Syrian Officials Preparing to Defect
Members of Bashar al-Assad‘s inner circle are preparing to defect to the opposition if the regime is “critically threatened,” U.S. officials are reporting. A senior opposition source claimed that “We have names of people in the presidential palace. There are rumours that there is one who is really close to the president and we are expecting to see him out of the country soon.”
Meanwhile, clashes between rebels and the Syrian government continued yesterday, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths. Also, Russia acknowledged that it is trying to send repaired combat helicopters to Syria, and denied that it is under any obligation to break weapons sales contracts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted that “we are not violating anything, and we will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations.” Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has announced that it will be paying salaries for Free Syrian Army rebels, with the hope of encouraging more defections from the Syrian military.
Syrian state media reported today that 26 government supporters were massacred by Free Syrian Army rebels after being abducted from Darat Izza in Aleppo province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that the victims were pro-regime fighters. The video showing the victims was distributed by the Observatory and posted on YouTube, and in it a narrator can be heard saying that “these are Shabbiha of Bashar Assad’s regime.” At the same time, Syrian troops have fired on a demonstration of thousands in Aleppo and killed 10 protesters.
Additionally, a Turkish F-4 Phantom warplane was lost in Syrian airspace, apparently shot down by Syrian air defenses. Syria has admitted that it was an accident and apologized, and the two countries are reportedly cooperating in recovering the downed plane from the Mediterranean.