News / Middle East

Syria's Assad Replaces Defense Minister, Arab Nations Recall Envoys

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)

Syrian state media say President Bashar al-Assad has replaced his defense minister, as Damascus comes under increasing pressure from its Arab neighbors to stop a deadly crackdown against an opposition uprising.

Mr. Assad appointed the Syrian army chief of staff, General Dawoud Rajha, as the new defense minister Monday. He replaces General Ali Habib, whom Syrian state media say is ill. It is the most significant change to the Syrian government since nationwide protests against Mr. Assad's rule began in March.

Bahrain and Kuwait said Monday they have joined Saudi Arabia in recalling their ambassadors from Damascus for consultations on Syria's use of force against the protesters. Saudi King Abdullah announced the recall of his envoy on Sunday and demanded a stop to what he called Mr. Assad's "killing machine."

The ambassador recalls follow the bloodiest week of the five-month uprising. Rights activists say Syrian troops backed by tanks have killed hundreds of people in the central city of Hama, the eastern town of Deir el-Zour and other areas in recent days.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington is "heartened" by the Arab world's tougher stand on Syria and sees it as a "further sign" of international condemnation of Mr. Assad's actions.

In Cairo, the head of the influential Sunni Islamic teaching institution, Al-Azhar, said Monday the Syrian government must end the bloodshed immediately - calling it a tragedy that has gone too far. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb also called on Syrian leaders to respond to the "legitimate demands" of the people.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi said the 22-nation bloc is not expected to take any drastic measures against Syria, but will engage in what he called "step-by-step persuasion" to resolve the crisis through negotiations.

Syrian activists and residents said government artillery fire resumed Monday in Deir el-Zour, where they say security forces have killed at least 42 people in an assault that began a day earlier. Syria's government denied any assault was underway in the town.

Elsewhere, witnesses and activists say Syrian security forces opened fire on activists attending a funeral of a pro-democracy protester in the southern protest hub of Deraa on Monday. They say three of the mourners were killed, including a prominent dissident,  Maan Awadat.

In another development, a group of Internet hackers known as Anonymous defaced the website of Syria's defense ministry Monday, posting a message to the Syrian people that said "The world stands with you against the brutal regime." The ministry's website became inaccessible after the Internet attack.

On Sunday, President Assad defended his violent crackdown on dissidents, saying it is a national duty to deal with what he called "outlaws" who cut off roads and "terrorize" people. Speaking during talks with Lebanon's visiting foreign minister, Mr. Assad also said Syria is on a path to reform.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More