by Isi Esene
The Syrian prime minister, Riyad Hijab has been reported to have defected to the opposition this morning.
Hijab, who was appointed only two months ago is the highest ranking Syrian government official to defect since the country’s uprising started in March 2011.
This high profile defection is a big blow to the administration of President Bashar al-Assad who insists on staying on as president despite mass protests and violent attacks against his government.
According to monitored reports, Hijab fled Syria overnight, arriving with his family in Jordan, said George Sabra, a spokesman for the opposition’s Syrian National Council.
Meanwhile, the Syrian State Television maintains its hardly believable government propaganda that Hijab resigned his post.
In a statement credited to him and released by his spokesman, Mohammed el-Etri earlier today, Hijab said: “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,” ran the statement read by his spokesman.
Hijab’s departure followed a growing stream of defections by Syria’s armed forces, including that of Maj. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a former confidante and close friend of Assad’s who fled to Turkey a month ago.
Riyad Hijab is a Sunni Muslim from the Deir al-Zour area of eastern Syria which has been caught up in the violence.