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      Report: 85 Syrian Soldiers Defect to Turkey

      Nearly 300 Syrians have defected to Turkey, including 85 soldiers, Turkey's state-run news agency reports.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 7/3/2012, 4:13 AM

      Assad addresses parliament
      Assad addresses parliament
      Reuters

      Turkey's state-run news agency reported on Monday that nearly 300 Syrians have defected to Turkey, including 85 soldiers.

      According to the Anadolu agency, the defections occurred on Monday and that the 293 Syrians included a general and several other officers.

      The report added that this was one of the largest groups of Syrian army defectors to cross into Turkey at one time since the unrest began in Syria.

      On June 21, in what was believed to be the first defection of a Syrian pilot with his plane during the current unrest, a high-ranking Air Force officer flew to Jordan.

      The fighter pilot handed himself over to authorities, together with the aircraft, upon reaching the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, near the Syrian border.

      Syria denounced the pilot as a "traitor" and demanded that Jordan 0give back the MiG-21 fighter plane he was flying.

      The pilot was followed by dozens of Syrian Army officers who defected to the opposition forces and took their weapons with them.

      Reports on Monday indicated that rebel forces in Syria have enjoyed meaningful success in fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad in the last few weeks.

      Numerous videos uploaded to YouTube document dozens of Syrian army tanks and APCs that the rebels have destroyed, as well as ambushes of mobile forces and attacks on positions in which dozens of officers and soldiers were killed.

      A member of the rebel Syrian National Council told Saudi newspaper Al Sharq that the rebels expect to topple the Assad regime soon. The man said that rebel forces currently control large parts of northern Syria.

      Assad, meanwhile, on Monday approved new 'counter-terrorism' laws that impose heavy penalties to those who commit "terrorist" acts in order to change the nature of the regime.