Switzerland said on Wednesday it has temporarily closed its embassy in Damascus for security reasons as violence in Syria continued despite growing international pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"/> Switzerland said on Wednesday it has temporarily closed its embassy in Damascus for security reasons as violence in Syria continued despite growing international pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime.

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SYRIA

Switzerland closes embassy in Damascus

Switzerland said on Wednesday it has temporarily closed its embassy in Damascus for security reasons as violence in Syria continued despite growing international pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime.

“Swiss citizens living in Syria were given due notice that the embassy would be closed and consular services transferred to Beirut,” the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement, citing “reasons of security”.

On February 15th, Switzerland announced its intention to close the embassy, without a giving specific date.

The Swiss ambassador to Syria was recalled to Bern in August 2011 for consultations and never returned to Damascus.

Then in late November, the foreign ministry urged Swiss nationals to leave Syria as soon as possible.

Some 150 of the 180 Swiss registered with the embassy are still in Syria.

The vast majority of Swiss citizens in Syria – 147 people, or nearly 80 percent – are dual nationals.

Some 7,500 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the crackdown in March 2011, according to the UN.

Syria on Wednesday refused to let UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos enter the country to assess the growing crisis blamed on the government’s deadly clampdown on protests, the UN official said.

The refusal came as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was poised to decide Thursday on a draft resolution calling on Syrian authorities to grant “unfettered access” to UN and humanitarian agencies to enter all areas.

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SYRIA

Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State

A 31-year-old woman from Winterthur who tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) is standing trial under Swiss anti-terror laws.

Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State
The federal criminal court in Bellinzona. Photo: Swiss Confederation/OFCL

The alleged ‘jihadi tourist' appeared before Switzerland's federal criminal court in Bellinzona on Friday, the Swiss news agency SDA reported. 

In December 2015, the woman, accompanied by her four-year-old child, attempted to travel to Syria via Greece and Turkey in order to join IS, the authorities allege. 

Her intended destination was Raqqa, which was at the time an IS stronghold in Syria.

The woman was prevented from continuing her journey by the Greek authorities and was arrested at Zurich airport on her return to Switzerland in January 2016. 

The Swiss attorney general's office filed an indictment against the Swiss national for offences under the federal law that bans terror groups including Isis. 

According to the indictment, the woman radicalized herself through internet propaganda after converting to Islam in 2009.

It says the Swiss national believed it was the duty of all Muslims to support IS.

She said she rejected western values.

This is only the second case concerning a so-called ‘jihadi tourist' to go before Switzerland's federal criminal court. 

The first prosecution of its kind took place in 2016, when a 26-year-old man was found guilty of attempting to travel to join Isis and given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

Islamic State has been banned in Switzerland since 2014.