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Boys look at a damaged tank at al-Tareb, near Aleppo, August 5, 2012.[Photo/Agencies]
DAMASCUS - The Syrian troops made achievements Monday in their battles with the armed rebels in northern Aleppo province and elsewhere, the state media said. However, the military gains were overshadowed by the defection of breakaway Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab.
The Syrian TV said that armed groups attacked Monday a thermal power plant at the Sufaira area in the eastern part of Aleppo's countryside, adding that the Syrian troops clashed with the assailants and killed 25 of them.
Also in Aleppo, the government forces clashed with an armed group in al-Martini neighborhood, killing and injuring a number of terrorists and forcing the rest to flee, according to state-run SANA news agency.
Separately, a unit of the Syrian forces clashed with a " terrorist group" near the Aleppo Science Faculty, killing and injuring a number of terrorists, including snipers stationed on rooftops who were firing at passersby and cars.
The armed forces also confronted a "terrorist" group in Bab al- Hadid area, killing and injuring several of its members, while the authorities clashed with another terrorist group in Aghyour roundabout, leaving many terrorists killed and injured.
In Homs, the authorities clashed with "terrorists" who were attempting to flee al-Khalidiye neighborhood, resulting in the deaths of seven terrorists and the injury of others.
In Telkalakh in Homs countryside, the authorities confronted a "terrorist group" that attempted to attack law-enforcement forces and citizens, killing and injuring several terrorists, according to SANA.
The state news agency also reported confrontations in the southern province of Daraa.
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, said that more than 150 Syrians have been killed Monday, 98 of them unarmed civilians.
Yet, the activists' account couldn't be verified independently.
Meantime, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye said he is extremely alerted by the incessant violence in Syria, particularly in Aleppo.
In a brief statement released Monday, Gaye said the situation in Aleppo has deteriorated to an extreme level, urging all parties to protect the civilians and honor the commitments of the international humanitarian law.
The military gains were clouded Monday by news of the defection of Syrian Prime MinisterRiyad Farid Hijab along with other officials.
The Syrian TV said that Hijab was sacked of his post and replaced by his deputyOmar Ghalawenji. The Syrian government has downplayed reports about the defection and it's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi saidthat Syria is an institutional state and the flight of some personalities, however high-ranking, won't affect the Syrian state.
In a press statement following the Cabinet session on Monday, al-Zoubi dismissed as untrue reports on some ministers' defecting, adding that 99 percent of the news broadcast by foreign and Arab media outlets on Syrian personalities or events are "desperate attempts with defined goals."
Hijab's defection has been seen by opposition activists as the second painful blow for the embattled government that has barely managed to get out of the shadow after four of its senior officers were killed last month in a bomb attack, experts say.
Hijab, who was also former agriculture minister, was tasked with forming the new government on June 6, following a parliamentary election in May which was applauded by the Assad regime as a step toward reform but criticized by the opposition as phony.
The Jordanian government officials said Monday that the ex- Syrian prime minister defected along with his family to Jordan, although they later said he has not entered the Jordanian territory yet.
A spokesperson of Hijab went on Arab TVs reading a statement from Hijab that he had defected the "criminal regime," however Hijab didn't make an appearance and his whereabouts remains unknown.
Local media reports claimed that Hijab didn't go to Jordan but headed to Beirut to create a diversion with the help of senior Lebanese figures. The reports, apparently bases on security leaks, said the Hijab will be transported on private jet to Saudi and later to Turkey.
The reports said that the ex-prime minister left Damascus at 8:00 pm (GMT 1700) local time on Sunday after receiving the decision that has relieved him of his duties.
Hijab reportedly rejected Sunday to sign a number of agreements with Russia on the selling of Syrian crude oil that would bring about a billion US dollars in revenue to Syria.
The reports quoted one of Hijab's brother as saying that after declining to sign the agreements with Russian, Hijab was expecting to be arrested under the charge of undermining the country's economy.
The defection has capped other defections that have been reported over the past months.
Abdul-Aziz Khair, an opposition figure, told Xinhua that the defection is an "additional indication of the increasing political unraveling of the regime."
"Over the past weeks, a number of important defections have occurred at the level of high-ranking military officers and from the narrow circle of decision makers in the regime," he said.
Last month, Munaf Tlas, a top Syrian general and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a member of his inner circle, defected and joined the Syrian Free Army.
On July 18, four senior officers and ministers, including the Syrian defense minister Maj. Gen. Dawood Rajha, and his deputy Assef Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law, were killed in a bomb attack in Damascus. The bombing also killed the head of the National Security Department, Hisham Ikhtyar.
In another bold attack Monday, an explosive device tore through the 3rd floor of Syria's state-run building in Damascus, causing three slight injuries, the state media said.
The brazen attack is the first of its kind to hit the heavily fortified state establishment in the very core.
It wasn't immediate clear how the bomb was delivered inside the building, which is also located in the Ummayad Square, the symbolic center of the capital Damascus that is flanked by the Army headquarters and the state media building.
The recent attacks and defections were seen by many experts as a gut-wrenching blow for the government. Hijab's defection is also seen as the second, but less painful, blow for the regime that is boasting of achieving military gains on ground against rebels in Damascus and Aleppo, the largest city and the country's economic hub.