The man responsible for preventing defections from the Syrian Army has released a video statement saying he himself has defected from Syria, joining the rebel forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Jassim al-Shala, Syria's military police chief, released the video statement on Tuesday. Issuing the statement from Turkey, he declares his defection, claiming the army has failed to fulfill its "fundamental mission" of protecting the nation. Al-Shala further states that many in the Syrian Army have become nothing but an "armed gang" of murders that "kill and destroy". He continues by saying:
"The Syrian military has strayed from its core mission in protecting the homeland to become nothing but armed gangs that kill and destroy the cities and the villages, carrying out massacres against our innocent civilian population that came out demanding freedom and dignity."
Getting al-Shala out of Syria and into neighboring Turkey was a complicated task. With help from the Free Syrian Army, the journey took four days with al-Shalla travelling through the mountain regions on horseback and motorcycle. Loay Mokdad, a spokesman for the rebel force, told the Washington Post the rebels are willing to help any military official who wants to defect, saying:
“We welcome all defections and are ready to help, because there is no reason to be afraid of regime retaliation anymore."
Defecting is actually becoming more difficult however due to an increased level of surveillance by government officials according to al-Shalla. He told the BBC:
"Definitely, there are other high-ranking officers who want to defect but the situation is not suitable for them to declare defection."
Al-Shala's announcement came as reports of shelling across the country began to surface. At least 100 people were reported to have been killed in Tuesday's attacks. At least 20 more were killed Wednesday when the army began lobbing artillery shells at the village of Qahtaniya. Many of those killed appear to be children according to a video released by the rebels.
WARNING: This video contains graphic images and may be disturbing to some.
A Syrian security forces source confirmed the defection but denied that it was significant, telling Reuters that al-Shalal was due to retire next month and his defection was only so he could "play the hero".
Zhang Xun, the Chinese ambassador to Syria, has called for a negotiated peace between Assad and the rebels. After meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint envoy of the African Union and United Nations, on Wedneday, Xun said:
"China has always called for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and we will continue coordination and support to Brahimi's mission."