Syria, Is This The Tipping Point?
ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (United Kingdom) / LE MONDE (France)
DAMASCUS – Syria is burning again, with action intensifying both along the front lines and in diplomatic corridors in the wake of a massacre of civilians that could mark a turning point in the yearlong conflict.
Along with Canada and Australia, the major European powers, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, announced on Tuesday the expulsion of top Syrian diplomats from their respective capitals to protest the killing of 108 innocent victims, including at least 49 children, in the town of Houla.
Le Monde cited French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as calling Bashar al-Assad a "killer of his people" and saying he "must give up power, the sooner the better." An unnamed senior European diplomat told the Paris-based daily that the expulsions of ambassadors were part of a coordinated international action against the Damascus regime.
There were also open signs of indignation in Damascus, where a strike took place on Monday to protest the massacre, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reports.
Meanwhile, the killing continues. Anonymous opposition sources told the pan-Arab daily that regime tanks and infantry vehicles opened fire in different districts after the Free Syrian Army attacked Assad's checkpoints around the city of Hama.
Asharq Al-Awsat said Hama is "now in a state of war with a new massacre," with the paper reporting more than 40 dead in the city over the past 24 hours.
Special UN envoy Kofi Annan was meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to discuss ways to end the violence. Activists said that a total of 64 people were killed across Syria on Monday, including 36 soldiers
The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights reports an ongoing shelling of Hama. The regime's assault on the city "comes at a time when Syrian forces are now using military tactics and attacking at night or just before dawn light in an attempt to avoid the notice of international UN observers and exploit the relative weakness of opposition forces at night," Asharq Al-Awsat reported.