Manaf Tlass, a general in Syria’s Republican Guards with close ties to President Bashar al-Assad, has reportedly defected. At least three people inside Syria have confirmed Tlass’s defection, but Tlass has yet to publicly declare his departure. If true, it is the first defection from Assad’s inner circle. A member of the Syrian National Council explained, “He’s a close friend to Bashar. So it is not only a strong strike against the regime, but the strongest message yet to Bashar that he is no longer safe, and message to other officers thinking about defecting.” In other Syria news, the commander of the United Nations monitors said that the violence in Syria had reached “unprecedented” levels and his statement was bolstered by reports that Syrian forces had killed as many as 63 people on Thursday.