The State Department on Monday suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, and pulled all its staff, including Ambassador Robert Ford, out of the country.
The State Department cited the recent surge in violence for its decision.
“[B]ombings in Damascus on December 23 and January 6, has raised serious concerns that our Embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack,” the State Department said.
The government of President Bashar Assad did not respond “adequately” to security concerns raised by the U.S. and other diplomatic missions, it added.
Mr. Ford, who has himself been the target of attacks by the gangs loyal to the regime, will keep up his contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue efforts to “support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, Syrian forces stepped up their assault on the western city of Homs, a hotbed of the 11-month-old uprising. A field hospital in the city’s Baba Amr neighborhood was among the sites that have been shelled.
On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that sought to press Mr. Assad to end the violence. Syrians in Homs reacted with anger to the veto.
“In Homs, we believe Russia and China are partners in the killing machine and repression against people here,” said Abu Rami, a Syrian opposition spokesman who used his nom de guerre.
“It is unreasonable to veto this resolution when there are people being slaughtered every day.”