Anwar Amro/AFPAs Syria's civil conflict ground into its second year, one of president Bashr Al-Assad's top generals has reportedly defected to the rebels, claiming that morale among Syria's armed forces was plummetting.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf told Al-Arabiya TV that many of those still with Assad's regime have lost faith in it.While there have been ongoing defections of enlisted personnel as the conflict in Syria, Khalouf's defection represents one of the highest ranked Syrian army officers that has either fled the country or switched alleigances.
"It not an issue of belief or practicing one's role," he said. "It's for appearance's sake, to present an image to the international community from the regime that it pulls together all parts of Syrian society under this regime."
Activist videos posted online Saturday showed Khalouf sitting with a rebel fighter after his defection and riding in a car to what the video said was the Jordanian border.
The video said he was Chief of Staff for the army branch that deals with supplies and fuel.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime has recently activated an all-female militia called the 'Lionesses for National Defense'.
The women have already been deployed on the streets, and though their duties seem confined to checkpoint control, the frequency of rebel attacks against government checkpoints effectively puts them on the front line.The United Nations estimates that at least 70,000 Syrians have been killed since the Al Assad regime began cracking down on street protests in Damascus that began in March 2011.
The trainer explains that the women are trained to use Kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns and grenades, and taught to storm and control checkpoints. “I’m an employee, but I think it’s good to learn how to carry weapons and protect my country,” one of the recruits tells the camera.
The formation of the force comes amid speculation that the regular Syrian army, depleted by defections, desertions and thousands of casualties, is becoming stretched by the effort to suppress Syria’s 22-month-old uprising.