State Dept. Urges Americans to Leave Syria

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U.S. State Department issued a warning urging Americans, including some staff at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, to leave Syria while commercial flights are still available.

The department ordered non-essential workers and all families of embassy staff to leave Damascus as soon as possible and to avoid travel within the country.

The statement noted the embassy would remain open to provide limited services at this time.

The advisory was issued Monday, as the Syrian government continues its brutal crackdown on pro-reform activists seeking the ouster of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad . Over the weekend, Syrian troops opened fire on civilian protesters in Daraa, where the demonstrations first began in mid-March.

On Sunday, the British Foreign Office issued a similar advisory, urging its citizens to leave Syria as soon as possible in view of the "rapid deterioration" of security there. The statement warned it would be "highly unlikely" the British Embassy would be able to provide "normal consular service" in view of the situation.

Meanwhile, the White House is considering sanctions against the Syrian government that would likely include asset freezes and travel bans.
CBN News International Correspondent Gary Lane says it will take some time to see if al-Assad will be the next dictator to fall.

"Not likely in the short term -- maybe in the long term as the people of Syria turn against him," Lane predicted. "The people of the Middle East don't have much of a stomach for their leaders turning against their own people." 

"They can fight the Israelis. They can denounce Israelis fighting other Muslims. But when they turn against their own people, that's it with the people," he said. 

More than 350 people have been killed since the demonstrations began in mid-March.

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