Syria’s Baath party replaces top leaders, including VP

Syria’s Baath party replaces top leaders, including VP

DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
Syria’s Baath party replaces top leaders, including VP

The words: ‘Baath, Arabism, Unity, Freedom, Socialism’ are seen on top of a damaged building that belongs to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.

Syria’s ruling Baath party, headed by the country’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad, announced today that its top leadership would be replaced, including Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.

The party’s central committee “held a lengthy meeting... on Monday morning,” at which “a new national leadership was chosen,” the Baath party website said. It published the names of 16 members of the new leadership, which included none of the party’s old chiefs with the exception of al-Assad.

The website said al-Assad would remain the party’s secretary general. Al-Sharaa, who has been Syria’s vice president since 2006, will remain in office despite his removal from the party leadership. Among those newly elected to the party leadership are Parliament Chief Jihad al-Laham and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. The overhaul means that for the first time none of the members of the party’s leadership is a member of the Syrian intelligence forces.

Israeli Arab jailed for joining rebels

In a separate development, an Arab Israeli was sent to jail today for more than two years for going to Syria where he joined rebels battling against the Syrian regime. Hikmat Massarwa was given 30 months in prison by Lod District Court as part of a plea bargain in which he admitted contacts with an enemy agent, illegally leaving the country and infiltration. Israel is technically at war with Syria and it is illegal for its citizens to travel there.

Massarwa, born in 1984, was arrested on March 19 after returning from Syria, where he underwent military training with the rebels, the Shin Bet domestic security agency said in April. It said that Massarwa was approached by rebel forces to “carry out a suicide attack against the forces of the Assad regime, but he says he refused to do it.”