Damaged Syria buildings
Damaged Syria buildings Reuters

A group of some 20 Syrian soldiers, including a general, defected from the army Tuesday and fled to Turkey, joining hundreds of other ex-troops from Syria's military, a Turkish diplomat told AFP.

"The soldiers who fled to Turkey include a general, three colonels and several other officers," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Some 40 people, including defectors and family members, crossed the border into the southern Turkish province of Hatay. They were taken to the Apaydin refugee camp, which holds all Syria's defected soldiers, Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Since the start of the civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebel forces, dozens of senior army officers including some 40 generals have defected and headed to Turkey.

Turkish authorities have refused to give the exact number of Syrian defectors, who typically join the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army.

Turkey is housing a total of some 150,000 Syrian refugees at camps near the border.

Last week the head of Syria's military police defected and declared allegiance to the rebel uprising seeking to overthrow Assad. 

Major General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal appeared in a video broadcast on Al-Arabiya Telvision and announced he was joining "the people's revolution".

Another defector, the Syrian government's former spokesman Jihad Makdissi, was reported last week to be co-operating with U.S. intelligence officials who helped him flee to Washington almost one month ago.

Makdissi became one of the most prominent regime defectors in late November when he left Beirut after first crossing from Syria. The Guardian reported at the time that he had fled for the U.S., possibly in return for asylum. This has now been confirmed.

Loyalist forces in Syria later torched Makdissi's home. Makdissi is a member of Syria's Christian minority which up to this point has largely backed the Assad regime.

Violence ravaged Syria into 2013 on Monday, with the gruesome discovery of what activists said were dozens of tortured corpses in Damascus.

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