Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara is under house arrest and the rebels are not contacting him, since they are aware that he is under surveillance and any such contact could put his life in jeopardy, the secretary-general of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has told a Kuwaiti newspaper.

The Brotherhood official, Mohammed Riad al-Shaqfa, thus verified declarations from other Syrian rebel leaders concerning rebel forces’ contacts with senior government and military officials, including Alawite leaders that wish to defect but fear for their lives and families.

Prime Minister Riyad Hijab’s defection to the rebel side on Monday was noteworthy since he was considered second in command to President Bashir Assad, al-Shaqfa said. There has not yet been any contact between Hijab and the Syrian National Council, which represents most of the opposition movements, but such contacts will take place when the conditions are ripe, al-Shaqfa asserted.

Al-Shaqfa said he had met with the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlass, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, another notable defector, who was considered a close personal friend of Assad until recently. According to al-Shaqfa, the younger Tlass has no political ambitions but hopes to see the Syrian crisis resolved.

Following Hijab’s recent defection, and amid reports of the possible defection of the Syrian VP, Assad named a new prime minister on Thursday, as his forces pounded rebels in a strategic district of Aleppo.

Assad appointed Wael al-Halki, a Sunni Muslim from the southern province of Daraa where the Syrian uprising erupted 17 months ago, to head the government after Riyad Hijab fled on after spending only two months in the job.

On Thursday morning the fighting in Aleppo resumed and activists reported massive fire on several neighborhoods, especially Salah ad-Din neighborhood, where, according to the reports, soldiers and rebels are fighting in the streets. Human rights groups say that 160 people were killed on Wednesday, most of them in Aleppo and Homs.