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.
He said the analysis of samples taken at the scene of the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhun showed "there is no doubt that sarin gas was used".
The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting was cancelled after Gabriel decided to go ahead with talks with Israeli rights groups Breaking The Silence and B'Tselem.
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It remains unclear who carried out strikes, which reportedly left 15 dead and local hospital in ruins
Some 25 protestors made the 225-kilometre (140-mile) walk, dubbed the "march for bread", to call for unrestricted aid deliveries to Yemen, where Iran-backed Huthi rebels have battled government forces allied with a Saudi-led Arab coalition for two years.
Israel has occupied the West Bank for 50 years and Jewish settlement building in the Palestinian territory has drawn intense international criticism.
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Nearly 5,000 Syrians have gone through a migration regulatory process in Morocco, with several hundred receiving refugee status, according to Morocco's ministry of foreign affairs.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the suspects' vehicle had been targeted and its three occupants were incinerated in the strike.
It said the decision to raise prices was within the cabinet's powers.
The visit comes after months of tension between Cairo and Riyadh
Projects will be carried out in places where terrorists had been eliminated by Turkey-led Operation Euphrates Shield