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Middle East
Syria forms government amid more violence
Foreign, interior and defence ministers remain the same, as activists report deaths of 28 people in the country's east.
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2012 17:38
The new ministers assumes office assume their roles amid ongoing violence in the country [Reuters]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree forming a new government, state television said, nearly two months after controversial parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the opposition.

The formation of the government came as activists reported "a massacre" in the eastern city of Deir Az Zor, killing at least 28 people, and the Syrian military shot down a Turkish plane that it said was trepassing in its airspace.

Syrian television on Saturday said: "President Bashar al-Assad has issued Decree 210 forming a new government under Prime Minister Dr Riad Hijab."

"Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem will remain in his post, as will the defence and interior ministers, it said.

The decree also created a number of new ministries, including internal trade and consumer protection, foreign economy and trade and housing and construction development.

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.

Several new ministries were created in the new cabinet.

Qadri Jamil, a centrist who has said he is speaking both to the government and to the opposition, was appointed minister of internal commerce and consumer protection.

Red Crescent

A volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was shot and killed while on first aid duty in Deir Az Zor in eastern Syria on Friday, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement on Saturday.

Bashar al-Youssef, 23, was the fourth member of the Red Crescent to be killed in Syria since September, the statement said. He was wearing a uniform clearly marked with the red crescent emblem when he was shot, it said.

Ongoing violence

The new ministers assumes office assume their roles amid ongoing violence in the country.

A source at a hospital in Deir al-Zor said those killed, who included three women and several children, were mostly civilians killed by shelling on their houses in the Old Airport district.

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

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

In the central province of Homs, five civilians were killed by gunfire and shelling by regime troops, including two in the opposition stronghold of al-Qussair and a third elsewhere in the province.

The others were killed in the Khaldiyeh and Baba Amr districts of Homs city, where activists said troops have bombarded several neighbourhoods in an attempt to regain control.

In the central city of Hama, two civilians were reported killed in a dawn ambush by regime forces. A third person was killed when clashes broke out between troops and rebels elsewhere in Hama province.

In the town of Mahaja in the southern province of Deraa, the cradle of the revolt against the regime of Assad, shooting broke out as troops used tanks to storm the area.

Elsewhere in Deraa, one civilian was killed in gunfire in a raid by government troops, while in northern Aleppo province, two people, including a rebel fighter, were killed.

The latest reports of violence came a day after Syrian military said it shot down a Turkish fighter jet "over its territorial waters".

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