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Tuesday, April 26, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syrian intelligence, aided by Iranians, said to be tracking down hundreds of deserters

NICOSIA — Units of the Syrian Army are said to have defected to the opposition.


Opposition sources said hundreds of soldiers have been deserting their units and joining the campaign to oust President Bashar Assad. They said the defections have been accompanied by shootouts with Assad loyalists in which numerous deserters have been killed or injured.

"Most of the deserters are just going home, but some have been accompanied by commanders and even [main battle] tanks," an opposition source said.

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On April 25, clashes were reported in several Syrian cities, Middle East Newsline reported. At least 40 people were said to have been killed by fire from Syrian security forces in the southern city of Dera.

Reports from Syria asserted that the 5th Army was racked by desertions. One report said at least 230 soldiers fled the Army, and some of them were battling the 4th Army, commanded by Assad's younger brother, Maher. The president's brother-in-law, Assaf Chawkat, deputy Army commander, was also regarded as a key member of the regime crackdown, in which at least 500 people were reported arrested.

The sources said intelligence officers have helped track some of the deserters and were arresting or shooting them. They said the officers have been helped by Iranian forces, including Hizbullah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Kuwaiti daily Al Watan, said to be authoritative, reported that Iran has sent 3,000 officers from IRGC's Basij militia to Syria. Al Watan said Hizbullah has also deployed 1,200 fighters from Lebanon to Syria, particularly in Dera.

The United States has determined that the revolt in Syria would become increasingly bloody. The State Department has urged all Americans to leave Syria immediately as the administration of President Barack Obama assessed that Assad was receiving Iranian support to help quell the opposition.

"President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies," Obama said.

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