Citing Violence and Bloodshed, Top Syrian General Defects
In the latest blow to the Syrian government, the head of Syria's military police has defected and has now declared allegiance to the rebel uprising seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Major General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal appeared in a video broadcast on al-Arabiya Telvision late Tueday, and announced he was joining "the people's revolution".
"I am Major General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shalal, chief of the military police in Syria, I declare my defection from the regime's army because of its deviation of its fundamental mission to protect the nation and transformation into gangs of killing and destruction," the general said in the video.
Shalal spoke from the Turkish-Syrian border and said he had wanted to defect for a while but was waiting for the right moment.
“Definitely, there are other high-ranking officers who want to defect but the situation is not suitable for them to declare defection,” said Shalal.
That moment came as rebels continue to gain ground across the country and as the international community continues to call for Assad to step down and for the transfer of power. On Tuesday, after weeks of fighting between rebels and pro-government forces, the rebels won control of a key town near the Turkish border which had, in the past, pledged its allegiance to Assad.
Over the past 22 months, thousands of pro-government soldiers have defected, citing violence towards civilians as the main reason for defection. Many of those soldiers are now fighting on the side of the rebels, against the government to which they once swore allegiance.
A Syrian security source tried to play down the significance of the defection, saying, "Shalal did defect but he was due to retire in a month and he only defected to play hero," the source said.
This also comes on the heels of a delegation of Syrian officials which left for Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals for ending the conflict following talks with the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus this week.
An estimated 45,000 people have been killed throughout the 22 months of fighting.