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BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has travelled to one of Syria's core cities to attend Eid al-Fitr prayers marking the end of Ramadan, in a rare departure from his capital stronghold.

Syrian state media says Assad traveled to Hama on Sunday for the first time since protests erupted against him in 2011 and Syria descended into war. Hama, in western Syria, saw some of the largest protests.

Assad joined Muslim worshippers at the Nouri Mosque for prayers on the first day of the three-day holiday.

Syrian government forces have steadily advanced in recent months with help from Russia and Iran, and now control the country's five largest cities.

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