Western governments have sought to increase pressure on Assad's government for its bloody crackdown [Reuters]

The Syrian government has blamed what it called "terrorists" for the deaths of five security force members in the restive city of Deraa, while anti-government activists said three civilians were killed in the city of Homs.

The official news agency, SANA, said on Thursday that 17 other security force members were wounded when they were ambushed by "armed terrorist groups" on the road from Tiba.

The area is located in southern Deraa province, which was one of the main springboards of opposition against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, activists from the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said seven civilians have been killed across the country.

Five people were killed in the central city of Homs, one in the northwestern province of Idlib, and one in the central city of Hama, the LCC reported.

Activists also said authorities blocked mobile phone signals and the internet in parts of Damascus province, at Saqba, Jisrin, Kafar Batna, Hamurieh and Ain Tarma.

The UN says more than 2,700 people, including at least 100 children, have been killed since the uprising began in mid-March.

Kidnappings

On the diplomatic front, western governments sought to increase pressure on Assad after US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria.

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In Germany, the deputy foreign minister, Werner Hoyer, said the European Union had agreed in principle on another round of sanctions against Syria over its deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Hoyer said the planned EU sanctions would send "an unmistakable signal against the inhuman action of the regime'.'

The new measures are to include travel bans and financial sanctions against more officials and institutions; expanding a ban on oil imports to include a ban on investment in the Syrian oil and gas sector; and a ban on supplying the country with Syrian bank notes and coins.

Hoyer said the EU should keep up the pressure until the government's violence stopped - possibly with further targeted financial sanctions.

Sanctions

EU governments decided on Wednesday to ban European firms from making new investments in Syria's oil industry and added several entities and two individuals to a sanctions list.

The sanctions, which will take effect on Saturday if formally approved in writing by Friday by the 27 EU states, also include a ban on delivery of Syrian banknotes and coins produced in the EU, an EU official said.

Ankara, once a close ally and trade partner, is also considering imposing sanctions against Damascus after growing frustrations to end the crackdown, ease Assad out of power and introduce reforms.

Turkey is now co-ordinating its efforts with the United States, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Erdogan also told Turkish journalists after talks with Obama in New York that he was no longer in contact with Syria's leadership.

Earlier this month, Turkey hosted a group of Syrian opposition figures who declared a 140-member Syrian National Council in an effort to present a united front against Assad.

Some 7,500 Syrians are seeking refuge from the violence in six camps in Turkey, near the border.

Source: Agencies