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CNN TÜRK, HÜRRIYET, (Turkey) LA STAMPA (Italy), WSJ (United States)

A Syrian general, two colonels, two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers have defected from President Bashar al-Assad's forces and arrived in Turkey, Hürriyet, the Istanbul-based daily, reports.

The officers and soldiers were part of a group of some 224 people who crossed the border overnight, according to CNN Türk, yet another sign that senior officials are turning away from al-Assad's government.

(More than 33,000 people have fled into Turkey since Syria's violence began.)

The defections come just two days after Syria shot down a Turkish military jet in a maritime border area, an act Western powers have widely condemned. "The Assad regime should not make the mistake of believing that it can act with impunity. It will be held to account for its behavior," UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement carried in The Independent.

But asked about the possibility of a Western-led military intervention in Syria, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said he did not believe "the conditions are in place for an action like in Libya", adding that he "would like to be clear right away that it is not a repeatable scenario," La Stampa reports.

On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to a new round of sanctions on Syria, including extending a travel ban and a freeze on assets of six companies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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