Last updated: 16 August, 2012

More “spectacular” defections in Syria soon

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP Thursday he had information that the regime of embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would be rocked by more “spectacular” defections soon.

The Damascus regime has already been hit by the defections of Assad’s prime minister Riad Hijab and general Manaf Tlass, his childhood friend and the son of a close aide of Assad’s father Hafez, who ruled Syria with an iron fist.

“According to the information we have, but we will see if this is confirmed in the coming days, there will be other spectacular defections,” Fabius said during a visit to Beirut.

Recalling the defections of Hijab and Tlass, Fabius said that “all this shows that people from different communities … have decided to abandon the regime because they see that the only thing Bashar al-Assad is doing now is to assassinate his own people.”

He said the regime was in a state of “decomposition”, adding: “We would like this to happen as fast as possible.”

Like the majority of Syria’s population, Hijab is Sunni Muslim, while Assad’s ruling clan belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The conflict erupted in March 2011 when regime forces cracked down on peaceful protests but has spiralled into an armed rebellion that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says has killed 23,000.

The UN puts the toll at 17,000.