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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid