Update: Reuters reports that the Syrian defector will be allowed to stay in Jordon on "humanitarian grounds," according to a Jordanian security official.
In what appears to be the first defection of its kind, a Syrian fighter pilot has landed at a military base in neighboring Jordan Thursday and has requested asylum, according to Jordanian officials. "The pilot, identified as Col. Hassan Hammadeh, removed his air force tag and kneeled on the tarmac in prayer after landing his plane at King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, Jordan," an anonymous Jordanian official tells the Associated Press. Defecting from the army is one thing—thousands of soldiers have deserted in the last 15 months—but flying off in a blaze of glory makes for quite the symbolic kiss-off. And it appears the pilot had good reason.
According to Reuters' Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Khaled Yacoub Oweis, the pilot's hometown Kfar Takharim has been hammered by Syrian shelling in the last several months, including artillery barrages and helicopter attacks in the last week. "Opposition sources said Hamada is a 44-year-old Sunni Muslim from Idlib province and he had smuggled his family to Turkey before his dramatic defection."