Syrian generals defect as dozens more killed
Foreign Affairs editor Peter Cave, wires
Ten high-ranking military officers from Syria, including four brigadier-generals, have defected and crossed into Turkey to join the Free Syrian Army.
The news comes after Syrian government forces pressed on with deadly assaults on Friday, killing around 50 civilians, monitors said.
The official Turkish news agency Anatolia said 10 officers from Damascus, Homs and Latakia crossed the border into Turkey's southern province of Hatay.
The Syrian deputy oil minister joined the opposition only one day earlier.
A spokesman for the Syrian opposition group, the Higher Revolutionary Council, said a total of six brigadier generals, four colonels and a lieutenant colonel had changed sides in the past 48 hours.
The newsagency said that Turkish authorities were establishing a container city near Hatay in preparation for an expected influx of Syrians fleeing the fighting in Idlib across the border.
Regime troops stormed a village in Idlib and attacked other districts there, reflecting growing fears that the north-western province will meet the same fate as the battered rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in the city of Homs.
"Troops attacked the village of Ain Larose and opened fire killing 13 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights in Beirut.
They were among nearly 50 people killed in the assaults in Idlib and elsewhere across the country by regime forces, including the rebel province of Homs where rocket and mortar attacks claimed 10 lives.
Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against the regime across the country, with huge rallies taking place in the second city Aleppo.
Peace, aid mission
Meanwhile, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday on a peace mission to the troubled state, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.
Mr Ban told reporters in New York that he held a conference call with Mr Annan and Arab League secretary-general Nabil Araby earlier on Friday.
He said Mr Annan planned to leave Damascus on Sunday to visit other countries in the region.
The United Nations says an estimated 1.5 million people in Syria are in need of food aid.
The announcement by the UN Humanitarian Affairs office came as the UN Humanitarian envoy, Valerie Amos, said not enough aid was reaching Syrians in need.
A World Health Organisation spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, says it will be allowed to recruit Syrian medical students to carry out the assessment exercise.
"These medical students will be recruited and financed by WHO and together with volunteers from Red Crescent would be able to facilitate in those areas with a questionnaire basically and trying to assess their needs. They will be paid to go to four areas in Syria."