BBC Online – August 6, 2012
Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s government to join “the revolution”, his spokesman says.
Mr Hijab was appointed less than two months ago and his departure is the highest-profile defection since the uprising began in March 2011.
State-run TV said he had been sacked.
Riad Hijab, who is said to have fled with his family, is a Sunni Muslim from the Deir al-Zour area of eastern Syria which has been caught up in the revolt.
Early reports said Mr Hijab had defected to Jordan, but Jordanian state TV later denied this. By Monday afternoon, Mr Hijab’s whereabouts were still unknown.
‘Freedom and dignity’
Earlier, his spokesman Mohammed el-Etri told al-Jazeera TV that he was in “a safe location”.
“I address you today at this grave hour where the country is living under the brunt of genocide and barbarian brutal killing against unarmed people who are simply demanding freedom and a dignified life,” ran Mr Hijab’s statement read by his spokesman.
“Today I declare… that I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution. And I declare that from today I am a soldier of this holy revolution.”
Mr Etri later told the BBC that the Syrian regime was “now in its last throes” and that it had been dealt “a fatal blow” by Mr Hijab’s defection.
Russia Today takes a slightly different angle on the same story however…
Syrian Prime Minister sacked – state TV
Russia Today – August 6, 2012
Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has been sacked, state TV reported. His current whereabouts are unknown, and there are conflicting reports as to whether he has fled the country.
Hijab, Syria’s former Minister of Agriculture, was appointed Prime Minister in June following parliamentary elections in the country.
The ex-Prime Minister is currently in Jordan, where he fled with his family, Reuters cited a Jordanian official as saying.
But Samih al-Maaytah, Jordan’s Minister of Information, denied that Hijab had arrived in the country in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
Hijab has defected from the Syrian government and traveled to Jordan with ten family members, and will be joining the Syrian opposition forces, the Prime Minister’s former spokesperson Muhammad el-Etri told Al-Jazeera.
Omar Ghalawanji, the country’s Minister of Local Administration, will temporarily assume Hijab’s duties before a new Prime Minster is appointmented, the Syrian TV report said.
The news comes less than a month after four key Syrian military officials, including the Defense Minister, were killed in a suicide bombing at a national security building in the capital of Damascus.
Levels of violence in the country remain high. A bomb blast at a state TV and radio building in Damascus wounded three people on Monday. Fighting continues in Aleppo, where government troops and armed opposition forces are battling for control of the city.
Opposition alleges more defections
In addition to Hijab, three other members of Assad’s cabinet have defected, opposition sources claimed.
Three army generals also fled the country, separate rebel reports said. The allegations were quickly picked up by international media.
Treasurer Mohamad Gillati, one of the cabinet members alleged to have fled, denied the rumors of his defection in a live Syrian TV broadcast.