US closes embassy in Syria as mayhem escalates
BEIRUT — The United States closed its embassy in Syria on Monday and withdrew its staff in the face of escalating mayhem that U.S. officials blamed on the Syrian government’s unbridled repression of an 11-month-old uprising.
The move marked another dramatic moment in a week full of them, as the confrontation in Syria turned even more violent and more unpredictable. Diplomatic efforts have largely collapsed, save for a Russian delegation visiting Damascus on Tuesday, and both the Syrian government and its opposition have signaled that each believes the grinding conflict will be resolved only through force of arms.
For weeks, Western embassies have reduced their staffs, and Monday, Britain also recalled its ambassador for consultations. Echoing a cascade of diplomatic invective, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, described the mounting violence as yet more evidence that President Bashar Assad must surrender power.
“This is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime,” he told the House of Commons. “There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally.”
Though the government has pressed forward with a crackdown in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, and a rugged northern region around the town of Idlib, the city of Homs has witnessed the most pronounced violence. Opposition groups said government forces again shelled the city, despite international condemnations of a similar attack Friday and Saturday that they said killed more than 200 people.
Another grim toll was reported Monday in the city, Syria’s third-largest. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group that seeks to document the violence, said government forces killed 47 people in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, especially Baba Amr and Khalidya. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number at 43. There was no way to independently confirm either number.