SYRIAN GENERAL DEFECTS TO REBELS, SAYS ARMY HAS BECOME ‘GANG FOR KILLING’

Fox News on December 26, 2012, published an AP report on the general who heads Syria’s military police defecting and joining the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, one of the highest walkouts by a serving security chief during the country’s 21-month uprising, a pan Arab TV station has reported.

Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal appeared in a video aired on Al Arabiya TV late Tuesday saying he is joining “the people’s revolution.”

Al-Shallal’s defection comes as military pressure builds on the regime…

Dozens of generals have defected since Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. In July, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass was the first member of Assad’s inner circle to break ranks and join the opposition.

Al-Shallal is one of the most senior and held a top post at the time that he left. He said in the video that the “army has derailed from its basic mission of protecting the people and it has become a gang for killing and destruction.” He accused the military of “destroying cities and villages and committing massacres against our innocent people who came out to demand freedom.”

Thousands of Syrian soldiers have defected over the past 21 months and many of them are now fighting against government forces. Many have cited attacks on civilians as the reason they switched sides.

Also December 26, activists said rebels were attacking the Wadi Deif military base in the northern province of Idlib. The base, which is near the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, has been under siege for weeks.

In October, rebels captured Maaret al-Numan, a town on on the highway that links the capital Damascus with Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a major battleground in the civil war since July.

The attack on Wadi Deif comes a day after rebels captured the town of Harem near the Turkish border. The rebels have captured wide areas and military posts in northern Syria over the past weeks.

In neighboring Lebanon, airport officials in Beirut said Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous flew early Wednesday to Moscow.

Their visit to Moscow comes two days after Assad met in Damascus with international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi, who is scheduled to go to Moscow before the end of the month, said after the talks Monday that the situation was “worrying” and gave no indication of progress toward a negotiated solution for the civil war.

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