Syria's first astronaut, General Mohammad Fares, is the latest senior officer to defect from the army. The Syrian opposition has posted a video in which Fares confirms he has joined the rebels and is fighting Bashar Assad's forces in northern Syria.
Recorded in Aleppo, the video shows Fares expressing his solidarity with the Free Syrian Army. Most Syrians remember Fares from a famous video conversation he held with former Syrian President Hafez Assad while he was in space in 1987.
Born in 1951, Fares arrived at the Mir space station in July 1987 as part of the Soviet Union's space program.
Meanwhile, intense fighting continues in Syria's largest city Aleppo. On Saturday, the Syrian army announced it has regained full control over Damascus after three weeks of fierce battles.
Also Sunday, a pan-Arab television station aired a video purportedly showing Syrian rebels with a group of Iranians abducted a day earlier just outside Damascus.
The footage shown on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya shows men identified as the Iranians sitting on the ground surrounded by fighters who said they were from the "Baraa Brigades."
Video allegedly showing Iranian hostages
A rebel claims in the video that the captives include an officer of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and that the group was on a "reconnaissance mission."
Iran's state-run news agency SANA said the 48 abducted Saturday were pilgrims. It said Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi spoke on the phone with Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers and demanded their intervention to help release them.
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