A Turkish diplomat said on Friday that two Syrian air force generals have defected from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and joined opposition forces in Turkey. Meanwhile, three Syrian state journalists deserted President Assad’s media arm.
The generals, commanders of the Regional Air Force, have crossed the border and arrived in the town of Reylanli in southern Turkey, the Turkish diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The generals and dozens of lower-ranking officers and their families were taken to a separate camp where army defectors take refuge.
Turkish officials refuse to give an exact number of Syrian generals currently on Turkish soil as some are returning to Syria to join the active fighters inside the conflict-wracked country.
In Paris, three journalists announced defection from the regime's media machine. In a press conference attended by Al Arabiya, Kamal Jamal Beck (C), former director of programming at the official SANA radio and the SANA online news website, and Lama Al-Khadra Baddour Abdel Karim said the state media have turned into military barricade for Shabbiha forces.
The three Syrian journalists said they have now joined ranks with the revolution and stated they left Syria fearing for their lives after planning to quit their jobs in protest at ongoing bloodshed and violence perpetrated by the regime of Syrian president Bachar al-Assad.
They said the Syrian state TV building houses all forms of intelligence services and snipers on the roof. They said they were laying the foundation for a new Syrian television to to replace the regime's channel after the fall of Assad.
More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown on dissent, a watchdog said on December 26.
The latest defections come as Syrian opposition forces besiege Menagh air base northwest of Aleppo after months of clashes with loyalist troops.
Turkey is currently home to around 148,000 Syrian refugees registered in several camps along its volatile border, as well as the exiled Syrian opposition's political and military leadership.
Already on Wednesday, General Abdel Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, commander of the Syrian military police, crossed into Turkey via the Cilvegozu border crossing in the town of Reyhanli.
Turkey fell out with one-time ally Syria after the regime unleashed a deadly crackdown on protests in March last year, and has joined in Arab and Western calls for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.