(JTA) — A top Syrian general and the son of a notoriously anti-Semitic former defense minister reportedly has defected from the Assad regime.
Reports Thursday said that Manaf Tlass, a brigadier general in the elite Republican Guards, had defected and was on his way to France.
Tlass’ defection would be the first from the close circle of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad since an uprising began in the country in 2011.
Tlass’ father, Gen. Mustafa Tlass, was the defense minister from 1972 to 2004, and was a key ally of Assad’s late father, longtime Syrian strongman Hafez Assad.
The elder Tlass earned notoriety in the West in 1983 for publishing a book attempting to prove the falsehood that Damascus Jews had murdered a priest in 1840 to use his blood for matzah.
The original rumors instigated a pogrom against the city’s Jews, and helped spur modern Zionism among European Jews.