A top Syrian Air Force colonel defected to the opposition along with dozens of other Syrian Army soldiers, Arab media reported Saturday.
According to the report by the pan-Arab satellite television channel Aljazeera, some 50 soldiers had abandoned their posts along with Colonel Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman, identified as being from the air force logistics division in the Syrian city of Hama.
The video footage broadcast on the channel's English language website showed the officer reading a statement saying the troops were defecting after having witnessed military forces killing unarmed protesters.
"We soldiers have defected from this army after watching the military and security forces killing protesting civilians with all kinds of weapons," the officer announced.
The SANA official Syrian news agency reported Friday night that dozens of civilians were killed Friday night in an explosion that struck the al-Midan quarter in Damascus, near an elementary school.
At least 26 people were reported dead and 63 injured in the blast, which the Syrian government blamed on "armed terrorist groups."
According to the report, the blast was the third to hit the Syrian capital after "two terrorist attacks, less than a minute between them, targeted the State Security Directorate and another Security Branch in Damascus" on December 23.
Friday's attack marked "an escalation in the terrorist attacks afflicting Syria..." the government said in its statement, adding the "modus operandi of the attacks and selection of targeted areas... have the fingerprints of al-Qaeda all over them."