Syria’s bloody crackdown on protesters — which seemed to signal a new, harrowing chapter in a conflict that has already killed nearly 400 people — provoked growing international concern on Tuesday with calls for the violence to stop and talk of possible sanctions.
Gunfire continued in Dara’a Tuesday after the Syrian Army stormed the restive city with tanks and soldiers a day earlier in an escalation of the counteroffensive against Syria’s five-week-old uprising, according to residents. At least 25 people had been killed there Monday, residents and human rights activists said.
Witnesses also reported that protesters gathered in apparently impromptu demonstrations on the city’s largely deserted streets despite continued detentions, which numbered in the dozens Monday.
“History will serve as our witness,” one resident, Alaa Hourani, said by phone.
Such was the alarm in the West about developments in Syria, a critical regional player adjacent to Israel and a close ally of Iran, that the United States State Department urged American citizens not to visit the country and said Americans already there should leave immediately.
An official travel advisory late Monday said the State Department had ordered the evacuation of diplomats’ families and some personnel not essential to the functioning of the American Embassy in Damascus — measures similar to those taken in Egypt as the uprising there unfolded earlier this year. Britain also urged its citizens with “no pressing need” to remain in Syria to leave.
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Tuesday that moves were under way at the United Nations Security Council. the European Union and among some Arab countries to send a “strong signal” to the Damascus authorities. “This violent repression must stop,” he said in a statement. But he did not specify what measures might be taken to restrain the Syrian military and security services.