AMMAN — The government on Wednesday confirmed that Syrian former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab is staying at a “safe location” in Amman after he crossed into the Kingdom at dawn Wednesday.
“He crossed the border with a number of his family members, brothers and sisters and they were all taken to a safe place in Amman,” Minister of State for Communications and Media Affairs Samih Maaytah told The Jordan Times.
“They are currently under security protection,” the minister added.
The minister said that the group crossed into the Jordanian territories via the fence, not the border crossing, and was received on our side of the borders by members of the Jordan Armed Forces and security agencies.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activist Nabegh Srour told The Jordan Times that Hijab has been hiding inside the Syria over the past 48 hours, adding that he was under the protection of Al Motasem Brigade, a faction affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“He was supposed to flee to Jordan in the immediate aftermath of his defection but because the regime forces intensified their operations near the border, the FSA decided to keep Hijab in hiding until things calmed down,” Srour, also a wanted opposition member by the Syrian regime, told the Jordan Times in a telephone interview from Ramtha near the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Srour said opposition fighters kept moving Hijab from one location to another until they secured a safe exit out of Syria.
He noted that besides Hijab, 35 of his family members came along with him including his own family, brothers and sisters and their families, adding that the group did not include nay other officials from the Syrian government.
It is still not clear if Hijab will stay in the Kingdom or leave to another destination. However, the foreign media quoted his spokesperson Mohammad Otri told as saying that “Hijab will go to Doha, where international media are based. He will leave for Qatar tomorrow, the day after or after a few days”.
Otri made the announcement on Al Jazeera satellite channel on Monday, confirming that Hijab decided to join the rebels in protest against the “genocide” that President Bashar Assad has committed against his own people.
“I announce my defection today [Monday] from the regime of killing and terror, and I join the ranks of the revolution,” Hijab said in the statement, which was read by Otri on Al Jazeera.
Otri added on Al Jazeera, quoting Hijab, that his defection comes at a time “when Syria is passing through the most difficult war crimes, genocide, and barbaric killings and massacres against unarmed citizens”.
State television reported on Monday that “Prime Minister Riad Hijab has been dismissed” and Deputy Prime Minister and Local Government Minister Omar Ghalawanji had been appointed as caretaker premier.