Top Syrian general defects to Jordan
Updated: 2013-03-18 09:35
The Syrian army's logistics chief, General Mohammed Khalluf, has defected, activists said on Saturday in a video posted to YouTube on the Internet.
The video, which could not be independently verified, shows a man with white hair in civilian clothes getting into a car and a voice off-screen naming him as General Mohammed Khalluf, head of logistics, who has defected.
The man speaking in the video says that Khalluf and his family were being escorted out of Syria on Friday.
Al-Arabiya television said Khalluf defected along with his son, Captain Ezzedine, who headed a reconnaissance unit for the Syrian army.
The Dubai-based news channel also aired part of an interview with Khalluf in which he said he had planned his defection with units of the "Syrian revolution" - insurgents fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Activists said they waited before reporting the defection to ensure that Khalluf and his family had crossed safely into neighboring Jordan.
While defections from the Syrian army have sapped it of its manpower during the two-year-old anti-Assad uprising, high-level defections have been rare.
The Syrian government did not comment on the defection.
Meanwhile, rebel forces slowly expanded their areas of control in the country and put increasing pressure on the capital, Damascus.
Also on Saturday, observers said Syria's government is expanding its use of widely banned cluster bombs.
The government denied using cluster bombs, which open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets and have been banned in many countries.
They pose a threat to civilians long afterward since many don't explode immediately.
A senior Syrian government official on Saturday rejected the accusation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make official statements to the media.
The fighting in Syria has killed some 70,000 people and displaced 4 million of the country's 22 million people, according to UN estimates.
The conflict remains deadlocked, despite recent military gains by the rebels.
In new violence on Saturday, rebels detonated a powerful car bomb with more than two tons of explosives outside a high-rise building in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, setting off clashes with government troops, state TV and activists said.
State TV said rebels entered the building after the blast but were pushed out by government forces.