Officials: Syria's prime minister defects
Officials: Syria's prime minister defects
Top leader arrives in JordanPOSTED: 03:32 AM MDT Aug 06, 2012 UPDATED: 06:58 AM MDT Aug 06, 2012Syria's prime minister became the highest-profile official to leave the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad on Monday.Jordanian officials and opposition leaders said Riyad Hijab had defected, while Syrian state television said al-Assad dismissed Hijab from his post Monday.George Sabra, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, said Hijab fled Syria overnight and arrived with his family in Jordan.Jordanian officials confirmed that Hijab, who was appointed prime minister in June, had defected to Jordan and was with his family."I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," Hijab said in a written statement read by spokesman Muhammad el-Etri on Al Jazeera on Monday.Hijab will hold a news conference later Monday, Sabra said.In July, one of Syria's most senior diplomats -- Nawaf al-Fares -- defected, publicly embraced his country's uprising and called for a foreign military intervention. Al-Fares was Syria's ambassador to Iraq.Manaf Tlas, a Sunni general in Syria's elite Republican Guards, also defected last month. Tlas is the son of a former defense minister and a cousin of a first lieutenant in al-Assad's army.Hijab, just like al-Fares and Tlas, is a Sunni who served in a power structure dominated by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiism.Hijab became prime minister in late June after the parliamentary elections and was tasked with creating a new Cabinet for al-Assad's regime.Opposition leaders haled the news of Hijab's defection."We consider the defection to be what is morally right and what is called for at this historic time," said Abdulbaset Sieda, head of the Syrian National Council. "This is a killer and criminal regime, and at this historic moment, there should be no further hesitation. It is imperative to stand by the people of Syria now."The news came amid reports of a bombing Monday inside the Syrian state-run TV building in Damascus, the latest in a series of attacks to rock the nation's capital city as Syrian rebels and government forces battle for control of the country.There were reports of injuries in the explosion, which comes as al-Assad's forces fight to keep control of its main cities -- Damascus and Aleppo -- in the more than yearlong uprising.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which occurred on the third floor of the Public Center for Broadcast in Television."All employees of the Public Center for Broadcast in Television are well, and we know who stood behind this cowardly, brutal attack. There are some injuries, but Syrian media will continue to broadcast," the Ministry of Information said on state-run TV.The explosion came amid reports of renewed fighting early Monday in Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, according to the opposition.At least 44 people have been killed in fighting across the country Monday, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The deaths included 10 people killed in fighting and the discovery of 20 bodies in Aleppo, the group said.The reports of deaths follow news that warplanes pounded rebel strongholds north of Damascus, and heavy shelling was reported in several neighborhoods in northern and central Aleppo.CNN can not independently confirm reports of violence, as the government has severely restricted access to Syria by international journalists.Bashir Al-Hajji, a spokesman for a Free Syrian Army brigade in Aleppo, said clashes raged for hours at various spots near the city center, some close to the presidential palace.Al-Hajji says he is in the Industrial City of Aleppo, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the city of Aleppo, which is the commercial capital.As rebels scrambled to fend off regime forces in Aleppo, fighting was reported in other parts of Syria.At least 124 people were killed across the country Sunday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The deaths included 59 in Damascus and its suburbs and 25 in Aleppo, the group said.United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the situation may get worse in Aleppo, describing the city as "the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it."