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Apr 25th, 2011

U.S. Urges Americans to Leave Syria Amid Violence

White House says it is considering ‘targeted sanctions’ after crackdown

Image: Syrian anti-government protesters carry a coffin
Anti-government protesters carry the coffin of a slain activist during a funeral procession in Quaboun near the capital Damascus on Saturday, April 23, 2011. (Photo credit: Stringer / AP)

Reuters via
April 25, 2011

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Monday told American citizens to leave Syria as soon as they can and ordered some personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to depart the country, as the Syrian government steps up a brutal crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators.

In a new warning, the department urged Americans to defer all travel to Syria, advised those already in the country to depart while commercial transportation is available and to limit nonessential travel within the country. Nonessential U.S. embassy staff and the families of all embassy personnel have been ordered to leave Syria. It said the embassy would remain open for limited services.

The warning said that Syrian government restrictions, including the short-term detention of foreign diplomats, made it difficult for the embassy to assess the security situation and that attempts by authorities to blame the unrest on outsiders could contribute to anti-foreigner sentiment.

The move came as thousands of Syrian soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in to the southern city of Daraa and opened fire on civilians, killing at least 11 people, witnesses said. More than 350 people have been killed in the violence since mid-March.

Earlier Monday, the Obama administration said it was considering “targeted sanctions” against Syria after government forces sharply escalated their deadly campaign to crush a five-week uprising. …

Sanctions would mark a more assertive approach by the Obama administration, which has been criticized by human rights groups for not doing more to curb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to crush a month-long uprising against his autocratic 11-year rule.

Obama’s response so far has been limited to tough words but little action against the Syrian government, in contrast to Washington’s role in a NATO-led air campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and its call for his ouster.

Washington is mindful of its limited ability to influence Damascus, which is already under a set of U.S. economic sanctions and is closely allied with U.S. foe Iran.

The Obama administration is also cautious about the potential for stoking instability on U.S. ally Israel’s borders and wants to avoid further military entanglement in the Muslim world where it is involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

Full report


NATO strikes Gadhafi compound; more deaths in Syria (NBC Nightly News, April 25, 2011) — A NATO airstrike scored a direct hit on Gadhafi’s headquarters in Tripoli early Monday, while in Syria, government forces sharply escalated an already deadly campaign to crush the uprising. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (04:15)


4/21/2012 Update

UN Security Council OKs Sending 300 More Observers to Syria

AFP/Getty Images
An image grab taken from a video uploaded to YouTube on April 19, 2012, shows fire rising from reported shelling by Syrian government forces on the district of Khalidiya in the flashpoint central city of Homs. (Photo credit: AFP / Getty Images)

April 21, 2012

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Saturday morning to deploy 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a fragile, week-old ceasefire in a 13-month old conflict. …

The resolution was approved within hours of the arrival of the first ceasefire monitors in the battered Syrian city of Homs and just a day after opposition activists said shelling and gunfire had stopped for the first time in weeks.

But activists in Homs said that the shelling paused only to make it look as  if the government was abiding by a truce, mediated by international Peace Envoy  Kofi Annan. They said shelling would resume as soon as the monitors left. …

On Friday, 10 people were killed in Syria’s third largest city and epicenter  of a year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, after heavy bombardment  from government forces. …

Amateur video posted online on Friday appeared to show heavy shelling and  explosions in residential neighborhoods of Homs. …

Full story 

Timeline: Syria: Nation at a crossroads


Related reports on this site

Middle East Unrest Q&A (March 31, 2011)

Middle East Instability Spreading (Feb. 3, 2011)

Fears of Egyptian Domino Effect (Jan. 31, 2011)

Interactive: The Egypt effect


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 25, 2010

Poison Gas or Mass Hysteria?


Afghan girls scared away from school (NBC Nightly News, April 26, 2010) — Young Afghan girls, once excluded from education under Taliban rule, are now attending school by the millions, but disturbing new threats are once again keeping girls out of the classroom. NBC’s John Yang reports. (02:21)

One year ago today, I suggested that reports of Afghan schoolgirls “knocked unconscious” or made ill by suspected Taliban poison gas attacks on their schools should be investigated as possible cases of mass hysteria (mass psychogenic illness).


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — April 25, 2009

Bachmann Watch

Two years ago today, on April 25, 2009, I reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee created a Web site devoted to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s false and controversial statements, intended as a virtual “truth squad” to expose Bachmann’s “fantastic claims and lies … that can quickly be disproven.”

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