Syrian general defects, joins rebels

Syrian Army General Mohammed Ezz al-Din Halouf has allegedly defected to the opposition, adding that morale in Syria's army has collapsed.

A man identified as Khalouf announced his defection in a video broadcast on al-Arabiya TV. Khalouf is believed to have entered the neighboring country of Jordan. The Syrian government has not yet commented on the alleged defection, BBC reports.

"It is not possible for anyone to accept any of the ideas of this regime unless they have achieved special interests," Khalouf said in the video, according to BBC.

Seif al-Hourani, a rebel activist who is part of a group that is believed to have helped Khalouf and his family escape from Syria, told the Associate Press that the escape had been planned for months.

According to al-Hourani, Khalouf and his family, including his wife and three of their children, were smuggled out of Damascus and into Jordan last week. If confirmed, Khalouf, who is identified as both a brigadier-general and a major-general, and his family's escape would be one of the most senior defections since the conflict began.

The defection comes at a time when the New York-based group Human Rights Watch is levying charges that the Syrian government is using cluster bombs against civilians. Cluster bombs, which open while in flight and scatter smaller bombs, pose a major threats to civilians that continues after they are dropped because they may not immediately explode. The use of such weapons is banned by most countries.

"Syria is expanding its relentless use of cluster munitions, a banned weapon, and civilians are paying the price with their lives and limbs," Human Rights Watch said in a report that documented 150 attacks over six months, BBC reports.

The Syrian army denied the use of cluster bombs in October.

Since the conflict in Syrian began two years ago, an estimated 70,000 people have been killed and one million have fled the nation.