AMMAN Syria’s former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, the most senior defector from the administration of President Bashar Al Assad, arrived in Jordan yesterday.
Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah gave the first official confirmation of Hijab’s defection and presence in Syria’s southern neighbour, in a report on the official news agency Petra. He said in a phone interview from Amman it’s up to Hijab if he wants to stay in Jordan or leave.
Hijab’s departure came as Syrian forces loyal to President Al Assad massed on the outskirts of Aleppo from where they’ve used artillery, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing combat aircraft to attack rebels who moved into the city last month.
Earlier, Al Arabiya television showed footage which it attributed to the rebel Free Syrian Army showing Hijab in a border town in Daraa province sitting on a green patterned thin mattress with several men and a boy around him.
Abul Majd Al Zoubi, a leader of the rebel Yarmouk Brigade, told Al Arabiya that Hijab and 35 members of his family were smuggled into Jordan on Tuesday night.
Syria said on August 6 that Hijab had been dismissed from his job and appointed Omar Ghalawanji as acting prime minister. Soon after the announcements, opposition leaders said that Hijab had defected.