A top Syrian military official who headed the feared military police has told a pan-Arab TV station that he defected and joined Syria's opposition movement.
A video published on a social media website on Wednesday shows the general, Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, saying that he left the government because the Syrian military police have strayed from their primary mission.
"In the name of God E., I am General Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, head of the military police. I have defected because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction, the destruction of cities and villages and committing massacres against our unarmed people who went out to demand liberty," he explained. "Long live Syria free and strong."
Al-Shallal is one of dozens of generals who have defected since Syria's crisis began 22 months ago. He is one of the most senior to flee since Manaf Tlass, a Syrian general and a member of the ruling inner circle, defected in July.
The defection comes amid continued diplomacy to end the Syrian crisis.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly sent a senior diplomat to ally Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals made by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi, who met with Assad on Monday, is expected to arrive in Moscow on Saturday for further talks with Russian leaders. Russian envoys are reportedly trying to broker a peaceful transition of power in Syria.
Opposition leaders and Western supporters are demanding Assad leave office without conditions.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists say government shelling in a northern province near the Turkish border has left at least 20 people dead, including eight children.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
released a video on Wednesday showing what it said were victims of a government assault on a village in the Raqqa region.
It was not immediately clear when the assault took place. In recent weeks, violence has escalated in the region.
There was no immediate confirmation from the government, which has blamed much of the violence from almost two years of anti-government unrest on terrorists and armed gangs.
On Tuesday, Syrian rights activists said rebels had captured a northern town near the border with Turkey, driving out government troops after a siege that lasted several weeks.
The activists said the rebels seized the last military base in the Idlib provincial town of Harem early Tuesday, extending rebel control over northern areas adjacent to Turkey.
A child uses a megaphone to lead others in chanting Free Syrian Army slogans during a demonstration in Bustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo, Syria, January 4, 2013.
Demonstrators step on a picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during a protest against his regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, January 4, 2013.
Damaged buildings and shops with members of the Syrian army patrolling in the distance in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 3, 2013.
Men stand amidst wreckage and debris after a car bomb exploded at a crowded gas station in Barzeh al-Balad district in Damascus, in this handout photograph released by SANA on January 3, 2013.
A father reacts after the death of two of his children whom activists said were killed by shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in al-Ansari, Aleppo, Syria, January 3, 2013.
Free Syrian Army fighters stand near a fire after shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, al-Ansari, Aleppo, Syria, January 3, 2013.
Residents wear masks as they search for bodies after shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, al-Ansari, Aleppo, Syria, January 3, 2013
Members of the Free Syrian Army stand behind a machine gun turret with a flag reading "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger" in Aleppo's Bustan Al Qaser district, Syria, January 2, 2013.
A Free Syrian Army fighter asks a child to move away from his house's window as a security measure in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district December 30, 2012.
A boy watches men dig graves for future casualties of Syria's civil conflict at Sheikh Saeed cemetery in Azaz city, December 30, 2012.