World Bulletin/News Desk
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree to form a new government on Saturday, shaking up many cabinet posts but keeping the heads of the interior, defence and foreign ministries, state television reported.
The reappointment of Defence Minister Daoud Rajha will quash widespread rumours, previously denied by the government, that he had been assassinated by rebels who are struggling to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
The 16-month uprising, which has faced a brutal government crackdown, is increasingly being termed a civil war by foreign observers. Assad argues he is pursuing reforms even as he fights a revolt he says is led by foreign-backed militants.
But critics say Assad's appointment of Riyad Hijab as prime minister earlier in June was a sign the president was turning to hardline loyalists. Hijab formed the new government given Assad's approval, Syria TV said on Saturday.
Hijab, a former agriculture minister, is a committed member of Assad's Baath Party, which has ruled Syria for nearly four decades since his father Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970.
Most of the top government posts were given to Baathist loyalists. Critics consider the cabinet to be largely symbolic and say power in Syria remains in the hands of Assad and his close inner circle of family and security force elites.
The new cabinet follows a May 7 parliamentary election which Assad said was part of the path to reform but the opposition boycotted as a sham, insisting the president must step down.
Other than Rajha, the ministers to retain their post were Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Several new ministries were created in the new cabinet.
The moderate Qadri Jamil, a centrist who has said he is speaking both to the government and to rebels, was appointed minister of internal commerce and consumer protection. The post is newly formed and likely to be mostly ceremonial.
An official with the prosecutors' office confirmed media reports that they had traced the location of an IP address linked to the leak and had dispatched investigators to the site.
Four parties contest 135 seats in parliament's lower house
"Houthi armed militants blew up the house of tribal leader Yehia Taqi Markoub in the village of Darb Obaid of the Arhab district," a tribal source said
Maher Abu Sabha, the Hamas-appointed director of crossings, said Rafah would open for two days to allow Gazans with serious illnesses to travel to Egypt and beyond for treatment and to allow foreign nationals and students to travel.
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The spokesman did not reveal the nationalities of the defendants, nor did he disclose the method by which the death sentences were carried out
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Mohan Bhagwat of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which is also the ideological wing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, said India was a "Hindu nation"
Ban visited Cuba earlier this year and said he had been trying to advocate for an opening with Cuba to authorities in Washington over the issue.
Muhammad Ali is in hospital with 'mild' pneumonia and is expected to be released soon, says his spokesperson
A police force arrested five Israel settlers – of which four were minors – for planning to attack Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israeli radio quoted police sources as saying
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Al-Sisi has appointed Gen. Khaled Fawzi, head of the National Security Agency, as the acting intelligence chief