The pilot did manage to have his family cross the border into Jordan before he took this bold step.
Interestingly, my friend who's a Captain with RJ on E-190 told me today that he saw four RJAF F-16s at the time of this incident where he was at 18,000 ft minutes before entering Syrian airspace on a flight to Beirut. Obviously he had no clue of what was going on. These F-16s were on QRA and were sent to intercept the MiG-21.
I think he meant the symbolic gesture of defecting rather than opening fire on fellow citizens.
The Syrian military is supposedly fiercely behind Al Assad and against the rebellion, but this could be a sign of a growing resentment amongst its ranks and possibly of a loss of confidence in the regime.
Defecting is never an easy decision, but I think an army should never, ever, be used against the people it is supposed to protect and serve, and it's especially vile in the case of a dictator using it to fight for his power and against democracy.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit posting...