Opposition sources in Syria said Thursday that a top Syrian army general, Mustapha a-Sheikh, has abandoned his post. A-Sheikh is in charge of chemical weapons deployment in eastern Syria. According to the sources, a-Sheikh escaped over the border into Turkey in recent days.
A-Sheikh's defection came on the background of what opposition activists said was an increasing frustration among many army soldiers at being deployed to fight against Syrian citizens.
Weeks ago, soldiers were subjected to intense propaganda stressing that the protests were being organized by groups seeking to plunge Syria into anarchy, who were funded by “foreign governments,” but with the daily increasing bloodshed and the growing protests, many soldiers have come to the conclusion that the uprising in Syria is indeed a legitimate expression of protest by Syrians. The sources said that more defections were likely to follow in the coming days.
Meanwhile, IDF sources told Army Radio Thursday the increasing instability in Syria is of great concern to Israeli security officials.
In recent days Syria has conducted military exercises using its most advanced equipment, and Israeli officials fear there is a strong likelihood that those weapons will find their way to Hizbullah, either before or after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Among the weapons Syria displayed in its exercises Wednesday were the Russian-made P-800 supersonic Yakhont anti-ship missile. “Our guiding principle is that when there is instability in Syria, with or without Assad, the likelihood of a real conflict in the region is ever greater. That is why we are taking these exercises seriously,” the sources said.