allegations with regard to Assad's supposed sudden demise.
In March 2013, unnamed rebels were said to have killed the Syrian president during a clash in Damascus. In March and December 2015, reports claimed that Assad was killed by a bodyguard. In November 2015, media outlets in the Gulf claimed that he suffered a stroke.