A Syrian Air Force pilot landed his MiG-21 fighter jet in Jordan and asked for political asylum on Thursday.
Jordan has agreed to shelter the pilot, identified as Col. Hassan Hammadeh, while the Syrian government has called him a fugitive from the service, a traitor to his country and to his military honor, adding that actions will be taken against him according to the laws and regulations.
A number of soldiers have defected during the 16-month long crisis in Syria, many after they were allegedly ordered to open fire on unarmed protestors. With a home base now in Turkey, some of these soldiers are fighting back against the regime as members of the Free Syrian Army.
Still, Hammadeh's defection was unique in that it was the first time that an air force pilot left Syria with a commandeered aircraft.
The air force is considered fiercely loyal to Assad's regime, and the defection suggests some of Syria's most ironclad allegiances are fraying, reports the Associated Press. It was a triumph for the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.
Jordan has accepted more than 150,000 Syrian refugees, some of them former soldiers and police officers, since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 15 months ago.