Syrian Diplomat Defects as Aleppo Fighting Rages
Rebels seize key strategic points outside the city
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2012 12:51 PM CDT
This image made from amateur video purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers standing near a military tank in Anadan, 10 miles from Aleppo, Syria.   (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

(Newser) – Syria's most senior diplomat in London defected today, saying that he no longer wanted to represent a "violent and oppressive" government, the UK Foreign Office announced today. The office says Charge d'Affaires Khaled al-Ayoubi is staying in a safe place in Britain, the BBC reports, and hailed the defection as evidence of "the continuing collapse of the Assad regime." In other Syria news:

  • Rebel forces seized a military base on the outskirts of Aleppo that had been guarded by about 200 Syrian troops after a nine-hour battle, CNN reports. The spoils of the victory: heavy equipment and weaponry, including "four tanks in good condition," according to one commander.
  • They also captured a checkpoint north of the city, which should afford them free movement between Aleppo and Turkey. A Sky News correspondent there calls it a "big gain" for the rebels.
  • Government forces, however, say they have "purged" a neighborhood of the city that's long been a stronghold of rebel support. Rebels deny this however, according to the Guardian.
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times has a piece today detailing how al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups are becoming increasingly involved in the conflict. "They are everywhere in Idlib," says one Free Syrian Army commander. "They are becoming stronger."