Dozens Killed in Syria as Top Military Officer Defects With Hundreds of Soldiers

Brigadier-General defects from military with 200 soldiers from Idlib; At least 57 people, including two Western journalists killed by regime forces.

A senior Syrian military officer has defected from the forces of President Bashar  Assad's regime along with a group of some two hundred soldiers in the city of Idlib, opposition sources reported on Wednesday.

The senior officer has a rank of Brigadier General. 

Syria army 17/2/2012 - AFP

Opposition sources said that a battalion has been established in the city to fightregime forces. Meanwhile, the number of defectors from the Syrian army is growing, and many citizens are joining the Free Syrian Army.

The number of defectors is still not causing the breakdown of the Syrian army, or the breaking of loyalty to Assad within government ranks, however.

Meanwhile, at least 57 people, including two Western journalists, were killedWednesday by government troops across Syria, the opposition Syrian Local Coordination Committee (LCC) reported.

"Most of the deaths occurred in the province of Homs. Others were killed in the provinces of Idlib and Hama," Omar Idlibi, the LCC spokesman in Beirut, told dpa.

Wednesday’s violence followed shelling by Syrian forces on Tuesday that killed at least 65 people in Homs, activists said, describing the attacks as the heaviest since the start of an assault on the restive city early this month.

Activist Omar Homsi told DPA that more than thirty people were also wounded in the city's besieged neighborhoods of Baba Amr,Al-Khalidiyeh, and Inshaaat and the region of al-Kussair.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Red Cross called for a daily two-hour cease-fire in Syria so that it can deliver emergency aid and reach people who are wounded or sick.