Syrian generals defect, new massacre reported

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iol pic wld syria -demo REUTERS Demonstrators burn tyres to block a road to protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in al-Midan district of Damascus.

Istanbul - Two Syrian brigadier generals and a score of other soldiers crossed into Turkey, bringing the total number of high-ranking defectors to 17 amid escalating violence, Anatolia news agency said Friday.

A total of 227 Syrians fled to Turkey from neighbouring Syria overnight, including the two brigadiers who deserted from Bashar al-Assad's army to join the rebels based on the Turkish side of the border, the agency said.

The latest arrivals come amid reports of one of the bloodiest massacres committed since the uprising started 16 months ago in Syria, where rights monitors say more than 17 000 people have died.

Syrian troops with tanks and helicopters slaughtered more than 150 people in central Treimsa village Thursday, rights activists stated, speculating that it might be the biggest such massacre since the revolution started.

Damascus accused the media and “terrorists” of staging the massacre in a bid to trigger UN-backed intervention.

The newcomers pushed the total number of Syrian refugees on Turkish soil to 38 914, according to Turkey's disaster and emergency management agency.

The two generals were taken to the Apaydin army camp in the border city of Hatay, while the Syrian civilians were sent to the various tent camps set up along the border with Syria.

Turkey has become home to dozens of soldiers who have crossed the border. Defectors have formed the Free Syrian Army in opposition to the Assad regime. - Sapa-AFP


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