Syria: New cabinet, more deaths as well as threats from Turkey

Published June 23rd, 2012 - 12:05 GMT
New PM Hijab
New PM Hijab

Syrian government forces shelled the town of Deir Ezzor in the east, killing 28 people in total, reported on Saturday Syrian NGOs. According to them, troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad attacked several buildings in the vicinity of the old airport of Deir Ezzor. Women and children were among the victims.

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on the formation of a new government where Ministers of Foreign Affairs Walid Muallem and Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar keep their positions.

The Defence Minister Daoud Rajha, 64, in office since August also retained his post. He was among those sanctioned by the United States over the violent repression by the regime of the protest movement.

Syria confirmed Friday it had shot a Turkish fighter plane, which had entered its airspace. Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned Saturday that his country would respond with "necessary measures", even though the investigation continues. "No coverage is possible," said the Turkish leader, who was quoted by the official news agency Anatolia.

"There is no doubt that the necessary measures will be taken," he added, without further details. Gul, however, noted that the authorities were still trying to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and determine whether or not the aircraft had violated Syrian airspace.

"Our investigation will focus on whether the plane was shot down inside our borders or not," he said. "As the consequences could be very serious, there will be no clear statement before the circumstances have been thoroughly examined." The Turkish president said it was common for fighter jets flying at high speed to briefly violate the airspace of other countries. According to Turkey, the plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, about 13km off the Syrian city of Latakia. According to Turkish media, teams of Turkish and Syrian coastguards Saturday continued a joint search operation to find the two pilots.

On Friday night, Syria confirmed shooting down the aircraft, claiming that the aircraft had violated its airspace. According to Damascus, Syrian forces have realized after shooting the hunter that it was an aircraft of the Turkish army. The official news agency SANA had reported that the Syrian army had spotted an "unidentified aerial target," flying at low altitude and high speed. "The Syrian air defenses had reacted with the anti-aircraft artillery, directly affecting" the target, according to SANA. "The target turned out to be a Turkish military aircraft that had entered Syrian airspace and was treated in accordance with the rules observed in such cases."

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