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.