Former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab appeared for the first time since his defection from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on Wednesday, in a video accompanied reportedly by Free Syrian Army’s Mu’tassam Bilah Bridgade.
In the video, filmed in Al-Ni’aimah town in Deraa city near the Jordanian border, Hijab is seated against a wall in a room with children and several men, who the FSA claimed were its fighters, guarding him before his departure to Jordan after his defection from the Syrian regime.
Head of al-Yarmouk Brigade in Deraa, Abu Al-Majd Al-Zou’bi, told Al Arabiya that his troops helped the former prime minister, his family and relatives cross the border into Jordan.
Zou’bi said Hijab left Syria along with 25 of his relatives and family, including four of his brothers.
The Assad regime has cut off electricity and communication in the areas bordering Jordan in a bid to stop defectors from spiriting across the border, Zou’bi said. Despite those efforts, he said that “defections” were increasing.
When contacted for comment by Al Arabiya, Jordanian officials initially denied Hijab’s presence in Jordan. However, on Wednesday, the Jordanian government confirmed that defected prime minister has entered the country at dawn.
The official state news agency Petra quoted government spokesman Samih al-Mayata as saying that Hijab arrived with members of his family in Jordan on Wednesday.
Mayata denied earlier media reports quoting unnamed Jordanian officials as saying Hijab had arrived on Monday. But a foreign diplomat in Amman told Reuters: “Our information is that Hijab has been here since Monday.”
Mohamed Atari, Hijab's spokesman, said the ex-premier waited until Tuesday night to cross into Jordan to ensure the coast was clear since Syrian border patrols had been on high alert after news of his defection circulated on Monday.