Army defectors in Syria have reportedly started launching attacks on government forces, suggesting that the six-month-long rebellion has reached a turning point.
Despite President Bashar al-Assad using all forces at his command to repress the opposition, the anti-government forces have gained from the dissidence within the army.
Reuters reported that on Tuesday, regime forces tried to retake control of a central town held by military defectors. Details were far from clear and diplomats and other sources said defecting units appeared a 'hodgepodge' who might struggle to mount a sustained fight against superior forces, the report said.
Reports say that the fighting has intensified over the last few days, resulting in the death of at least 76 people in the central cities of Homs and Hama and in the southern Daraa region.
Though a coordinated attack by army defectors on Assad's forces still seems remote, there are visible signs that cracks in the armed forces are too big for the regime to ignore.
Analysts say the chances of the Syrian opposition deposing Assad by force are slim at the moment, but the prospect of the country slipping into a vicious, long-drawn civil war are growing.
Army defections may embolden the rebels, but this scenario will harden the government stance.
The regime will most likely use this in order to justify and further intensify its bloody crackdown ... This increases the risk of Syria sliding into a civil war, said Anthony Skinner, Middle East and North Africa director at political risk consultancy Maplecroft, according to Reuters.
The rate of defections is increasing ... However it is coming amid a fall in the number of protests throughout the country -- which are slowly losing momentum amid the ongoing crackdown. It will take significantly greater numbers of defectors to significantly threaten the regime, said Alan Fraser, Middle East analyst for London-based risk consultancy AKE, according to Reuters.