Syrian army in Deir al-Zor (Archives)
Photo; AFP

Syria forms new government; bloodshed continues

Assad's 'inclusive' government retains top loyalist ministeres; Syrian army shells eastern city, killing 28, opposition says

Syrian President Bashar Assad formed a new government Saturday, but the key posts at the foreign, defense and interior ministries were not changed.


The government is headed by Riad Farid Hijab, a former agriculture minister and a loyalist member of the ruling Baath Party.


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A deadly uprising has convulsed Syria for more than a year, and Assad has promised to enact political reforms. He had promised after the May 7 parliamentary elections to make the government more inclusive to politicians from other parties.


But the appointment of Hijab and the decision to keep the key posts unchanged raised questions about the commitment to that pledge.


The opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections, saying they were designed to strengthen Assad's grip on power.


Parliament is considered little more than a rubber stamp in Syria, where the president and a tight coterie of advisers hold the real power.


Activists estimate that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against Assad's regime in March 2011.


Civilians killed in eastern city

On Saturday Syria's army battled rebels and shelled neighborhoods in Deir al-Zor, killing at least 28 people in the eastern city in an oil-producing region close to the border with Iraq, opposition activists said.


The victims, who included three women and several children, were mostly civilians killed when shells hit their houses in the city's Old Airport and al-Hamidya districts, a source at a city hospital told Reuters.

"The death toll is likely higher. There are more bodies at the morgue, but they have not been identified yet," the source said.


Loyalist forces have lost control of parts of the surrounding Deir al-Zor province, which borders Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland as alliances between Assad's ruling elite and Sunni tribes have collapsed.


The artillery barrage on the Old Airport area on the edge of the city started late on Friday, following the defection of at least 30 members of the Hajjana, a border force that has a base in the area, opposition campaigners told Reuters from the city.


The central Al-Hamidya district came under shelling after Free Syrian Army rebels fought off a tank incursion into the area, they added.


Rebels have been mounting attacks on roadblocks, tanks and fortifications belonging to loyalist troops in Deir al-Zor, the provincial capital on the Euphrates river, 420 km (262 miles) northeast of Damascus.


A main oil pipeline from Deir al-Zor province feeds Syria's two refineries, in the city of Homs and an export terminal on the Mediterranean.


AP and Reuters contributed to the report




פרסום ראשון: 06.23.12, 15:47
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