Syrian President Bashar Assad has made a rare visit to the front line of his country's civil war, spending New Year's Eve with his troops in a tense eastern Damascus neighborhood.

State media footage showed Assad having dinner with soldiers and pro-government gunmen in the neighborhood of Jobar on Wednesday night. The neighborhood has witnessed intense fighting over the past months between troops and opposition fighters.

The footage, aired Thursday, showed Assad shaking hands and kissing troops, walking into fortifications and climbing onto a tank.

Assad rarely makes public appearances since the country's crisis began nearly four years ago.