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Friday, June 22, 2012

Syria round-up: 170 killed yesterday; Russia admits sending helicopters; new defections

From Al Arabiya:
Clashes in Syria on Thursday killed nearly 170 people, mainly civilians, on the deadliest day since a ceasefire came into force, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as Russia acknowledged that it was trying to send repaired combat helicopters to Syria.

“It’s the bloodiest day since the start of the ceasefire (on April 12) and one of the bloodiest since the start of the revolt against the Syrian regime,” Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

The day’s violence had killed at least 104 civilians, 54 soldiers and 10 rebel fighters, according to the toll compiled by the London-based organization, based on the reports of activists inside the country.


Aid workers hoping to evacuate trapped civilians and the wounded were unable to enter hard-hit areas of the Syrian city of Homs on Thursday due to shooting and an “unclear” security situation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Government forces and rebels had both agreed on Wednesday to an ICRC request for a truce for humanitarian reasons after more than 10 days of intense fighting.

Meanwhile, Russia acknowledged on Thursday that it was trying to send repaired combat helicopters to Syria and said it would continue to carry out arms contracts with President Assad’s government despite Western and Arab criticism.
Today, the rebels struck back:
Twenty six men believed to be pro-government "Shabbiha" militiamen have been killed in Syria's northern Aleppo province, an activist monitoring group said on Friday.

A video link sent by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed several men covered in blood and piled on top of each other on the side of a road. Many wore army fatigues but some were just wearing t-shirts.
And there may have been some high-level defections:
A Syrian activist group says four senior army officers have defected and joined the opposition.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provided a video Friday purporting to show two brigadier generals and two colonels. They declared they were defecting.

The group said the defections came Thursday — the same day a Syria fighter pilot flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan, where he was given asylum.
Speaking of defections:
Members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle are secretly making plans to defect to the opposition should the Syrian regime become critically threatened by the rebellion, US officials have told The Daily Telegraph.

Senior military figures are understood to be laying down “exit strategies” and establishing lines of communication with the rebels to discuss how they would be received if they deserted.

And the Golan Druze leaders, who normally can discern the political winds, have abandoned a long-standing ban for their people to become citizens of Israel. Up until now they excommunicated any people who became Israeli citizens, but they no longer feel that they have any loyalty to the Assad regime.

(h/t Yoel)