Syrian General, 20 Soldiers Defect

    A Syrian rebel crosses a street while trying to dodge sniper fire in the old city of Aleppo in northern Syria on March 11, 2013. Syria warned on March 12 it is ready to fight "for years" against rebels, as world powers worked on a new initiative to find regime officials suitable for peace talks with the opposition. AFP PHOTO/JM LOPEZ        (Photo credit should read JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

    A Syrian rebel crosses the street in Aleppo on March 11. (JM Lopez/AFP/Getty),AFP

    A brigadier general and about 20 soldiers defected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Army in two separate incidents on Saturday, a sign that the Army has seriously weakened in the two-year civil war. “It is not possible for anyone to accept any of the ideas of this regime unless they have achieved special interests,” said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Khalouf in a videotaped statement broadcast on Al Arabiya. There was no comment from Syrian state television. A study by the Institute for Strategic Studies found that Assad’s Army could have diminished to 50,000 people from an estimated 300,000 before the crackdown began. An estimated 70,000 civilians have died in the bloody civil war.

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