News / Middle East

Syrian Fighter Pilot Defects in Jordan

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows a military aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows a military aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.
VOA News
Jordan's information ministry says a Syrian fighter pilot has landed at a military base in Jordan and asked for political asylum, in a high-profile defection from the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian state media reported earlier Thursday that the military had lost contact Colonel Hassan al-Hamade while he was flying a Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jet on a training mission in the country's south.

It is believed to be the first Syrian military defection involving an aircraft.

The defection comes against the backdrop of continuing violence across Syria.  Residents and Syrian rights activists say two people were killed when government troops shelled Homs on Thursday, as aid teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross stood ready to evacuate trapped and wounded citizens from the city.

An amateur video released by the Shaam News Network purports to show smoke rising from buildings near a mosque in Homs, Syria, June 21, 2012.An amateur video released by the Shaam News Network purports to show smoke rising from buildings near a mosque in Homs, Syria, June 21, 2012.
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An amateur video released by the Shaam News Network purports to show smoke rising from buildings near a mosque in Homs, Syria, June 21, 2012.
An amateur video released by the Shaam News Network purports to show smoke rising from buildings near a mosque in Homs, Syria, June 21, 2012.
Activists also reported shelling Thursday in the southern town of Inkhil, in Daraa province, that killed at least nine people.

The ICRC says both Syrian authorities and the opposition have agreed to its request for a temporary truce so the group can evacuate sick and wounded civilians from Homs and bring in much-needed medical supplies.  Hundreds of people are trapped by fighting in the central city's Sunni Muslim neighborhoods.

Homs has been at the center of the 15-month revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and became the focus of world concern in February and March, when opposition-held areas endured weeks of government bombardments and sniper fire, killing hundreds.

Rights activists said violence across the country Wednesday killed at least 53 people. Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA he fears Syria will become "the new Somalia or the new Afghanistan."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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