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.
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'
"Before we can do something really meaningful... we need assurances from all parties," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) in Geneva.
Jewish extremist groups have called on supporters to converge on Al-Aqsa compound this week to mark Sukkot
Billboards reportedly put up in Tahrir Square by TV broadcaster linked to Palestinian politician Mohamed Dahlan
Carter to discuss regional issues including latest developments in Iraq, Syria