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This just came in over Al Jazeera English Live minutes ago: Turkish authorities have announced that a Syria general, together with other soldiers and their families, making a party of 293 have just been given refuge in Turkey. Details to follow.

The back story on this must be huge. Imagine the logistics of getting all families members together to form such a large party and getting them across what has now become one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world without getting caught.

The reason they have to defect with all their family members is that Bashar al-Assad will murder any remaining family members. Three days ago his soldiers went into a home and murdered everybody there, including children as young as four because one family member was caught video taping the soldiers from the balcony.

The same day his goons were doing this, the diplomats of the world met in Geneva and found Bashar al-Assad a fit person to be involved in a new Syrian government just as soon as Assad decides he might like to share power.

My quote of the day: "Two things know no limit: Syrian bravery and world hypocrisy." @Ugaritian

More to follow...

Al Arabiya News just published this 21:31 pm (GMT):

A Syrian general from an artillery division and seven officers were among 85 soldiers, mostly serving in Homs province, who defected and fled to Turkey on Monday afternoon, a Syrian activist and Free Syrian Army sources told Reuters.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on its website that 85 Syrian soldiers, including the general, were among those who were sent to the Apaydin camp in Turkey’s Hatay province.

Last month, another Syrian general, two colonels, two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers had also defected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and arrived in Turkey.

The private news channel CNN Turk also reported the defections of the soldiers, but said they had arrived with members of their families, making a total of 224 individuals.

A government official, however, said the group included three colonels and there was no general among them. 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.

A prominent reporter from the main government news channel has also defected to Turkey, the Guardian reported today:
Ghatan Sleiba, a long-time anchor and reporter for the al-Dunya channel and a contributor to the state-owned station al-Akhbariya, is believed to be the first high-profile defector from Damascus's powerful propaganda arm. "I am the first and I will probably be the last," he said in an interview with the Guardian in southern Turkey.

"There are some others who also want to run, but there are more who love the regime from the depths of their hearts," he said.
Sleiba, 33, arrived in Turkey last Wednesday after a long journey from Hassaka in eastern Syria, where he had been responsible for coverage of the east of the country. He is now being hosted by rebel groups.

He claimed opposition guerillas were now in quasi-control of much of the east, especially the countryside surrounding major towns and cities.

"This is one of the things that they never wanted us to talk about. What we were doing was not reporting. It was simply acting as the tongue of the regime. I stayed as long as I could to help the revolutionaries, but I couldn't take it any more.

Al-Dunya is part-owned and supervised by Bashar al-Assad's maternal cousin Rami Makhlouf, a key member of the inner sanctum. It has pushed the official narrative that the Syrian uprising is a plot by the west and key Sunni Arab powers to use al-Qaida-linked insurgents to overthrow the regime.

Sleiba said that before interviews he regularly gave people answers to questions he was about to ask them. "Those answers and the subjects of things to talk about were given to us by the head of the Ba'ath party in the area, or by the political security division."

He said he first developed doubts about the official version of events about two months into the uprising, which started in March last year. "Many of us knew then that it wasn't terrorists they were fighting. It was people wanting their rights. But it was very difficult to do anything about it. We have families and we need to protect them."

6:33 PM PT:
This was just posted to Amanpour's blog @ 5:29pm est:

Syrian military defector: 'Those who were injected are lucky'

By Lucky Gold

Colonel Abdalhamid Zakaria, a doctor and defector from the Syrian army, appeared Monday on Amanpour and described the appalling conditions in the Aleppo military hospital where he worked until his defection.

Now a member of the Syrian Free Army, Col. Zakaria spoke from Istanbul, recalling how at Aleppo hospital he had treated Syrian soldiers, most of whom “were shot from behind when they refused to kill the civilians.”

As for the civilian patients, he said they were treated “only when the regime is looking for further investigations.” But if they had no information to divulge, “the regime will kill them directly by many ways.”

Among those lethal methods, he detailed “calcium injections, intravenously and rapidly causing cardiac arrest, or by using high doses of insulin causing hypoglycemic coma and finally death.”

He added, “Those who were injected are lucky, compared to those left bleeding to death in the dark.”

Aware of the seriousness of his accusations, Col. Zakaria insisted: “I have seen by my own eyes. The staff who injected those people are nurses and doctors who my friends.”  Then he corrected himself:  “They were my friends, not now.”

He should consider that his family will be killed

Once he made his decision to defect, Col. Zakaria’s last night in his Syrian home was painful:  “My little daughter was crying. And she begged me to travel to any country without a president.  She thinks that all the presidents are killers like Assad.”

