Skip to main content

Video: Syrian military police chief defects to join 'the people's revolution'

By Saad Abedine, CNN
December 27, 2012 -- Updated 0140 GMT (0940 HKT)
  • "Oh, God, do you not see?" asks the mother of two toddlers killed Wednesday
  • Rebel army details how it helped a high-ranking Syrian official to defect
  • Video: The Syrian military has carried out "massacres" against civilians demanding freedom
  • State-run media: Military is ready to "continue its crackdown on the remnants of terrorists"

(CNN) -- In what could be one of the highest-level defections yet from the Syrian government, the country's military police chief has reportedly left Bashar al-Assad's forces to join "the people's revolution."

In a video posted online this week, a man identified as Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Jassim al-Shallal announced that he was joining the popular uprising.

"The Syrian military has strayed from its core mission in protecting the homeland to become nothing but armed gangs that kill and destroy the cities and the villages, carrying out massacres against our innocent civilian population that came out demanding freedom and dignity," he said.

Read more: A Christian prayer for peace in Syria

Al-Shallal had been planning his escape to Turkey for weeks with the help of rebels, said Louai Miqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, speaking from Turkey.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos
Military police chief reportedly defects
Opposition: Syrians killed in attack
Intense violence kills dozens in Syria

"The last three hours of al-Shallal fleeing the borders were on a scooter," Miqdad said. "This is how hard things can get when it comes to the coordination of the defections of some of the Syrian officers and how the FSA works hard to guarantee their safety and the passageway of their families."

CNN cannot independently verify many claims from Syria, as the government has severely restricted access by international journalists.

If true, it would be only the latest in a rash of high-profile defections from al-Assad's government.

Read more: U.N. envoy meets with Syrian president as deaths mount

Manaf Tlass, a brigadier general and a former friend of al-Assad, left Syria's Republican Guard in July. Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has also defected as have a number of soldiers.

The defections, combined with recent gains by rebels on battlegrounds nationwide, suggest that al-Assad is losing his grip on a country that his family has commanded for more than 40 years. But the president has given no indication that he will step down.

Read more: Opposition: More than 100 Syrians killed in bakery attack

Miqdad, the rebel spokesman, said it's in the best interest of Syrian officials to follow al-Shallal's lead.

"We would like to warn everyone who is serving in the Assad military: This is it. The time is near, and the FSA and the Syrian revolution are shifting the balance of power. If they don't defect now and denounce the regime, they will be considered to be traitors and they will have to face trial for the crimes that their troops committed against our people," he said.

"We urge them to defect now and join the revolution, or it will be too late."

Among the 3,300 Syrian refugees who have entered Turkey in the past two days, one was a member of Parliament, Turkey's state-run news agency TRT reported.

The Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said that 147,107 Syrians were staying in Turkey after fleeing Syria. It said a total of 206,954 Syrians had fled, but 59,847 returned home.

Read more: Russia: Syria consolidates its chemical weapons

Fierce battle for key city and base intensifies

Months of intense fighting over the city of Maaret al-Numan and the Wadi al-Deif military base came to a head Wednesday, with rebels pushing for control of key government areas, dissidents said.

"If the rebels manage to take over the Wadi al-Deif base and Maaret al-Numan, it could be a severe blow to the regime in the north because it will give the rebels the upper hand in controlling the entire Aleppo-Damascus highway," said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He said such victories would be a major strategic gain because rebels would be able to cut off all the reinforcements to regime forces in Syria's largest city and commercial hub, Aleppo.

"Wadi al-Deif is considered to be the main fuel storage for the regime forces and the largest military base in Idlib province. If the rebels managed to cut off the road by taking over the base and the security checkpoints that surround it, the opposition fighters would cripple the regime forces' ability to mobilize their forces not only in Idlib, but in Aleppo as well," Abdulrahman said. "Hundreds of regime forces will be left in disarray to fight on their own without any reinforcement, fuel or food supplies."

Read more: NATO: Syrian forces firing more Scud missiles

By late Wednesday morning, rebels had announced "the start of the liberation" of Maaret al-Numan, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

But the Syrian Observatory said clashes continued in the city, punctuated by heavy shelling by regime forces. Dissidents also said rebels destroyed five armored vehicles and a tank.

Violence rages across Syria

Regime forces shelled targets in Raqqa province, a region in north-central Syria more sparsely populated than volatile enclaves to the east, an opposition group said.

The LCC said that, of 164 people killed in Syria on Wednesday, 42 died in Raqqa, many of them in Qahtaniya.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency blamed violence against civilians in Qahtaniya, including women and children, on an "armed terrorist group." Since the Syrian conflict began last year, the government has blamed people it labels as terrorists for the violence in the country.

In Hama province, citizen journalist Hassan al-Aarg said government shelling in the village of Kafr Zeta killed two toddler boys.

Their mother had laid them down on a blanket when a rocket strike by a government warplane targeted their home, said al-Aarg, who filmed the aftermath.

"I must find them!" their father wailed as he picked through the rubble to collect bits of flesh to place inside a clear plastic bag.

"Oh, God, do you not see?" their mother asked. "Do you not see?"

The twins died about six miles from where more than 100 people standing on line outside a bakery were killed when it was attacked Sunday by warplanes.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the reports because of the restrictions on journalists. The deaths occurred several miles from the bread line pounded by warplanes Sunday.

More than 40,000 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed in the Syrian crisis since March 2011, according to tallies by opposition activists.

Read more: U.N. announces $1.5 billion aid effort for Syrian refugees

CNN's Holly Yan and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.