As the Syrian government resumed its shelling of Houla Thursday (May 31st), condemnations continued to pour in from Arab states and the international community over the town's weekend massacre that left more than 100 people dead, including 49 children and 34 women.
Qatar, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and a host of Western countries condemned the weekend massacre, with at least 12 countries expelling Syrian diplomats in protest of the killings that human rights groups accuse the Syrian regime of carrying out.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE's foreign minister, called on Arab League states to hold an emergency ministerial meeting in Doha Saturday to discuss the situation.
Kuwait's permanent representative to the Arab League, Jamal Mohammed al-Ghoneim, said the Arab League committee on Syria will meet and then pass on its recommendations to the foreign ministers.
The committee "will discuss all developments of the Syrian crisis in detail ahead of the ministerial council meeting, study steps to be taken to deal with the current situation and submit a number of recommendations to Arab foreign ministers in this regard," he said.
Damascus has denied any involvement in the violence, blaming foreign-funded "terrorist groups" instead.
At its weekly session Wednesday (May 30th), the Qatari cabinet condemned the Houla massacre, as well as the killings that continue in Syria.
These atrocities, which are in violation of international law and human values, necessitate urgent and decisive intervention by the UN Security Council to stop the bloodshed, protect the Syrian people and meet their legitimate demands, the cabinet said.
Abdullah al-Hamad, a Qatari writer and political analyst, told Al-Shorfa the Arab ministerial meeting Saturday is being asked to make more decisive decisions in dealing with the situation in Syria.
"I think that the atmosphere in the Arab world and the international community in general is [highly] charged, and it seems that there is nothing the Syrian regime can do," he said.
Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also issued statements condemning the violence in Syria.
Samih al-Maaytah, Jordan's official government spokesperson, called for a "political solution to stop the bleeding" and affirmed the Jordanian government's "absolute rejection of the use of force and violence against unarmed civilians".
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement, "While we strongly condemn this heinous crime, we stress again that [the Syrian government] needs to stop the violence, pursue responsible dialogue and be fully ready to bear the responsibility of completing a transition that achieves the legitimate goals of the Syrian people."
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said, "The killing of children is a crime against humanity that cannot be tolerated."
Mohammed Kamel Amr, Egypt's foreign minister, said shelling civilians is a "crime that cannot be overlooked and crosses all red lines," and called for an immediate investigation to identify those responsible for the crime and hold them accountable in a decisive and deterrent manner.
Delaying the full, immediate and impartial implementation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to resolve the crisis "allows the killing and violence against civilians to continue and escalate with catastrophic consequences for Syria and stability in the region as a whole, [an outcome] Egypt warned against at the onset of the crisis," he said.
Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers issued a statement denouncing ongoing acts of violence in Syria, underlining the need for the international community to shoulder its humanitarian responsibility and put an end to violence against innocent and unarmed civilians.
On Tuesday, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States and Bulgaria expelled Syrian diplomats from their countries in protest of the Houla killings. On Wednesday, Turkey and Japan followed suit.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the move aims to increase pressure on senior figures in the regime and send the message that "time is running out for the Assad regime to adopt [Annan's peace plan], implement that plan and stop the torture, abuse and murder of their own people".
In Egypt, a group of young Egyptians formed a movement Thursday, also calling for the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador from their country.
The purpose of the movement is to demand the expulsion of the entire Syrian diplomatic staff in Cairo and sever ties with the Syrian regime, said Almoataz Billah Mohamed, founder of the movement, lecturer with the International Relief Organisation and director of the charity organisation Resala.
"Massacres in Syria have become commonplace occurrences, but what incensed us recently and spurred us to move are the massacres being committed against children," he told Al-Shorfa.
Mohamed said he does not have high expectations for the upcoming Arab ministerial meeting "because the league's authority is weak, and the policies of member countries are governed by regional and global relations, and accordingly the sessions do not go beyond meeting and condemning".
"Any human being cannot but condemn the crimes and atrocities being committed against innocent people, most of whom are women and children," said Samir Nashar, a member of the executive branch of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and chairman of the Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration.
Nashar, who is currently in Turkey, said the SNC hopes the upcoming ministerial meeting "tries to persuade Russia and China to alter their stance in the [UN] Security Council and join the international community so it can speak with the Syrian regime with one voice."
"The upcoming phase is unknown and complex. No one can determine its course as long as Bashar Assad insists on carrying on with his policies, which have been ongoing for over a year. We cannot discuss expectations amid the ambivalence of the international community on the Syrian issue," he told Al-Shorfa.
"Syria's geopolitical position in the region gave rise to a regional and international conflict that is heading towards further deterioration and complexity, and perhaps a civil war and chaos," Nashar said.
Damascus denied responsibility for the killings, blaming foreign-funded "terrorist groups" instead.
"We categorically deny any responsibility by government forces for the massacre that took place in Houla, and we condemn in the strictest terms this terrorist massacre that was a clearly defined crime against the Syrian people," Jihad Makdisi, spokesperson for Syria's foreign ministry, said in a press conference.
"We formed a military judicial committee to investigate all the events," Makdisi said.