03 July 2012

Defections from Syria Speeding Up

Another mass defection to Turkey.

Eighty-five Syrian soldiers, including one general and at least 14 lower-ranking officers, fled into southern Turkey’s Hatay Province on Monday, Turkish news agencies reported. It was one of the largest mass military defections since the Syrian conflict began 16 months ago.

A Turkish broadcaster, T.R.T. Haber, said the defectors entered the town of Reyhanli as part of a group of 293 refugees “fleeing atrocities in Syria.” It said the defectors were placed in the Apaydin refugee camp, where there are already about 2,000 former members of the Syrian military who have abandoned allegiance to President Bashar al-Assad. The civilians in the group were sent to another camp along the shared border with Syria.

Turkey’s Anatolia news agency said the 14 lower-ranking officers included a colonel and a lieutenant colonel.

The once-close relationship between Turkey and Syria has badly frayed with Mr. Assad’s harsh repression of an uprising that began last year in March as a peaceful political protest and has since evolved into an armed insurgency.

Turkey’s government is now allowing the insurgent Free Syrian Army to operate from bases inside the Turkish border and is housing more than 35,000 Syrian civilians who have sought refuge from the conflict. The Turks also have sent antiaircraft batteries to the border in response to the June 22 downing of a Turkish military plane by Syrian gunners. On Monday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said it scrambled warplanes from its Incirlik air base in southern Turkey when three Syrian military helicopters were seen approaching the border.

By: Brant

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