1906 GMT: Syria. There are a series of reports that suggest that Manaf Tlass, a high-ranking general in the Syrian Republican Guard, and a member of Assad's inner circle. Tlass is a trusted member of the regime, and a long-time friend of Assad's, but he is also a member of an extremely powerful Sunni family, and rumors have been spreading that he and his brother were increasingly frustrated at the actions of the regime. The Guardian reports:
Tlass's defection was reported by Syriasteps, a news website linked to the country's security apparatus. It said that "a highly placed source in intelligence has confirmed that General Manaf Mustafa Tlass has fled to Turkey", and quoted a security official as saying: "His escape does not mean anything."
While The Guardian offers an excellent overview of the importance of Tlass, and Reuters offers some additional context, we'd caution that this news is still unconfirmed. For hours we've been hearing these rumors, but have put off publishing them for want of a better source. By now, however, many major news agencies are reporting the story.