Two Syrian generals and a colonel have defected to Turkey, the country’s state-run television reported today.
It comes as the Syrian forces seem to be targeting more rebellious areas, including the northern province of Idlib near Turkey.
The report of the defections came as UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured Syrian refugee camps along the border with Turkey before talks with the country’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
TRT television said the three former officers were among 234 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Thursday. Some 12,000 Syrians now live in six refugee camps in Turkey.
Turkey’s crisis management agency said at least 335 Syrians had crossed into Turkey since Wednesday, but could not confirm the report of the army defections.
President Bashar Assad’s regime has suffered a steady stream of low-level army defectors, who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands.
On Thursday, Syria’s deputy oil minister became the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition and urged his countrymen to “abandon this sinking ship” as the nation spirals toward civil war.
Abdo Husameddine, 58, announced in a video that he has defected from Assad’s regime.
Brigadier General Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik, who fled to Turkey in January, is the highest ranking officer to bolt. In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected.
Authorities reported he had been kidnapped and said he was being kept against his will by gunmen. He has not been heard from since.