British born Asma Al Assad, Syria's first lady, is pregnant with her fourth child with embattled leader Bashar Al Assad, Lebanon's Arabic Al Akhbar newspaper reported, citing people who had met with him recently.
The 37-year old former JP Morgan investment banker has kept a low profile throughout the two-year civil war that threatens to topple the rule of her husband. Israeli and Western media have falsely alleged throughout the conflict that the blonde-haired first lady had either fled to the UK, where her parents live, or Moscow.
Al Akhbar, a paper that is aligned with the Hezbollah movement which is supported by the Assad regime, said one of the visitors sat with Assad for more than three hours and told the newspaper that the Syrian leader is assuming a business-as-usual demeanour at his Al-Rawda Palace in the capital Damascus.
"The man seems calm and in control. His confidence level stands out. Also, there’s the news of the pregnancy of his wife Asma, which could not be dealt with as a simple personal matter between a couple," the newspaper cited the person as saying.
Assad surprised his guests "by his intricate reading of the situation in this phase", the newspaper cited the people as saying, adding "he speaks about the minutest details in the Syrian provinces. His information encompasses a street here and the news of a small neighbourhood there. The reports he receives are comprehensive, even when they’re not to his liking."
Assad, according to the visitors, claims his army "regained the initiative on the ground,'' and has "stopped fighters from controlling whole governorates, limiting their playground to border zones with Turkey mainly, and Jordan and Lebanon to an extent. There are also some pockets in the capital’s countryside, which are being dealt with by the army. The capital Damascus is in a better situation. Its strategic points – despite all the attempts by the militants – remained safe, especially the airport road."
Anisa Makhluf, the beleaguered leader's mother, escaped Syria to join her daughter Bushra in Dubai earlier this month, AFP reported, citing Syrian expatriates and activists.
Bushra's husband General Assef Shawkat, a deputy defence minister along with three other top Syrian officials, were killed in a July bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus.
More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria's 22-month conflict, and 600,000 have fled the country to neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, according to the United Nations.