Japan says it will expel Syria's ambassador – joining numerous other nations – over last week's massacre in Houla. More than 100 people died in the bloodbath, including at least 49 children, sparking international outrage. Iran, however, blamed Israel for the slaughter.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba issued a statement Wednesday saying the Syrian ambassador was ordered to leave the country as soon as possible. But Tokyo stopped short of breaking off diplomatic ties altogether.
The move came following similar actions by Australia, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
Although Turkey's embassy in Damascus closed in March, its consulate in Aleppo is still open. Ankara has ordered the Syrian charges d'affaires and other diplomats in the Turkish capital to leave the country within 72 hours, but is allowing Syria's consulate in Istanbul to remain open.
In response, Syrian state-run media denounced the expulsions as “unprecedented hysteria.”
Russia – Syria's ally – criticized the moves, claiming they close “important channels” to influence the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who has ignored and broken every agreement he has made with the Arab League and United Nations thus far.
Meanwhile, a team of United Nations observers discovered 13 bound corpses with their hands tied behind their backs, in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour.
Many were apparently shot at point-blank range, execution-style, and some shot in the head, the monitoring mission said on Wednesday.
U.N. Observer team head Maj.-Gen. Robert Mood told reporters he was “deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act.”
Clashes continue across the country, and Syrian government forces are bombarding rebel-held areas in the same area where the Houla massacre took place, activists report.