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."
(Read more Aleppo stories.)

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