NEW: At least 80 people were killed Monday, an opposition group says; Syria reports 20 "martyrs"
The defections include a Syrian general and at least 4 other officers, two sources say
The EU announces a new round of sanctions against Syria
U.N. human rights chief calls for referral of the case to the International Criminal Court
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military may have more cracks in its armor as dozens more soldiers, including a general and two colonels, have defected across the border, Turkish media reported Monday.
The 33 army defectors entered Turkey and were sent to a camp in southern Hatay province, the Anadolu news agency said, citing authorities.
Malik el Kurdi, the deputy commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, speaking to CNN by telephone from the Apaydin refugee camp, said that within the past week a general and three colonels had arrived, but he had not seen a group of more than 30 new deserters.
The refugee camp houses the proclaimed leadership and other members of the FSA, the opposition force made up of Syrian army defectors.
“I receive soldiers daily,” el Kurdi added. “There are rumors, but I haven’t received anyone in that number.”
The defections included a Syrian general and at least four other officers, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry official and a commander in the Free Syrian Army camp in Turkey.
All were from the Syrian city of Homs, the commander said.
Both officials spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity.
More than 33,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape the violence in their country, Anadolu reported.
Speaking in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland praised the reported defections, which is something the United States has called for, for some time, she said.
“This appears to be an increasing pace of these kinds of military folks voting with feet, voting with their airplanes, voting with their cars, voting with their families against the Assad regime,” Nuland told reporters.
The defections took place amid heightened tensions between Syria and Turkey, and the rest of the international community, over how to stop the bloodshed spurred by the Syrian government’s crackdown on dissidents.
Syria was in a war of words Monday with Turkey over the shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria, an incident that threatens to draw in NATO.
Meanwhile, at least 80 people were killed Monday in violence across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition group. Twenty of those 80 were killed in Daraa, while 17 were killed in Deir Ezzor, the group said.
Since Syria’s anti-government uprising started in March last year, more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, the observatory said. The United Nations has said that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Syria blames violence on “armed terrorist groups.” On state-run news agency SANA, al-Assad’s regime said 20 “army and law enforcement martyrs” were buried Monday.
CNN cannot confirm specific reports of violence in Syria because the government has restricted access to the country by international journalists.
Opposition groups say the violence began when a government crackdown on peaceful protesters generated a nationwide uprising, including the armed resistance. Syria consistently blames terrorists for the violence.
Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said Monday that despite “efforts to restore calm in Syria, the situation deteriorates relentlessly.”
“Both government and opp