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Friday, June 14, 2013

Report: 73 Syrian officers flee to Turkey

Turkey's state-run news agency says 73 Syrian military officers - including seven generals and 20 colonels - have crossed the border with their families "seeking refuge" in Turkey.

The Anadolu Agency said Friday that the group totaled 202 people. It said they arrived in the town of Reyhanli and were taken to a Turkish refugee camp that houses military officers who have defected from the Syrian army.

At the same time, the Assad regime got a welcome boost from Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah, who made it clear he will not be deterred by internal Lebanese criticism of his group's support for Damascus.

Nasrallah, who gave a speech on Friday marking "Lebanese casualty day," announced the Shiite organization does not intend to abandon its Syrian ally or the Syrian fighting.

"We'll be were we should be, and will keep shouldering the responsibility until the end," he committed.

Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian crisis, especially in the battles over the border-town of Qusair, caused an uproar in Lebanon and raised concerns that violence may spill across the border.

But Nasrallah insisted: "We're the last ones to intervene in Syria. There are those who want to see the Syrian regime deposed as if the alternative is a different regime. But the alternative is anarchy."

Commenting on the possibility that foreign nations will supply the Syrian rebels with arms following reports of chemical weapons use by the regime, Nasrallah declared that "they were armed long ago."

"Against this international attack, we take part in the existential struggle which wants to see to whole region fall, not only Syria. This is the heretic American-Israeli project," he accused.

Hezbollah's leader said his organization's involvement was completely transparent: "We declared it openly. It's not as if we sent our men to Syria and said we're delivering milk and blankets, and it's not as if we buried our men in Syria and silenced their relatives in Lebanon."

According to Nasrallah, "The story of a people and a regime is long over. There's a rift – some of the people support the regime and we're backing that part, and there's another part that we're for with regards to reforms, but we don't support those who call for the destruction of Syria."

His speech was broadcast on massive screens in a ceremony in Beirut, and was aired on the Al-Manar TV channel, owned by Hezbollah.

During the ceremony, Nasrallah commended the "Lebanese resistance which acted to defend the holy places."

"This resistance liberated Lebanon from the occupation," he said. "Without it, Lebanon's water would have gone over to the settlements and the original inhabitants wouldn't be able to use them, just like in the West Bank.

"Without the resistance, our oil our oil reserves would have been transferred to the Tamar deposit, and our government would have had to answer to Israel like in Tyre and Sidon.

"And who was it who drove them out? Who fought and who remained silent? Who fought the occupier and who shook his hand?" Nasrallah said.

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