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      Report: Assad Executed Syrian Defense Minister

      Less than 24 hours after being fired, Ali Habib is reported dead. Opposition says Assad killed him.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 8/9/2011, 2:44 PM

      Less than 24 hours after Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib was fired – he has been found dead, according to reports in Syria. The Opposition says President Bashar Assad had him killed.

      Syrian official press reported that Habib had died of a disease, but opposition websites claimed that he was executed by the government. A-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday morning that Habib had opposed the lethal operation at Hama that cost the lives of hundreds of civilians.
       
      On Monday afternoon Syrian strongman Assad announced the appointment of the chief of staff, Daud Rajha, as defense minister in place of Habib. Assad said that the appointment is part of the reforms he is implementing and claimed that Habib was suffering from a serious illness, and his condition was deteriorating.
       
      Opposition websites, however, reported that Habib had been found dead in his apartment after he was assassinated by Assad's men. They pointed to Bashar's brother, Maher Assad, as the person who was directly responsible for the killing. 
       
      According to A-Sharq al-Awsat, Habib had held off sending the Syrian army into Hama because he had "differences of opinion" with the Syrian leadership on how to handle the crisis. Habib claimed that using the army against Syrian civilians caused soldiers' defections.