Syria: 85 soldiers defect to Turkey


A picture taken on a tour organised by the Syrian Red Crescent shows Syrian soldiers deploying along the Syrian-Turkish border near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in the northern province of Idlib on June 29, 2011 as the number of Syrian refugees taking shelter in tent cities in Turkey decreased to 10,757 after several hundred people turned back home, Turkish officials said.



Turkish media reported that nearly 300 Syrians had defected to Turkey on Monday, including 85 soldiers, according to the Associated Press.

The Anadolu Agency said a general and several officers were among the defectors, part of what it called the largest group of Syrian army defectors.

Reuters also reported the news, saying a Syrian activist and Free Syrian Army sources had confirmed that the general and seven officers who defected mostly served in Homs province.

According to Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber, the defectors were sent to the Apaydin camp in Turkey's Hatay province.

Turkey is currently home to 35,000 Syrian refugees, according to the AP.

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Ghatan Sleiba, an anchor and reporter for al-Dunya channel in Syria and a contributor to the state-owned al-Akhbariya, also defected to Turkey, according to the Guardian. Sleiba, speaking from southern Turkey, said he had provided intelligence to rebels during the past seven months.

Sleiba said, "There are some others who also want to run, but there are more who love the regime from the depths of their hearts." He added, "I stayed as long as I could to help the revolutionaries, but I couldn't take it any more."

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"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," Sleiba told the Guardian.

Meanwhile, Turkey scrambled fighter jets near its Syrian border on Monday, as tensions escalated between the neighbors after Syria shot down a Turkish jet last week.

Syrian opposition groups met in Cairo, Egypt on Monday to try and find common ground as the latest international plan, backed by the West, Russia and China, called for a transitional government as a step toward ending the conflict, according to CNN.

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Tagged: SyriaTurkey.