The UN human rights chief has called on the international community to protect Syrian civilians as violence surged across the country, with hours of intense shooting that sent stray bullets whizzing across the Lebanese border.
Friday’s bloodshed came as activists reported a grim milestone in the eight-month-old revolt: Last month was the deadliest month of the uprising, with at least 950 people killed in gun battles, raids and other violence as protesters demand the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The UN estimates more than 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in the middle of March.
“In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told an emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The EU’s latest sanctions, which were announced on Thursday, target 12 people and 11 companies with travel bans and asset freezes.
Those on the new list include the ministers of finance and the economy, as well as army officers.
Also on the list are the pro-government Cham Press TV and al-Watan newspaper, as well as a research center that the EU says provides support to the Syrian military in acquiring equipment for the surveillance of demonstrators.
Three oil companies, which the EU statement said provide financial support to the regime, were also listed.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC also said on Friday that it would halt its operations in Syria.
Despite Friday’s diplomatic squeeze, violence continued.
The most serious violence appears to have occurred in the Syrian town of Talkalakh, where witnesses reported more than six hours of explosions and gunfire starting at 3am.
“We were hearing strong explosions and the crack of heavy machine-gun fire,” Ahmad al-Fahel, who lives on the Lebanese side of the border, said by telephone. “It sounded as if they were destroying the city.”
The town is within walking distance from Lebanon and at least two people were struck by bullets on the Lebanese side. They included an 11-year-old girl and a 40-year-old man, Lebanese security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.