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Aleppo’s attorney-general defects, denounces Syrian regime’s ‘crimes’

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Attorney-general of Syria’s northwestern province of Aleppo declared defection from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a video posted Wednesday by activists.

Judge Ahmed al-Nuaimi said he defected in protest at Assad regime’s “crimes” against the Syrian people and that he joined the opposition, the Free Syrian Judges Council.

Nuaimi’s defection comes after a high-ranking Syrian military official announced defection Tuesday, saying the army has turned into gangs of killing and destruction, Al Arabiya TV reported.

Major General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, chief of the military police in Syria, said he defected due to the regime’s army deviating from its fundamental mission to protect the nation.

The Syrian opposition is increasingly gaining momentum.

On December 12, the new Syrian opposition coalition gained wider international recognition; however, Western powers are still hesitant on whether to supply the Free Syrian Army (FSA) weapons against Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, who was wounded when a car bomb and two other explosives went off at the main gate of the ministry, cut short his treatment at a Beirut hospital Wednesday and returned home for fear of being arrested by Lebanese authorities, the Associated Press reported.

Higher death toll

The death toll in Syria’s civil war has topped 45,000, a watchdog said on Wednesday, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi looked to Russia for help in his faltering new bid to find a negotiated settlement.

At least another 20 people including eight children were killed in tank shelling of a farming village in the north of the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which put the day’s nationwide death toll at 118.

The grim statistics added gravity to a U.N. warning that the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating and predictions that the number of Syrian refugees could double to 1.1 million by next June if the war is not ended.

“In all we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that more than 1,000 people were killed in the past week alone.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground, said the real number of those killed since an uprising against President Assad erupted in March 2011 could run as high as 100,000, with both sides concealing many of their casualties.

The Britain-based watchdog reported fierce army shelling of a farming area in a village in the northern province of Raqa on Wednesday.

“At least 20 people, among them eight children and three women, were killed in shelling by regime forces of farmlands in Kahtaniyeh village, west of the city of Raqa,” it said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations on Wednesday predicted the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries will double to 1.1 million by June next year if the country’s war is not ended.

There are now more than 540,000 registered refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt, according to the latest U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report on Syria.

The United Nations has appealed for $1 billion to fund refugee operations until June.