Last updated: 2 July, 2012

Dozens of Syrian soldiers defect to Turkey

Dozens of Syrian soldiers including top officers defected to neighbouring Turkey on Monday, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The 85 soldiers who fled include one general and other senior officials, the agency said, citing local officials.

The latest defections bring to 14 the number of Syrian generals to have crossed into Turkey, abandoning the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest group of soldiers crossed into Turkey at Reyhanli, in the south of the country. They were part of a group of 293 people including many women and children.

Turkey is already sheltering more than 35,000 Syria refugees including many deserters from the country’s military, which has been carrying out a crackdown on opposition protesters that has been condemned by Western powers.

Tension between the two countries has increased since Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet last month.

Syria has insisted the aircraft was in its territory when they shot it down, which Turkey has fiercely disputed. The two pilots have not been found.

On Sunday, Turkey scrambled fighter jets after Syrian helicopters flew close to the border.