Three Syrian Air Force pilots defected to Jordan after crossing the border Sunday, according to the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yaum. Following the defection of Col. Hassan Hammadeh Thursday, this has brought the total number of defected Syrian pilots up to seven since hostilities began over a year ago.
The precise location of the defectors has not been announced yet. The pilots are reportedly being debriefed by the Jordanian authorities.
Hammadeh, a fighter pilot on a training mission, flew his MiG-21 warplane to Jordan on Thursday and asked for political asylum, the first defection of an air force pilot with his plane during the 15-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The air force is considered fiercely loyal to Assad’s regime, and the defection suggests some of Syria’s most ironclad allegiances are fraying.
A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Kassem, said the group had encouraged the pilot to defect and monitored his activity until the jet landed safely in Jordan.
Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the regime, but most are low-level conscripts. The Free Syria Army, the loosely linked group of rebel forces, is made up partly of Syrian army defectors.
Associated Press contributed to this report.