German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned Syria yesterday that it would face tighter EU sanctions if it continues its brutal crackdown against anti-government protests.
“The sanctions decided [by the EU] are a first step. If Damascus continues its crackdown, we will step up the pressure and we will tighten the sanctions,” he said in a statement.
Earlier yesterday, the EU published a list of 13 Syrian officials, including the younger brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, subject to sanctions for their involvement in repression.
Maher al-Assad, 43, head of the Republican Guard, was described as the prime mover of the crackdown on anti--government protestors.
The names of the officials hit by visa bans and assets freezes were published after the EU formally adopted the sanctions on Monday to punish the regime for a crackdown that rights groups say has left hundreds dead.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops backed by tanks entered several southern villages near the flashpoint city of Daraa yesterday as the government pressed its efforts to end a nationwide uprising, an activist said.
The activist said heavy gunfire was heard when the troops entered Inkhil, Dael, Jassem, Sanamein and Nawa after midnight. It was not clear if there were casualties, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
Human rights activist Mustafa Osso said some of the most intense operations were taking place in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh, which has been sealed for days. He said telecommunications have been cut and checkpoints were preventing anyone from entering or leaving the area.
Also yesterday, a religious leader who resigned last month in disgust over the killings of protesters in Daraa withdrew his resignation. Sheikh Rizq Abdul-Rahim Abazeid, mufti of the Daraa region, resigned on April 23 after shootings by security forces killed scores of people.
In an interview with a Syrian satellite TV channel, Abazeid said his resignation was a result of “severe pressure and intimidation,” including death threats.