Echoing his daughter’s sentiments, Col. Zakaria said “the international community has deserted us.  No one cares for all the bloodshed in Syria.  We only hear words and promises but in fact, it’s just much ado about nothing.”

He then offered a message to the American people and the American president:  “How do you dare to look at your kids’ eyes while the children in Syria are killed on a daily basis?  Also I want to ask Mr. Obama, is your presidential chair worth all the bloodshed in Syria?  Why are you keeping silent?”

Fortunately, he was able to get his family out of the country:  “We left everything behind.  We left our home, hour livelihood, our schools - we left everything rather than the memories of our bleeding home country.”

Col. Zakaria gave a chilling reason why the numbers to date have been so few:  “We have in Syria the largest secret security forces throughout the world.  They kill any officer they suspect is supporting the revolution…Anyone who decided to defect, he should consider that his family will be killed.”

I think this new revelation that "Both sides are committing human rights violations in Syria" is a canard and just the latest excuse for doing nothing about Assad's slaughter. Has there ever been a war in which both sides didn't commit human rights violation. That is in the nature of war and because of that even those who are merely practicing self-defense, even those whose cause is just, will end up committing some human rights violations if the conflict has any duration or scope.

As an excuse for staying out of a conflict, it could have been applied equally well to the war to defeat Hitler & fascism or the Civil War that ended slavery.

Certainly both sides are committing some level of human rights abuses but only one side is going this:
    Methodically shelling the countryside from inside Damascus July 2, 2012 7:45pm pst

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on SyriaMy response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

7:26 PM PT: The AJE reporter said since the attack on Douma Saturday, the city is virtually abandoned, with corpses rotting in the streets.

What does that mean? It was a city of a half-million people last week this time.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bravo -- it is coming apart at the seams. (7+ / 0-)

    Assad will not be missed.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:52:47 PM PDT

  •  Here is a link to (7+ / 0-)

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:52:52 PM PDT

  •  Getting the army to defect (6+ / 0-)

    is the best strategy. Once the armed forces realize that Assad is their albatross, this thing will be over. It's really looking like some significant cracks are appearing.

    The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

    by Anne Elk on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:54:08 PM PDT

  •  In related news: (6+ / 0-)
    Doubts Cast on Turkey's Story of Jet

    U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria's account and at odds with Turkey.

    "We see no indication that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile" as Turkey says, said a senior defense official. Officials declined to specify the sources of their information. The senior U.S. defense official cautioned that much remains unknown about the incident.

    A Turkish official said he wasn't aware of the American doubts, and reiterated the government's position that a Syrian missile downed the plane in international airspace.

    The US is the only industrialized nation where gun ownership is a right, health care is a privilege, infant mortality tops the charts, and the constitution was written to appease slave holders rather than citizens.

    by Pluto on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:22:30 PM PDT

    •  Silly propaganda opportunism abounds in Turkey: (3+ / 0-)
      Did Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi unfollow Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's Twitter account?
      Hürriyet [Turkish News Agency] had reported that Makdissi unfollowed Davutoğlu after following him for a day, linking the incident to souring relations between Turkey and Syria.

      "I unfollowed the Turkish account and followed the English account .... What is the big deal," Makdsissi tweeted on the microblogging site.

      Turkey says scrambled more jets as Syria aircraft near border

      Turkey's armed forces command said on Monday it had scrambled a total of six F-16 fighter jets in three separate incidents responding to Syrian military helicopters approaching the border on Sunday.

      The military made the first announcement about the F-16s being scrambled in response to Syrian aircraft on Sunday, saying again that six F-16s had been dispatched to patrol the border with Syria after Syrian helicopters flew near the border on Saturday.

      The helicopters came within four miles of Turkish airspace and there was no violation of the Turkish airspace in these earlier incidents either.

      [2 July 2012 / REUTERS, ANKARA]


      Four whole miles.

      Meanwhile, Turkey has stopped flying into Syrian airspace after their fighter plane was shot down while doing so.

      The US is the only industrialized nation where gun ownership is a right, health care is a privilege, infant mortality tops the charts, and the constitution was written to appease slave holders rather than citizens.

      by Pluto on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:51:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Assad must go. It'll be worse when he does. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund, Claudius Bombarnac, mickT

    "There's the rub."

    There is no great policy option for the US right now in Syria. There is no liberal group with any force, no pro-Western group, no secular opposition to speak of, no truly democratic force, and no-one alive with any experience in running a tolerant, open, democratic government.

