The EU expanded its sanctions against Syria yesterday, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials.
The EU decision brings the number of individuals targeted by the union to 35, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Four government entities are also on the list.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton condemned Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a day after one of the bloodiest since the uprising against Assad’s authoritarian rule began in mid-March. Syrian rights groups said in a joint statement that 74 people were killed throughout the country, 55 of them from the restive city of Hama and neighboring villages.
More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on largely peaceful protests since the uprising began.
Attacks by the security forces showed that the leadership was “unwilling to implement the reforms it has promised in response to the legitimate requests of the Syrian people,” Ashton said.
The EU also has an embargo on sales of arms and equipment that can be used to suppress demonstrations.
Syrian troops kept up attacks on Hama yesterday, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a day after the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
“Residents are committed to resistance through peaceful means,” Hama-based activist Omar Hamawi said by telephone yesterday.
The city’s streets are full of barriers as well as thousands of men “who are ready to defend the city with stones,” he said.
Hamawi said residents in villages and towns around Hama have blocked roads and highways leading to the city to prevent the military from bringing supplies. He added that dozens of checkpoints had been set up and activists had blocked the highway linking the city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, with Damascus.
The escalating government crackdown appears aimed at preventing the protests from swelling during Ramadan. Muslims throng mosques during Ramadan for special nighttime prayers after breaking their daily dawn-to-dusk fast. The gatherings could trigger intense protests throughout the predominantly Sunni country and activists say authorities are trying to prevent that.
Troops backed by tanks renewed shelling of Hama for a second day in an attempt to subdue the city.
Hama resident Saleh Abu Yaman said there was heavy shooting in the northeastern Hamidiyeh neighborhood — which he described as a hotbed of anti-regime activists. Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said troops raided Hamidiyeh and killed at least two people and wounded 10. He cited hospital officials in the city.
Abdul-Rahman said security forces shot another person dead in the eastern town of al-Boukamal.
The Local Coordination Committees said five people were killed yesterday, of which three were in Hama, one in al-Boukamal and another in the nearby city of Deir el-Zour.
Hamawi said tanks resumed fire on Hamidiyeh yesterday morning after a night of sporadic shooting. Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso confirmed Hama was being shelled.