Turkish-Syrian border
Turkish-Syrian borderReuters

A Syrian general and a number of soldiers defected and crossed into Turkey on Wednesday, a Turkish diplomat told AFP.

The general is the 15th such high-ranking officer to flee Syria, the report said.

The diplomat, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that a total of 66 people fled into Turkey from Syria on Wednesday, including the general and two colonels as well as soldiers and their families.

Turkey has become home to dozens of soldiers who have crossed the border. Around 35,000 displaced Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey since the start of a bloody uprising in March 2011.

On Monday, nearly 300 Syrians defected to Turkey, including 85 soldiers. These included a general and several other officers.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Turkey's military said it has found the bodies of the two pilots of a jet shot down by Syria last month.

Military officials in Ankara said personnel were working on retrieving the bodies from the Mediterranean seabed. The military had been searching for the pilots since their jet was shot down by Syria on June 22.

Turkey said the jet was shot down without warning and without provocation, but Russian officials said on Wednesday the jet entered Syrian airspace twice to test the country's anti-aircraft defenses.

The officials claimed that “it was a clear provocation.” It has been suggested that Russia may have helped shoot down the Turkish aircraft.

Syrian President Bashar Assad apologized for his forces downing the Turkish plane and added, "I might have been happy if this had been an Israeli plane.”