International

Turkey Says Syrian General, 85 Soldiers Have Defected

A handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on Monday shows a girl flashing the sign for victory in a destroyed street flooded with water in the restive central city of Homs.

hide captionA handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on Monday shows a girl flashing the sign for victory in a destroyed street flooded with water in the restive central city of Homs.

AFP/Getty Images

Turkey's state TV is reporting that a Syrian general and 85 soldiers have defected and are seeking refuge in Turkey.

The AP reports that this just adds to a growing wave of defections. The AP adds:

"Turkey's state-run Andolou news agency said the group of defectors also included 14 other officers, ranging from one colonel to seven captains. It is one of the largest groups of Syrian army defectors to cross into Turkey since the uprising against Assad began.

"The stakes are high for calming the crisis in Syria, which NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday called 'one of the gravest security challenges the world faces today.'"

Reuters confirmed the defections with the Syrian military.

"A government official, however, said the group included three colonels and there was no general among them," Reuters reports. "The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, did not know the overall number of defectors and the two accounts could not immediately be reconciled."

In other news on Syria:

Turkey scrambled F-16 fighters over the weekend when Syrian helicopters approached the border. The incidents just seem to testing an already fragile situation between the country. Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet last month because it said it had infiltrated its airspace. Turkey said the jet was shot down in international waters.

The Guardian's live blog also points to two significant events: First: "Russia has agreed to meet representatives of the Syrian opposition later this month..." Russia is basically the Assad regime's greatest ally. Second: "A presenter from the Assad regime's main television channel has defected to the opposition and revealed he had secretly provided intelligence to rebels for the past seven months."

— The Arab League is urging Syria's exiled opposition leaders to unite.

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