Feeling the pressure? Syrian President Bashar Assad replaced his defense minister on Monday, Damascus' state television said. Assad appointed his chief of staff, General Daoud Rajha, to replace Ali Habib as defense minster.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Habib this month as part of the measures taken against Syria's ruling hierarchy for their bloody crackdown on five months of pro-democracy demonstrations.
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The State-run SANA news agency said that the nomination was "part of the consecutive steps announced by President Assad," adding that the reason for replacing Habib was that "he has been ill for some time, and his health condition deteriorated recently."
Analysts believe that the timing of the nomination signals that Assad is beginning to feel the pressure mounted by the growing Arab condemnation of his actions against pro-democracy protesters.
Eelier Monday, Saudi Arabia Kuwait and Bahrain announced they were recalling their respective envoys from Damascus – and along with the Arab Leagues official censure against the regime's brutality – serving Assad a massive diplomatic blow.
Another blow to Assad's pan-Arab image was rendered by the head of the most influential school of Sunni Islam, the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, who stated that the bloodshed in Syria "has goon too far."
Meanwhile, the website of Syria's Ministry of Defense was hacked on Monday by the "hacktivist" group Anonymous.
The group stated that the move was made in protest of the ongoing onslaught against anti-government protestors.
Anonymous posted a screen-grab of the website before it went offline.
"To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Assad," the group said in a statement. "Know that time and history are on your side -- tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become.
"All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery, Bashar Assad is next," the message said.
In a message to the Syrian military, Anonymous said "You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason.
"No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Assad has done. Defend your country – rise up against the regime!"
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report
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