World Bulletin / News Desk
Former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad's government is falling apart and controls only 30 percent of the country.
In his first public appearance since defecting to the opposition, Hijab told a news conference in Jordan that the government's spirits were low after struggling for 17 months to crush the revolt against Assad's rule.
"I tell you out of my experience and the position I occupied that the regime is collapsing, morally, materially and economically. Militarily it is crumbling as it no longer occupies more than 30 percent of Syrian territory," he said.
Hijab did not elaborate on that assertion, and took no questions from reporters.
It has been hard to independently determine the extent of territory in rebel hands as much of the fighting has occurred in outlying towns and rural areas and media access to Syria is restricted. But Assad has lost swathes of territory along Syria's northern and eastern border and fighting has weakened his hold on larger cities such as Aleppo and Homs.
Hijab added: "Oh devoted revolutionaries, your revolution has become a model of effort and sacrifice for the sake of freedom and dignity."
Hijab, who like much of the opposition comes from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, was not part of Assad's inner circle. But as prime minister and the most senior civilian official to defect, his departure dealt a symbolic blow to the government, which is dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect.
His defection along with that of Syria's ambassador to Iraq, both tribal figures from Deir al-Zor, boosted opposition morale but the military reality on the ground has not changed, with aerial and ground bombardment keeping rebels in check.
Hijab urged officers in the military to defect and join the opposition. He also called on rebels to work harder to unify their fractious ranks.
"Oh men of the Free Syrian Army, unify your ranks as all hopes hang on you, you are the best fighters of this world," said Hijab, who took no questions from reporters.
Syrian authorities said they had dismissed Hijab before he fled, but he told the news conference in Amman that he resigned and defected to the opposition, referring to the Assad government as an "enemy of God".
"It is my duty to wash my hands of this corrupt regime," he said.
Russian UN envoy confirms suspension of airstrikes will continue until Monday if 'armed groups' hold their fire
Move comes four days after Syrian intelligence chief meets Egyptian officials in Cairo
Syrian opposition fighter says liberation of Jarabulus sparked wave of new faces joining anti-ISIL militia
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, extremist Jewish settlers converge on Al-Aqsa in hundreds
The air strikes late Thursday targeted positions of the Iran-backed Huthi insurgents at Jebel al-Nabishuaib, on the southwestern outskirts of rebel-held Sanaa, according to witnesses.
The UN hopes to carry out the wounded from Aleppo during a pause in fighting
Travel agents have urged the Saudi government not to raise the Saudi visa fees which is having a detrimental impact on business ties
Three-day UN-backed ceasefire went into effect midnight Wednesday
The eight-strong group was the biggest deployment of Russian naval assets seen off British shores in recent years, a Royal Navy spokesman said
We love to see the children so happy, says one journalist of the city, liberated by Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield
Shop reportedly printed banners depicting perpetrator of recent shooting attack
Gunfire and artillery exchanges erupted around a crossing point near the rebel-controlled Bustan al-Qasr district shortly after the pause began.
There has also been speculation he could give a speech before leaving office in January that would do the same.
Children are usually the most who suffer in war with the current refugee crisis considered to be one of the largest humanitarian crisis experienced in history
Three-day truce between Yemen’s warring parties to go into effect midnight Wednesday
Orhan Buyruk was arrested late last month at Ben Gurion Airport for suspected 'spying'