BEIRUT — As Arab League monitors prepared a report on Syria's compliance with its agreement to halt violence against protesters, a senior general reportedly said on live TV he was defecting from the regime's army with up to 50 of his soldiers.
Colonel Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman made the announcement live on Al-Jazeera's Arabic News channel on Saturday, the news organization reported.
Flanked by a group of his soldiers, Suleimen said he wanted to keep protesters safe. Al-Jazeera English translated his remarks from Arabic.
"We are from the army and we have defected because the government is killing civilian protesters," he said. "The Syrian army attacked Hama with heavy weapons, air raids and heavy fire from tanks."
Al-Jazeera reported that Suleiman was in the air force logistics division.
The announcement came a day after an explosion rocked an intersection in downtown Damascus, killing 26 people. The Syrian government blamed it on a suicide bomber.Syria vows 'iron fist' revenge after bomb kills 26
Also on Friday, the prime minister of Qatar said Syria was not implementing the deal with the Arab League aimed at ending a bloody crackdown on nearly 10 months of unrest, and added that Arab League monitors could not stay there to "waste time".
The Syrian army, required to pull of Syrian cities according to the deal, had not withdrawn, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said. He added there had been no end to killing during the 10 days spent in Syria by the Arab monitors.
"With great regret, the news is not good," Sheikh Hamad told Al-Jazeera television.
Arab League report due Sunday
An Arab League committee is due on Sunday to discuss an initial report by the Arab observers who are checking Syria's compliance with the peace plan.
"We will listen to the report of the mission and then the Arab committee which will decide what we will do," Sheikh Hamad said. "We cannot be there to waste time while the killing is continuing," he added.
The monitors began work on the streets on December 26 to try to verify whether the government was keeping its promise to pull troops and tanks out of cities and free thousands of detainees.Interactive: Young and restless: Demographics fuel Mideast protests (on this page)
Sheikh Hamad said the observers had been sent after Syria had signed the protocol to monitor implementation. "Unfortunately, nothing has been implemented," he said.
Regime fires on sit-in
Activists said Syrian troops opened fire on demonstrators holding sit-ins in two parts of the country Friday, killing one and wounding at least 20.
The Local Coordination Committees group said the troops fired upon scores of protesters who been camped out in the central square of the northern town of Saraqeb for eight days. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports at least 20 were wounded.
Both groups also report attacks by troops on Saturday on another sit-in in the restive central city of Homs, during which at least one person was killed.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.