The Arab League suspended Syria and called on its army to stop killing civilians in a surprise move on Saturday that turned up the heat on President Bashar al-Assad.
The League will impose economic and political sanctions on Assad’s government and has appealed to member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, said Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. It will also call a meeting of Syrian opposition parties, he said.
“We were criticised for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria,” Sheikh Hamad said in Cairo. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.”
The West hopes that Assad would be isolated by his Arab neighbours were repeatedly dashed until now. Some Arab leaders have been reluctant to turn against one of their peers given the message it might send to their own restive populations.
Violence on the rise
November is shaping up to be the bloodiest month yet in Syria’s 8-month-old uprising. More than 250 Syrian civilians have been killed in the past 11 days as the regime besieges the renegade city of Homs and the conflict takes a dangerous turn, stoking fears of civil war.
The UN estimates some 3,500 people have been killed in the crackdown since mid-March, when the uprising began. The latest figures would push that number closer to 4,000.