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Friday, July 22, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syrian Army said to be defecting by the hundreds to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey

NICOSIA — President Bashar Assad is seeking to stop rising defections in the Syrian military.


Opposition sources said the Assad regime has ordered a crackdown on soldiers who seek to flee their Syria Army units. They said hundreds of Sunni soldiers were defecting and seeking refuge in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

"In every military unit, there are special officers in charge of stopping and killing defectors," an opposition source said.

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On July 17, the Assad regime undertook what was regarded as its biggest operation to stem the flow of defections from the military. The sources said Assad's younger brother, Maher, led an operation of 2,000 soldiers and scores of main battle tanks that raided Zabadani, which borders Lebanon.

"They severed telephone, Internet and electricity and began making arrests," the opposition Local Coordinating Committee said.

The sources said the military force conducted a house-to-house search for defectors. They said more than 500 people were arrested, including opposition figures.

The Syrian Army also sought to stop the flight of defectors in raids on other border towns, including Dera in the south, Talkalakh in the west and Boukamal in the east. In Boukamal, located along the border with Iraq, opposition sources said an estimated 100 soldiers fled their units and jointed the protesters.

"Until last month, we saw a few soldiers here or there fleeing their units, but now the numbers are getting much bigger," the source said.

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