Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected, said Monday the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), while state television said Hijab was dismissed. This defection is the hardest blow against the regime after 16 months of an unprecedented revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, whose main propaganda tool, the state television, was the target of an attack Monday morning. Two other ministers have reportedly defected.
Two months after his appointment, Riad Hijab, a Sunni, “has defected,” his spokesman said on Al-Jazeera television. Hijab has made his decision to defect because of “war crimes and genocide” in Syria, said the spokesman Mohamed Otri, who was speaking live from Amman, saying the Syrian Prime Minister is in “safe place” with his family.
The official Syrian media said that Omar Ghalawanji, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government, was appointed to “temporarily handle current affairs”. According to the government daily Teshreen, Mr. Hijab chaired two meetings Sunday centered “on measures to redevelop areas cleansed of armed terrorist groups.”
A new General of the Syrian army also arrived Monday in Turkey to join the opposition. He was accompanied by five senior officers and more than 30 soldiers, reports said. On Sunday, three officers from the political intelligence in Damascus, including two brothers from the clan of the Sunni Vice President Farouk al-Shara, have defected and taken refuge in Jordan, Colonel Kassem Saad Eddine, spokesman of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), conveyed.
The announcement of the defection of Riad Hijab came hours after a bombing at the headquarters of the State Radio & Television. Several employees were wounded but this did not disrupt the programs. However, this attack was a highly symbolic declaration because it targeted the main information tool of the regime, in addition to it being an ultra-protected facility.
The attack occurred while the army said two days ago it has total control of the capital after taking over the neighborhood of Tadamoun. The official news channel al-Ikhbaria showed the Syrian information minister inspecting the third floor in the middle of destroyed walls, overturned chairs, and others scenes of chaos.
On Saturday, the rebels unsuccessfully attacked the building of state television in Aleppo and on the same day, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed that a prominent presenter of the same channel Mohammad Said, who was nabbed in mid-July from his home near Damascus, had been executed.