Demonstrators at Syrian embassy outside Amman
Demonstrators at Syrian embassy outside Amman Reuters

Dozens of Syrian Army officers have defected to the opposition forces and taken their weapons with them. A First-Lieutenant and 39 other military officers switched sides during fierce fighting at Deir al-Zor airport over the weekend, according to one of the defectors. 

On Sunday, government forces shelled the area for a second day. At least 20 people had died by midday, according to activists who reported to human rights organizations.

A commander in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) confirmed to a journalist with the Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper that the defecting officer said the numbers of government troops who fled are expected to double.

Both France and the United States had high praise late last week for a Syrian Air Force colonel who also defected, having flown his Mig fighter jet to a military base in Jordan, calling him “extremely courageous.”

The pilot, Col. Hassan Hammadeh, had been based in southern Syria. He landed at the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, 45 miles (70 kilometers) north of Amman.

On Sunday, a Jordanian newspaper reported meanwhile that three more Syrian pilots also defected to Jordan, hours after Hammadeh had made his move. However, the three pilots were without their aircraft.

"The three pilots entered Jordan after crossing the border illegally, and they were housed in one of the provinces of the kingdom after the authorities provided security,” according to the report in the Jordanian Al-Arab Al-Yaum.

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