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Defectors from Syrian army attack military facilities

Image: pomed.org

BEIRUT — A rebel attack against a military compound outside Syria’s capital on Wednesday offered the most tangible evidence yet that the country is sliding into armed conflict as regional powers issued an ultimatum for President Bashar al-Assad’s government to stop killing civilians.Although the attack near Damascus does not appear to have been particularly effective, the target was highly symbolic: a compound of the Air Force Intelligence, which is renowned for its pursuit and torture of activists.

So, too, was the timing. After months of equivocation, Arab leaders are closing ranks on Assad, in part out of concern that the eight-month-old uprising against Assad’s rule is descending into an armed struggle that could spin beyond Syria’s borders.

But Assad’s loss of Arab support appears only to be accelerating the push to arms, by giving his opponents hope that they will soon receive international help. It also may be interpreted as a signal to members of Syria’s armed forces that now is the time to defect, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

“This is extremely dangerous,” he said. “We’re witnessing the emergence of a potent armed insurgency that could really plunge the region into conflict.”

The insurgency is coalescing around an entity called the Free Syrian Army, a group of defected army officers who fled to Turkey and proclaimed their existence in a YouTube video in July.

The group says it represents as many as 10,000 defected soldiers who are operating in small groups scattered around Syria. It asserted responsibility for Wednesday’s assault on the Air Force Intelligence building in a posting on its Facebook page, saying the strike was intended to “send a message to the regime that the Free Syrian Army can hit anywhere and anytime.”

Diplomats suspect that the number of defectors may be far smaller and that the group also comprises civilians who have taken up arms.

But Col. Malik al-Kurdi, the Free Syrian Army’s deputy commander, said in a telephone interview from Turkey that defections have risen in recent days in response to the Arab League’s decision Saturday to suspend Syria if it does not stop violence against protesters.

Kurdi said the rebel group is pushing Arab leaders to go further, toward the creation of a buffer zone along the Turkish border where a real rebel army can be formed and a no-fly zone imposed.

Neither Western nor regional powers have shown any inclination for military intervention in volatile Syria, but Kurdi said he is confident that it will eventually come.

“We are powerful and we can impose the reality of our power to push the Arab League,” he said.

- WashingtonPost

November 16, 2011, Syrian army defectors go on the attack? /EuroNews:

September 16, 2011, Syria Army Attacks Hama Protesters as they Leave Mosque 9-23-11. /SyrianDream:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFIXjgeVrE

 

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