Syrian general, 20 soldiers defect: opposition

BEIRUT Sat Mar 16, 2013 3:55pm EDT

1 of 3. An old damaged house is pictured in Homs March 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yazen Homsy

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - A brigadier general and about 20 soldiers defected from the Syrian army in two separate incidents on Saturday, activists said, in another sign that the strength of President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces is diminishing.

Brigadier General Mohammed Khalouf appeared dressed in a camouflage military uniform in a video on Al Arabiya news channel and said he had planned his escape with the opposition movement for some time.

"It is not possible for anyone to accept any of the ideas of this regime unless they have achieved special interests," he said in the video.

There was no comment about the defection on Syrian state news outlets.

Defection of high-ranking military and political figures has slowed in past months.

But a study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published this week estimated that Assad's forces, thought to be more than 300,000-strong at the start of the uprising two years ago, were now at a much lower effective strength and were likely to diminish further.

The IISS said that perhaps 50,000 of the Syrian army's elite troops could be depended on for loyalty. Most of them were likely to be from Assad's minority Alawite sect, which has dominated the country for more than four decades.

Many deserters report that their units were held inside bases to prevent their escape.

Syria's civil war began as a popular street movement but has evolved into an increasingly sectarian conflict. The opposition has been mostly led by the Sunni Muslim population, with Alawites and other minorities mostly throwing their weight behind Assad.

In central Syria, around 20 soldiers fled their posts for embattled rebel territory near the ancient desert city of Palmyra, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The British-based group, which has a network of activists across Syria, said the soldiers fled to farmlands near the city, where there has been shelling and gun battles for two days.

Fighting has now spread across most of the country, except for a stronghold on the Mediterranean coast which is home to a large Alawite population.

With increasing violence has come a rising use of cluster munitions, the Human Rights Watch reported Saturday, saying it had identified at least 119 locations across Syria where the bombs had been used in the past six months. It said cluster bomb attacks were causing a mounting civilian death toll in a conflict that has already killed more than 70,000 people.

"Syria is expanding its relentless use of cluster munitions, a banned weapon, and civilians are paying the price with their lives and limbs," said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch.

"The initial toll is only the beginning because cluster munitions often leave unexploded bomblets that kill and maim long afterward."

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Comments (3)
Khantona wrote:
It has been over a year, when we started reading the Arabian Syrian Army is getting weaker.

Here is another source of information, if you are interested.

SANA March 15, 2013

PROVINCES,(SANA)- Units of the army eliminated a number of terrorists and restored security and stability to al-Parlaman roundabout, the Cultural Center, Police Department and the Municipality Building in Joubar Neighborhood in Damascus Countryside.

The army clashed with armed terrorist groups in a number of areas in the neighborhood and dismantled large numbers of explosive devices planted in the houses of citizens near the schools compound.

SANA reporter said the clashes took place in the eastern part of the neighborhood, particularly along the al-Parlaman roundabout and to the east of the schools compound in the area, killing a number of terrorists and injuring others.

Terrorists Abdul-Rahman al-Tabaji and Eyad Abdul-Hadi were identified among the dead.

An official source told SANA reporter that the army units thwarted attempts to blow up scores of explosive devices, some weighing 30 kg, which had been planted by terrorists in houses near the schools compound.

The source added that a large number of grenades were found inside terrorists’ dens with a mark writer on them saying ‘Used after Takbir (saying ‘God Is Great’) for three times’.

In the meantime, units of the armed forces destroyed terrorists’ gatherings, cars and heavy machinegun-equipped vehicles in Adra area in the countryside.

A military source told SANA reporter that a number of terrorists were killed and others were wounded in al-Shalet farm and Tal al-Sawan area in Adra.

Terrorists Killed, Their Weapons Destroyed in Douma, Adra and Harasta

Units of the armed forces killed and injured terrorists during crackdown operations against their gatherings in Harasta, Douma, and Adra, destroying their vehicles and weapons.

An official source told SANA that army units clashed with terrorist groups near al-Thanawiah roundabout and al-Hasan Mosque in Harasta, killing eight terrorists, among them Abu Ahmad, a leader of terrorist group.

Meanwhile, two mortar cannons were destroyed near the playground in Douma, and terrorists were killed and others injured in a qualitative operation against a terrorists’ den near the municipality roundabout. The terrorists Anan al-Bashash, Rashid Taha and Mohammad Mayyasah were identified among the dead.

The source added that units of the armed forces carried out a series of qualitative operations in Adra and destroyed a den for Jabhat al-Nusra-linked terrorist group with the terrorists inside.

The source added that a mortar cannon was destroyed east of the cattle souk, in addition to destroying a number of cars near al-Shalati farm.

Clashes with Terrorist Groups Continue in Homs

Army units continued operations against terrorists’ dens and gatherings in several areas in the old city and countryside of Homs, inflicting heavy losses upon the terrorists.

SANA reporter quoted a military source as saying that the army destroyed several gatherings and dens for terrorists in the areas of Jousiyah, al-Maqni, al-Dousariyah and Tal al-Hanash in the countryside of al-Qseir.

The source added that army units destroyed a car with the weapons, ammunition and terrorists inside in al-Khalidiyah neighborhood and killed and injured many terrorists in the neighborhoods of Baba Amro, al-Qarabis, Bab al-Sbaa and Wadi al-Sayeh in the old city of Homs.

Earlier, a unit of the army destroyed terrorists’ hideout in al-Rastan city in the countryside

SANA reporter quoted a source in the province as saying that a number of terrorists were killed in the operation.

The source added that a unit of the armed forces clashed with an armed terrorist group which attacked an oil pipeline east of Mahin town in Homs countryside.

Two terrorists were killed, others injured while the rest fled, the source said.

Terrorists’ Gatherings Destroyed in Idleb

Meanwhile, units of the armed forces pursued terrorists in several areas in Idleb countryside.

SANA reporter quoted a source in the province as saying that the army destroyed a number of terrorists’ hideouts in the villages of al-Zae’nieh, Bzeit and Um al-Ghar in Jisr al-Shughour countryside, killing and injuring a number of terrorists.

The source added that the army targeted terrorists’ gatherings in the villages of Binnish, al-Nirab, Jidar Bakfaloun, Sirmin, Kafr Jales, Saraqib and Maarat Misrin, inflicting heavy losses upon terrorists.

A unit of the armed forces destroyed a number of terrorists’ vehicles and weapons, killing a number of them in Abu al-Duhour.

The Army Destroys Terrorists’ Cars in Deir Ezzor

In the same context, units of the army on Friday destroyed a number of cars killing the terrorists in them on al-Hasaka- Deir Ezzor Road.

SANA Reporter quoted a source in Deir Ezzor Province as saying “Depending on the available information, the armed forces set an ambush for a number of the cars, some of which were equipped with heavy machineguns, while they were heading to Deir Ezzor City as all the cars and the weapons and ammunition inside them were destroyed while the terrorists in the cars were killed.”

Mohammad Khalifa al-Khudir and Hammoud Khalif al-Ghadir were among the terrorists who were killed.

The source added that another army unit on Friday eliminated a number of the terrorists of the so-called “Jabhat al-Nusra” in al-Hwaiqa in Deir Ezzor City and detonated a car bomb and killed terrorist Mohammad Husseib al-Raja who was driving it before he could blow himself up.

English Bulletin

Mar 16, 2013 3:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BioStudies wrote:
Didn’t this happen a year ago? Kinda old news to be dragging up now unless you have a political agenda.

Mar 16, 2013 5:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Slammy wrote:

Mar 16, 2013 9:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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