Syrian rebels step up siege of northern airbase

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They refused to give the generals’ identities or say how they escaped from Syria. They spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The defection comes days after the commander of Syria’s military police Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal defected to Turkey. Al-Shallal is among the most senior members of Assad’s military to defect.

Dozens of Syrian generals have defected since the country’s crisis began in March 2011.

In other parts of the country, the Observatory reported fighting and shelling in areas including some neighborhoods of the capital Damascus, its suburbs, the central province of Hama and Homs and the region of Quneitra on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Observatory reported heavy clashes in the southern province of Daraa, mostly in the town of Busra al-Harir, and the Tel Shehab area near the border with Jordan.

Syrian rebels are fighting a 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad’s regime. Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed in the crisis, which began with pro-democracy protests but has morphed into a civil war.

Associated Press Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.

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