PARIS — Governments around the world expelled ambassadors and top Syrian diplomats Tuesday in an unusually coordinated blow to Syria's leaders, after a particularly gruesome massacre in which the UN says families, including children, were shot at close range in their homes.
Cranking up the pressure on increasingly isolated Syrian President Bashar Assad, France, Germany, Italy and Spain said they were kicking out Syria's ambassadors in their countries. Canada said it is expelling all Syrian diplomats, and Britain and Australia expelled senior Syrian diplomats.
The move came after killings Friday in Houla, a collection of farming villages in Syria's Homs province, one of the deadliest single events in the 15-month-old uprising against Assad's rule. The UN said 49 children and 34 women were among the 108 people killed.
"This is the most effective way we've got of sending a message of revulsion of what has happened in Syria," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in Canberra. In a statement, he called the Houla killings a "hideous and brutal crime" and said Australia would not engage with the Syrian government unless it abides by a UN cease-fire plan.
Australia gave Syrian Charge d'Affaires Jawdat Ali, the most senior Syrian diplomat in Australia, and another diplomat from the Syrian Embassy, 72 hours to leave the country.
In France, Syria's former colonial ruler, President Francois Hollande told reporters Tuesday that Ambassador Lamia Shakkour will be notified "today or tomorrow" that she must leave.
Hollande said that after high-level discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it had been decided to deploy "a certain number of ... pressure tactics," against Syria, including the expulsion of the ambassador. He said the move was coordinated "with our partners," but didn't elaborate on how or when exactly the decision was made.
Germany on Tuesday announced Syria's ambassador, Radwan Loutfi, had 72 hours to leave. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany and its allies hope "that this unambiguous message does not fall on deaf ears in Damascus."
"The Syrian regime bears responsibility for the terrible events in Houla," Westerwelle said in a statement. "Those who, in defiance of Security Council resolutions, use heavy weapons against their own people there and elsewhere in Syria, must expect serious diplomatic and political consequences."
Westerwelle said Germany will push for the UN Security Council to consider the situation in Syria again.
"It has been clear not just since Houla that Syria has no future under Assad," Westerwelle said. "He must clear the way for peaceful change in Syria."
The Italian Foreign Ministry said Ambassador Khaddour Hassan was called to the ministry and informed that he must leave.
Spain said it was giving Syrian Ambassador Hussam Edin Aala and four other diplomats based in Madrid three days to leave the country.
British officials said Tuesday that the U.K. is expelling three Syrian diplomats in protest at the killings, among them Charge d'Affaires Ghassan Dalla — the country's top ranking diplomat in London.
In Canada, Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement that the Syrian diplomats and their families have five days to leave Canada. Another Syrian diplomat expected in Canada will be refused entry.
Baird said these "Syrian representatives are not welcome in our countries while their masters in Damascus continue to perpetrate their heinous and murderous acts."
In Vienna, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nikolaus Lutterotti said the Syrian ambassador is being summoned to the ministry where officials will deliver a very hard protest about the massacre.
When asked if the expulsions were EU-wide, Lutterotti said this had not yet been decided. He said the ambassador to Austria would not be expelled as he holds an additional function as the representative to the UN organizations in Vienna.
The UN estimates 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.