Syrian MP-turned dissident flees to Jordan

Syrian MP-turned dissident flees to Jordan

Prominent former Syrian MP Nasser Al Hariri crossed into Jordan late Thursday, adding to a growing list of former and current regime officials fleeing to Syria's southern neighbour, dpa reported.

According to Syrian activists, Al Hariri, who stepped down from the Syrian Parliament in April 2011 in protest over a bloody government crackdown on peaceful protestors in his hometown of Daraa, crossed into Jordan illegally along with several family members in an operation assisted by the Free Syrian Army.

Al Hariri's arrival comes less than 24 hours after the crossing of some 200 "mid- to high-level" Syrian military officers into Jordan, which has become the main destination for regime defectors.

According to Jordanian security sources, the number of military defectors pouring across the country's borders has spiked from a handful to "over 100" per day as clashes between regime and rebel forces intensify in major urban areas such as Aleppo and Damascus.

"Before one out of every 100 refugees had ties to the Syrian regime," said a security source posted in the border region. "Now it seems that we are almost receiving as many defectors as refugees."

The ongoing exodus of refugees and defectors comes in spite of a renewed Syrian military blockade that activists claim is designed to prevent the flight of high-profile regime officials.

The military campaign comes in light of the defection of former Prime Minister Riad Hijab to Jordan earlier this month, a move that prompted Damascus to launch an aerial assault on villages in the border region, which activists say has led to a closing of traditional smuggling routes.

Activists claim that the campaign has "left stranded" Syrian Vice President Farouk Sharaa, whom they allege has broken ranks with the Al-Assad regime and is currently shuttling between rebel-safe houses in southern Syria, waiting for a clear passageway to enter Jordan and officially announce his defection.

"With the regime focusing its air power along the borders, the windows of opportunity to cross are getting much smaller," said Abu Mohammed, a Syrian activist in Jordan who helps coordinate cross-border smuggling operations.

The issue of refugees has become an emerging point of contention between Amman and Damascus, which objects to Jordan's ongoing policy of granting refuge to regime defectors and opposition activists.

Amman has repeatedly denied aiding or encouraging the defection of Syrian officials to Jordan, stressing that it only provides "humanitarian support" to those fleeing the 17-month-old conflict.

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