Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have recalled their envoys to Damascus after the Arab League condemned the brutal crackdown on civilian protesters in Syria amid growing criticism for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
The recalls by the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) members further isolate the embattled president after his repression of the country’s pro-democracy uprising, which began in mid-March and has left at least 2,056 people dead.
“We decided to summon our ambassador to Syria for consultation and we stress the importance of acting wisely,” Bahrain’s Sheikh Khaled Al Khalifa said in a message on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait announced the recall of their ambassadors “for consultations.”
“No one can accept the bloodshed in Syria... The military option must be halted,” Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al Sabah told reporters.
“There will be a meeting for the GCC foreign ministers soon and a joint GCC move to discuss the issues related to Syria.”
Saudi’s King Abdullah had announced its recall in a statement after Syrian security forces killed more than 50 people on Sunday.
The statement urged Damascus to “stop the killing machine and the bloodshed... before it is too late.”
“The kingdom does not accept the situation in Syria, because the developments cannot be justified,” King Abdullah said, urging “comprehensive and quick reforms.”
“The future of Syria lies between two options: either Syria chooses willingly to resort to reason, or faces being swept into deep chaos, God forbid,” he said.
“Large numbers of martyrs have fallen, their blood has been shed, and many others have been wounded... This is not in accord with religion, values and morals,” he said.
Demonstrations are ongoing in protest hotspots throughout the country. Activists said security forces backed by tanks killed 42 civilians in Deir Al Zor and at least 10 more in the central town of Hula on Sunday.
Overnight, protests were also reported in the central city of Homs, with the Syrian Observatory saying security forces wounded at least one protester, said AFP.
Despite rising international condemnation of the attacks which also peaked last week on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan leaving some 150 civilians dead in the city of Hama, embattled President Assad defended what he termed a crackdown on “outlaws.”
“To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorize residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” he said on Saturday, quoted by state news agency SANA.
President Assad, meanwhile, replaced his defense minister on Monday, state television said.
He appointed his chief of staff, General Daoud Rajha, to replace Ali Habib as defense minister, the television said.
The position of defense minister is a mostly ceremonial post in Syria, with most officers from the minority Alawite sect, the same sect as Assad, dominating the majority Sunni rank-and-file army.
The military is effectively under the command of Mr. Assad’s feared brother Maher. President Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, is also deputy chief or staff and diplomats say he plays a key role in the control over the army.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Mr. Habib this month as part of measures against Syria’s ruling hierarchy for their bloody crackdown on five months of pro-democracy demonstrations.