    According to the NYTimes, we are funding and arming various Islamist revolutionaries who want to violently overthrow the Assad regime. (Imagine if a foreign power did that here!) These are not people or groups who will feel any loyalty to the US if they gain power, even if we help them now. It seems we haven't learned our lesson about blowback, yet.

    Bashir Assad's butchery may become worse than his father's. He caved in to the Baathists (and the hawks in his tribe), rather than setting up a democratic system that would have led to a peaceful regime change and his transition from power. Already, 20,000 people have died, with many more imprisoned, tortured, or wounded. [That's horrific; though less than the 5.4 million killed in Congo, where US reactions are quite different.]

    But Kofi Anan is correct: if/when Assad is toppled/abdicates, the likely outcome is even more sectarian (and intra-sect) violence, followed by an Islamist Sunni government, with likely vengeance against Alewites, Christians, and Assad's Sunni supporters. Instability on Syria's borders is also likely, possibly destabilizing Lebanon, the Kurds (hence Turkey), Iraq (with a 65% Shia majority -- Iran was the biggest winner of the US invasion), and with unpredictable effects in Palestine/Israel.

    A Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt and (increasingly-likely) in Syria do not bode well for Mideast peace. Regimes rooted in a religious legitimacy (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel) are difficult to reform or topple, with exacbated in-group/out-group policies.

    Depending on the parameters agreed on (perhaps with Russia), it is not inconceivable that some (limited!) role for Assad could result in fewer people killed and a system of government with more protections of minority rights and checks and balances against the tyranny of the majority.

    I'm not betting on any positive outcome, within four Friedman Units at the least.

    •  How is it that people can read what they want to (0+ / 0-)

      hear rather than what is said. I just commented on that say NY Times article in my other diary. I said:

      For example the NY Times recently did a major piece about Obama administration support for the rebels and all it amounted to was:
      A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.
      The article says they have only been there a few weeks, aren't actually supplying any arms, just trying to make sure no weapons being supplied by others fall into Al Qaeda's hands, and
      The clandestine intelligence-gathering effort is the most detailed known instance of the limited American support for the military campaign against the Syrian government.
      Which basically means there has been no military support for Assad's opposition from the US.

      That NY Times article does not say:
      we are funding and arming various Islamist revolutionaries who want to violently overthrow the Assad regime.
      In fact it says this is not true:
      The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.
      If you believe this article, the CIA has only been involve for several weeks, not since the beginning of the uprising, there are only a small number of agents and all they are going is making sure weapons for the FSA don't wind up with al Qaeda.

      You may believe the CIA is doing more than that and indeed, they may be doing more than that but you can't cite that article for those claims.

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:31:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right, Qatar doesn't need US approval (0+ / 0-)

        Can I sell you some sand? It's really high-quality sand, made in Saudi Arabia. Only $100/ounce. Quantity discounts are available. ;-)  

        Just kidding.

        Clearly the US is aware of and condones the arming of Syria's rebels by Qatar and others. It is quite common for the US to use allies to fund things we don't want public, no? And if we wanted to stop such funding, we could put pressure on Qatar and others (presumably quietly, diplomatically). But we're not stopping them, in fact we're helping guide those funds to non-AlQaeda forces (which Qatar, KSA, Turkey also want).

        It's not clear to me what you are recommending. Do you really recommend that the US ramp up funding and arming of fundamentalist Muslem Brotherhood revolutionaries in Syria, to violently overthrow the largely-secular, minority-Alewite government? Or, US bombing runs and 'no-fly zones' (Russia be damned)? A full-scale
        US invasion?

  •  Geneva Conventions on armed conflict now apply (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Flow of weapons 'feeding' violence in Syria

    UN human rights chief Navi Pillay blames both Syrian government and rebels of committing war crimes.

    The UN human rights commissioner has said that weapons supplied to the Syrian government and opposition are escalating the conflict, and made an appeal for Syria conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

    "The provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents is fueling the violence," Navi Pillay told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on Monday.

    The UN high commissioner said she was now calling the situation in Syria "a non-international internal armed conflict," the legal term for a civil war.

    Once that term is used, diplomats say, it means the Geneva Conventions on armed conflict apply.
    Saying that both the Syrian government and the opposition groups appear to have committed war crimes, Pillay added that her office "cannot exclude the possibility that some of the killings were perpetrated by armed opponents (of the government)".

  •  Syrian rebels turning to suicide bombers (0+ / 0-)

    SVBIED attack vs a Syrian army checkpoint

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