AMMAN // The Syrian prime minister has defected to Jordan, a Jordanian official source said today, prompting Syria to announce he had been sacked and replaced by a caretaker premier.
Riad Hijab was the first cabinet minister to defect, underlining the cracks in Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which is now reaching beyond the military ranks.
“Hijab is in Jordan with his family,” said the source, who did not want to be further identified.
Mr Hijab’s defection was one of the most high profile desertions from Mr Al Assad’s political and military circles. On Sunday, Al Arabiya television reported a senior Syrian intelligence officer had also defected to Jordan.
Ahmad Kassim, a senior official with the Free Syrian Army, said Mr Hijab defected with three other cabinet ministers. The other ministers' identities were not immediately known.
Mr Hijab, from Syria’s Sunni province of Deir Al Zor, was also a ruling Baath Party apparatchik.
State television said Omar Ghalawanji, who was a deputy prime minister as well as minister for local administration, would lead a temporary caretaker government.
Mr Al Assad had appointed Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister in June following a parliamentary election which came after more than a year of violent protests against Assad’s rule.