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Middle East
Civilians 'shot dead' at Syria protests
At least 23 people reported killed, most in the south, as the EU lays out plans for possible oil embargo.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2011 21:07

 

Security forces have killed at least 23 people in Syria, activists said, as protesters again took to the streets across the country.

The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 15 people were killed in the southern Deraa province on Friday, including an 11-year-old and a 72-year-old.

The group said security forces opened fire on protesters in the province's towns of Ghabagheb, Inkhil, al-Hirak and Nawa.

Activists said several of the casualties occurred when security forces attacked mosques in Inkhil.

SOHR also said six people were killed in the central city of Homs, and that two others were killed in the Damascus suburbs Harasta and Douma. 

The official SANA news agency blamed the shooting in Deraa province on "armed men", saying a policeman and a civilian were killed in Ghabagheb and six security forces wounded.

The opposition Local Co-ordination Committees also reported one death in the ancient city of Palmyra, a major tourist destination in the east of the country.

In the southern Damascus suburb of Qadam, a protest of an estimated 6,000 people chanted for President Bashar al-Assad to be sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a witness told Al Jazeera.

After firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd, some of the hundreds of members of the security forces deployed to Qadam opened live fire, injuring at least five, according to the witness and activists.

EU sanctions

The violence came the EU decided to add 20 new names to a list of Syrian individuals and businesses already subjected to sanctions.

"Today, the European Union has reached political agreement on the addition of 20 Syrian individuals or entities to the list of those targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban," Catherine Ashton, EU foreign affairs chief, said in a statement.

EU ambassadors also asked the bloc's diplomatic service, the EEAS, to prepare plans for further measures.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
"Proposals are now being prepared for an embargo on the import of Syrian crude oil into the European Union," Ashton said.

A day earlier, the US and EU, for the first time, explicitly called for Assad to step down.

US President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning new US investment in Syria and any dealings in the country's petroleum sector.

Also on Thursday, the UN human rights office released a report that suggested Assad's government may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

The report recommended the UN Security Council consider referring Assad's government to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

Valerie Amos, the chief of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Thursday a mission from her office would visit Syria over the weekend. The Syrian government has not commented on the impending visit, but Amos said her team would like to visit areas where there have been reports of large civilian casualties. 

Russia, meanwhile, diverged from the Western diplomatic push on Syria, saying Assad needed "more time" to implement reforms, according to the Interfax news agency.

Assad's pledge to give amnesty to political prisoners and hold general elections by the end of the year were signs of the government's intent to reform, a foreign ministry source told the agency.

Aslambek Aslakhanov, a Russian senator, told Interfax that he and other politicians planned to visit Syria in the coming days to see the situation for themselves and meet with opposition members.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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