Amid fierce fighting, Syrian TV on Thursday showed video of President Bashar al-Assad, the first images broadcast of him since a deadly attack on top officials a day earlier.
The development came as rebels fought government forces in Damascus and its suburbs and made significant attacks on strategic border points, officials said.
Half a world away at U.N. headquarters in New York, Russia and China vetoed a new Security Council resolution aimed at halting the violence, prompting fierce criticism from the United States.
The video, showing al-Assad with newly named Defense Minister Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij, came amid growing speculation about al-Assad's whereabouts. Some reports suggested he might have left the capital.
There was nothing in the video to indicate immediately when it was taken, but Syrian TV reported that al-Freij had taken his oath in front of al-Assad.
Although al-Assad has not often appeared on television or in public events during the near 17-month crisis gripping his country, it is unusual for a leader not to address a nation in the wake of a major bombing, and as violence rages in the capital.
Wednesday's blast at a government building in Damascus killed three top officials, one of whom also was the president's brother-in-law.
At least 217 people were killed Thursday, including 40 in Damascus suburbs, 70 in Deir Ezzor and 33 in Idlib, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) said. The Damascus suburb of al-Qaboun was under heavy fire Thursday, according to an opposition activist.
Rebel fighters fought Thursday for control of the country's borders with Turkey and Iraq, with success reported in the latter.
Two main crossing points, Albo Kamal and Al-Waleed, and seven additional security posts were in the hands of the rebels, a senior Iraqi Army official in Anbar province told CNN.
Iraqi security forces have increased their military and security presence at the border in Anbar as a precautionary measure, the official said.
The Free Syrian Army and other rebels were no longer in control of a compound they had seized at the Turkish border.
Forces attacked three to four border crossings, according to Col. Malek al-Kurdi, deputy head of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
"There was a battle at the border crossing, Bab al-Hawa, and government forces withdrew from the new gate to an older gate, al-Kurdi said.
Outnumbered rebels eventually were forced to withdraw from both gates, al-Kurdi said.
Videos posted to YouTube from inside a border station at the new gate showed a rebel tearing up a poster of al-Assad, while another rebel smashed portraits of the president and his father, Hafez al-Assad, who led the country until 2000.
Numerous world leaders slammed al-Assad's regime Thursday and condemned Russia and China for vetoing the Security Council resolution.
Russia, China veto sanctions on Syria
Western countries were pushing for a resolution that threatened new sanctions if government forces don't stop attacks against civilians. The resolution also called for renewing the 300-member U.N. observer mission for 45 days after it was suspended because of violence.
Russia and China, which have major trade deals with Syria, have said they want more balanced resolutions that call on all sides to halt the violence. Russia said Thursday's vote should never have taken place.
Russia had "very clearly and consistently explained" that it would not accept a resolution that "would open the path for pressure of sanctions and further to extend military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs," said Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations.
Western diplomats "could have done something, anything, to promote dialogue" rather than "fan the flames of extremists," Churkin said. He described the draft resolution as "biased," saying it threatened sanctions exclusively at the Syrian government.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN's "The Situation Room" that the United States will push other approaches to the conflict, including through the Friends of Syria Group.
"What Russia and China did today by vetoing a third resolution was really to slam the door, at least in the short term, on any effective action out of the U.N. Security Council," she said.
She called the two countries "isolated outliers" on the issue.