Fresh sanctions against Syria over bloody Hama crackdown

The latest upsurge of violence in Syria has been met with international condemnation and more sanctions against Damascus. NATO, however, said it is not considering a military operation there.

Violence in and around the city of Hama in western Syria has reportedly resulted in at least 100 deaths, although that number is not yet verifiable. The Syrian government is said to be using tanks and heavy weapons in the city.

Damascus blamed terrorists for the violence in Hama. The Syrian state news agency SANA said bandits used grenade-launchers and machine guns to attack police stations and other governmental offices, which prompted intervention by the army.

The European Union on Monday imposed further sanctions on Syria. The move brings the number of individuals targeted by the EU to 35, including President Bashar Assad. Four government entities are also on the list, AP reported.

The EU has issued three successive rounds of sanctions, slapping visa bans and asset freezes on people and businesses linked to Assad. No further details on the latest sanctions was immediately available.

Earlier a number of nations condemned the violence in Hama.

“The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement on Sunday.

“This attack and the continuing crackdown in other Syrian cities is even more unacceptable coming on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

The EU also demanded that those responsible for the civilian deaths be tried and sentenced.

“The Syrian army and security forces have a duty to protect citizens, not to massacre them indiscriminately,” Ashton said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini also called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation. The request was backed by Germany whose foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, threatened fresh sanctions against Assad’s regime.

“If President Assad fails to change course, we and our partners in the EU will impose new sanctions,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “appalled” at the crackdown.

Russia called on all parties in the conflict to abstain from violence.

“Use of force against both civilians and state officials is unacceptable and must be stopped. We call on the Syrian government and the opposition to use maximum restraint, to refrain from provocations and repressions, to uphold the legal order and international humanitarian law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Earlier, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, said an invasion of Syria by the alliance is unlikely, citing the lack of either a UN mandate or regional support as reasons why an operation like the one in Libya would be impossible in Syria.

Three decades ago, Hama was the center of an uprising of the radical Muslim Brotherhood against the regime of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar Assad. Assad senior retaliated, killing tens of thousands of civilians in what came to be known as the “Hama massacre”.

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