Syria has announced that the US, UK, French, Swiss, Italian, Spanish Turkish ambassadors are “personae non gratae” and barred them from the country. Last week, a number of Western nations had expelled Syrian envoys, in response to the massacre in Houla that left 108 dead. Many of the countries mentioned in Syria’s extradition order had already recalled their diplomats. The latest move by Damascus underscores the extent to which diplomatic relations among Syria and other countries have declined.
Syria did announce that it had signed an agreement to allow humanitarian aid into the country. Within days, nine UN agencies and seven other non-governmental organisations should be allowed to enter Deraa, Deir el-Zour, Homs and Idlib, all cities that have been centers of anti-government protest and of some of the fiercest crackdown by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. John Ging of the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs said in the Guardian that it is not clear if this was a “breakthrough” or not. Some one million Syrians are in need of aid; they have been injured during the assaults or their families have lost jobs and homes.
In addition, more than 78,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where they are receiving aid.
These announcements occurred as China and Russia restated their opposition to foreign intervention in Syria. A representative from China’s foreign ministry emphasized that both countries do not support a forced regime change in Syria and called for all sides to back the United Nation envoy’s six-point peace plan.
On Monday, the rebel Free Syrian Army had announced that it was no longer honoring the ceasefire called for in Annan’s peace plan. Over the weekend, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the FSA had killed 80 Syrian soldiers. FSA leaders had announced last week that they would be “free of any commitment” to Annan’s peace plan if Assad did not end the violence on Friday.
Assad has blamed the rebels for the Houla massacre, saying that “monsters” would not commit such a crime. This week the Syrian president, who studied opthalmology in London, defended his regime’s crackdown on protesters and dissent in Syria by comparing his army to a surgeon saving the life of his patients: “When a surgeon … cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood? Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”
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Photo of mourners at a funeral in Duma, a suburb of Damascus, from FreedomHouse2