Report: Top Syria Officers Defect to Turkey Amid Persisting Crackdown

Turkish state-run TV says 2 generals, colonel pass into Turkey, after opposition groups have said 7 other top-ranking Assad officers defected to opposition side.

Turkey's state-run television said Friday that two Syrian generals and a colonel have defected to Turkey as the Syrian forces appeared to be targeting more rebellious areas, including the northern province of Idlib near Turkey.

The report of defections came as UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured Syrian refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border before talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu later on Friday.

Syria army - AP - 8.3.2012

TRT television says the three former officers are among 234 Syrians who crossed into Turkey since Thursday to find refugee in six camps where more than 11,000 have sought refuge.

Turkish officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

These latest reported defections come following opposition reports according to which seven top-rank Syrian officers defected in recent weeks.

On Thursday, rebel groups reported that four senior officers defected from the Syrian armed forces and joined the year-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The men fled over the past three days to a camp for Syrian army deserters in southern Turkey, according to Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The seven that reportedly defected until Friday's report are the highest-ranking officers to abandon Assad, and the rank is the fifth highest in the Syrian armed forces. Mustafa Sheikh was the first brigadier general to announce his defection.

"We have six brigadier generals who are now in Turkey and another, who has stayed to lead some battalions inside Syria," Hamoud said. "We plan to form an advisory council to absorb these and any other high-ranking defections and this group will plan operations for the FSA."

A Paris-based spokesman for Sheikh's Supreme Syrian Military Council, Fahad al-Masri, said the four recent defectors were still under the observation of Turkish authorities and their names could not yet be released.