Defecting Syrian Officer Saw 'Iranian, Hizbullah Snipers' in Damascus Suburbإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A man who identified himself as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Syrian army has told Agence France Presse that he had seen “Iranian and Hizbullah snipers” in the Damascus suburb of Saqba.
"I remember well in Damascus, in the Saqba district, I saw people demonstrating” and “with my own eyes I saw snipers positioned on upper floors, Iranian and Hizbullah snipers who fired on the crowd," Hussein Harmoush told AFP, when asked about the presence of Iranian soldiers or Hizbullah warriors fighting alongside the Syrian army, as recently reported by many witnesses.
Now wearing civilian clothes but displaying his military ID card, the lieutenant colonel said he took advantage of a furlough to flee Damascus on Thursday towards the Turkish village of Guvecci near the border with Syria, where his family is sheltering.
He said he defected because of "attacks on innocent civilians, carrying nothing in their hands except an olive branch" -- rejecting any notion of an armed uprising.
On Friday, Hizbullah strongly denied media reports accusing the Shiite party of being involved in the ongoing clashes in Syria, describing them as “rumors aimed at inciting sectarian tensions.”
“Lately, some Arab and Israeli media outlets and a number of websites have been circulating rumors accusing Hizbullah of being involved in the military confrontations taking place in some Syrian regions,” said Hizbullah in a statement.
Those media outlets, according to the statement, have also reported that Hizbullah members were killed in clashes between Syrian security forces and protesters.
The party accused certain media outlets of “fabricating names of alleged (Hizbullah) martyrs.”
It said the aforementioned media reports were “part of the same conspiracy targeting Syria and the resistance movements” in the region.
Harmoush said he had no doubt that in all the places he was sent the protesters were totally unarmed.
"The army received the order to prevent demonstrations at all costs and to silence the people. They ordered us to open fire on people if the protests continued," he said.
"I did not accept the orders. But I saw what some soldiers did. I saw tanks fire on cities, I saw artillery being fired, helicopters firing with automatic weapons."
"The Syrian army is killing civilians, chasing people out of their homes. ... Villages are emptied, the inhabitants chased to the border and to other countries," he said.
Harmoush hopes he can persuade other officers to follow his example.
"Some people have come into contact with me, and God willing they will desert," he said.
The decision is not easy, however, because of the fear of reprisals. "Many officers and soldiers want to defect but they don't because they are afraid of being killed -- them and their families," Harmoush said.
He added that an intelligence agent's wife was raped after he refused to kill civilians.