A brigadier general close to President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle denied his defection and his family’s escape to Jordan in a phone interview with the pro-Syrian regime Dunya TV channel on Monday.
The high ranking officer Rustum Ghazala’s wife, along with her sister and brother-in-law, were reported to be at a center for refugees in the Jordanian capital, Amman, sources from the Syrian opposition told Al Arabiya correspondent.
The sources said that security forces and the Syrian regime’s gang-like militia men have arrested a number of Ghazala’s relatives: Mohammed Ahmed al-Ghazli, Asi Ishak al-Ghazali, and Yahya Mousa al-Ghazali. The men were allegedly picked up when forces stormed Kirfa village in Deraa, where the general is from.
However, later in the day, Al Arabiya reported that six of Ghazala’s relatives reached Jordan, but not including his wife or children.
Clashes between the armed opposition and the Shabiha were reported at the outskirts of the village, they added.
The brother in law backed with five others announced his defection from the air force intelligence in a Youtube video posted on Monday.
More about the general
The 59-year-old general, who is Sunni, was appointed in 2002 as the head of the country’s military intelligence in Lebanon, and is considered to be part the Syrian regime’s inner circle. Ghazala graduated from a military college in Homs.
In 2005, the U.S. froze his assets for ‘occupying’ Lebanon and other violations in the neighboring country. He was also questioned on September 2005 on the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The European Union reported that the general helped the regime in quelling dissident as he was head of the military intelligence in for the countryside surrounding Damascus, the region also close to Deraa, a hotbed for protests.
Syria is a Muslim nation with 70 percent belonging to the Sunni sect while the ruling administration follow the Alawite faith, an offshoot Shiite sect.
The divide can be seen in Syria’s army, as the lower ranks are largely made up of Sunnis while high-ranking officers in the loyalist military are Alawites. But Ghazala managed to be part of the high-ranks.