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Syrian siege

August 1, 2011

The EU has announced new sanctions against Syrians involved in the violent crackdown against anti-regime protesters. Protests and violence continued on Monday, a day after Syrian forces killed at least 80 people.

Syrian army tanks attack Hama
EU sanctions against Syria have already been implementedImage: picture-alliance/abaca

The European Union announced plans to impose a new round of sanctions against Syria on Monday, as violence continued a day after at least 80 anti-regime protesters were killed.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on the UN to step in and do what it could to stop the bloodshed.

"It is time for the Security Council to take a clear stand on the need to end the violence," she said. Earlier a spokesman for Ashton had said new sanctions against Syrians involved in the brutal crackdown against protesters were "imminent."

Five new names will be added to a list of 30 Syrian individuals to have already been targeted by a visa ban and assets freeze, among them, President Bashar al-Assad.

On Monday, the UN Security Council held emergency consultations on the situation in Syria with European powers again demanding a tough statement on the violence.

The meeting was called by Germany, who urged Damascus "explicitly to end the violence against its own people," according to a government spokesman.

International outrage

Monday's announcement follows international outrage at the regime's latest brutal crackdown against protesters. At least eight people were reported killed on Monday as security forces broadened their siege.

Syrian tanks stormed the city of Hama at dawn on Sunday, killing at least 80 civilians, witnesses and medical officers said, in a crackdown of the largest anti-government demonstrations. Protesters have vowed to hold anti-government demonstrations every night during Ramadan, which started Monday.

Several accounts suggest that Sunday's death toll could have been considerably higher than first estimated. The AFP news agency reported that almost 140 died on Sunday in Hama and other cities, such as Deir Ezzor, Syria's main gas and oil-production hub.

President Assad's forces have besieged the city for nearly a months. The state news agency said the military went in to cleans it of armed groups "shooting intensively to terrorize citizens."

The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, visited the city earlier this month in a gesture of international support for what he described as peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

On Sunday, the US described official Syrian accounts of violence on the part of demonstrators as "nonsense."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Assad has offered reforms to appease the oppositionImage: dapd/Syrian TV

"It is desperate," US Press Attache JJ Harder told Reuters from Damascus. "The authorities think that somehow they can prolong their existence by engaging in full armed warfare on their own citizens."

President Obama said the US was shocked by the brutality of the Syrian government.

"The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, once one of Assad's main allies, said in May "we do not want to see another Hama massacre", and warned the 45-year-old president that it would be "hard to contain the consequences" if it were repeated.

Like father, like son

Assad is trying to end an uprising against his 11-year rule that broke out in March, inspired by the "Arab Spring" revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and has spread across the country.

Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when Assad's father, the late president Hafez al-Assad, sent his troops to crush an Islamist-led uprising, razing whole neighborhoods and killing up to 30,000 people in the bloodiest episode of Syria's modern history.

The Syrian leadership blames "armed terrorist groups" for most killings during the revolt, saying that more than 500 soldiers and security personnel have been killed.

An activist group, Avaaz, said in a report last week that Syrian security forces had killed 1,634 people in the course of their crackdown, while at least 2,918 had disappeared. A further 26,000 had been arrested, many of whom were beaten and tortured, and 12,617 remained in detention, it said.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists, making it difficult to verify the death toll and reports of the fighting.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Andrew Bowwn (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nicole Goebel