News / Middle East

US Expels Syrian Diplomat Over Houla Massacre

A view of the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC.A view of the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC.
x
A view of the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC.
A view of the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC.
STATE DEPARTMENT - The United States is expelling Syria's most senior envoy in Washington over what it says is the Syrian government's responsibility for last week's massacre in the village of Houla.  U.N. observers confirm the deaths of more than 90 people in Houla, including several families who appear to have been executed in their homes.

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour has 72 hours to leave the United States. "We took this action in response to the massacre in the village of Houla - absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre - against innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the Shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend," she said.

Nuland offered no evidence linking Iran to this attack, but said Washington "finds it interesting" that the deputy head of Iran's Quds Force has since chosen to take credit for the advice they are giving to Syria.

The Obama administration says it took the decision to expel Syria's most senior representative in coordination with Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, which are also expelling Syrian diplomats.

Nuland said the violence is "the most unambiguous indictment to date" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ongoing threat to peace and security as well as what she called his "flagrant violations" of U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for an end to fighting and the release of political prisoners.

U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told President Assad on Tuesday that a U.N. peace plan "cannot succeed without bold steps to stop the violence."   A U.N. spokesman says Mr. Annan conveyed to President Assad the international community's concern about the bloodshed, including the Houla killings.

The State Department's Nuland said Washington continues to support Mr. Annan's mediation efforts, but believes the time for diplomacy with Mr. Assad has passed. "He is doing what he can to try to convince a man who would send thugs into a village to kill women and children to do the right thing here and to stop the violence.  He is a man who believes in continuing to talk.  That said, from our perspective the only thing that Assad is going to listen to is pressure," she said.

In the coming days, Nuland said, the United States will continue to look at ways to pressure the the Syrian government economically, politically and diplomatically at the United Nations and in foreign capitals.

Russia has vetoed previous U.N. efforts to sanction President Assad.  A Russian foreign ministry statement on Tuesday called for an "objective and impartial" U.N. probe into the killings, saying "the tragedy in Houla underscored that all the sides in Syria must immediately renounce violence in order to avoid a repeat of such incidents."

Nuland said the United States welcomes Russia's call for such a probe because it is "undisputable" that the inquiry's findings would point back to President Assad. "So, you know, from that perspective, is this going to be a turning point in Russian thinking?  We hope so," she said.

On Sunday, Russia and China backed Security Council condemnation of the Syrian government for using artillery in Houla.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the situation there appears to be one in which Syrian forces and its opponents "had a hand in the deaths of innocent people."

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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