Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab defects
Denounces Damascus’s “terrorist regime”
Syria’s new cabinet has met in emergency session, after Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected and denounced Damascus’s “terrorist regime”.
The White House said the defection showed that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was “crumbling from within”.
But Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said Mr. Hijab had not appeared in person and he rejected reports of other ministerial defections.
Meanwhile, reports suggest the army has stepped up its bombardment of Aleppo.
Government forces are trying to dislodge rebel fighters who have taken control of some areas of Syria’s second city.
Opposition activists report intense attacks on rebel-held areas on the north-east and south-west sides of the city.
Further deaths were reported in Damascus on Tuesday and an unconfirmed report from Syrian rebels said three of 48 Iranians being held as hostages had been killed by army shelling.
The rebels have claimed that the Iranians, abducted from a bus in Damascus on Saturday, are members of the Revolutionary Guard. Tehran says they are pilgrims who had been heading for a Shia religious site.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has said it holds the US responsible for the group’s safety.
He said the US was supporting “terrorist groups” and dispatching weapons to Syria, and was therefore responsible for the lives of those abducted.