US closes Damascus embassy amid violence
US closes its embassy in Damascus and embassy officials go to Jordan.The Obama administration has closed the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and pulled all U.S. diplomats out of Syria, while the violence continued in the restive country increasing yesterday’s death toll to at least 64, according to activists. Also, U.K.’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said U.K. ambassador in Damascus has been recalled for consultations.
Officials said Ambassador Robert Ford and other diplomats left Syria yesterday, the Associated Press reported. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Ford would retain his position as U.S. ambassador to Syria and would from Washington. It is the most dramatic U.S. move so far after 11 months of a violent crackdown on dissent by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Meanwhile, Turkey does not consider taking a similar move regarding its embassy in Damascus at the moment, sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said it is important to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria without outside military intervention. Obama said a negotiated solution in Syria is possible.
Defectors form higher military council
The U.S. decision to close its Damascus embassy comes amid the Syrian forces intensified a shelling assault on the restive city of Homs. As many as 22 people have been killed and scores of others have been injured in intensive shelling of the Baba Amro neighborhood in Homs, Al Arabiya reported yesterday citing Syrian activists. The Syrian National Council (SNC) opposition group’s Catherine al-Talli told Reuters that the death toll is 50 in Homs, according to activists.
Syrian army defectors yesterday announced the formation of a higher military council to “liberate” the country’s current regime. The council, named “The Higher Revolutionary Council” and designed to supersede the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said its head was General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, the highest ranking deserter who had fled to Turkey. The council’s spokesman is Major Maher al-Naimi, previously the FSA spokesman.
Furthermore, Gen. Mustafa El Sheyh, a Syrian army defector, said the al-Assad army is close to dissolve this month, Anatolia News Agency reported. El Sheyh’s statement came after the Daily News report that defections from the Syrian Army have exceeded 40,000, according to intelligence revealed by Turkish official sources. Turkey hosts around 9,200 Syrian refugees in sheltering camps in Hatay.
A total of 40 Syrian families who fled unrest in their country moved to the new container housing site in the southern province of Kilis, Yusuf Odabaşı, local governor, told the Anatolia news agency. Separately, the daily Telegraph reported yesterday the release of Abu Musab al-Suri, who had been held in Syria for six years after being captured by the CIA in 2005 under suspicion of planning the London bomb attacks on July 7, 2005.