As the uprising enters its fourth month, Syria’s second city is becoming increasingly unsettled.
|The 11 individuals and businesses join an existing list of 23 people who have been hit with EU sanctions [Al Jazeera]|
The European Union has extended its sanctions against Syria to include the names of three commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on dissent.
The list, published in the EU’s Official Journal on Friday, also includes a Syrian property firm, an investment fund and two other enterprises accused of funding Assad’s government.
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According to the names given in the journal, the Iranians were Major-General Qasem Soleimani and Brigadier Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari of the Revolutionary Guard, and the guard’s deputy commander for intelligence, Hossein Taeb.
Four Syrian officials were also added to the list, published during a European Council summit in Brussels, at which leaders were expected to adopt a declaration condemning the “unacceptable and shocking violence the Syrian regime continues to apply on its own citizen,” according to a draft obtained by AFP.
“By choosing a path of repression instead of fulfilling its own promises on broad reforms, the regime is calling its legitimacy into question,” the draft said.
The 11 individuals and businesses join an existing list of 23 people, including Assad, who have been hit with sanctions over a crackdown that Syrian rights activists say has killed more than 1,300 people.
Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Syrian refugees fled across the border overnight into Turkey as Syria’s pro-democracy movement braced for another day of mass protests on Friday.
The refugees entered Turkey as Syrian troops backed by tanks pushed to the border in their sweep against the protests, which have posed the gravest challenge to Assad’s rule.
More than 11,700 Syrians are now housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Friday.
International condemnation of Syria’s actions against its people has been mounting steadily.
“Unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their provocations … then we’re going to see an escalation of conflict in the area”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Damascus to pull its troops back from the Turkish border.
She said the reported move by Syria to surround and target the town of Khirbet al-Jouz, just 500 metres from the Turkish border, marked a worrying new phase of Syria’s attempt to quash anti-government protests.
“If true, that aggressive action will only exacerbate the already unstable refugee situation in Syria,” Clinton said late on Thursday.
“Unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their provocations that are not only now affecting their own citizens but [raising] the potential of border clashes, then we’re going to see an escalation of conflict in the area.”
Syrian troops gathered near the Turkish border on Thursday, raising tensions with Ankara as Assad increases the use of military force against a three-month-old popular revolt.
Turkey said the two countries’ foreign ministers had consulted by telephone, and Syria’s ambassador to Ankara was later summoned to the foreign ministry, demonstrating further how disturbed Turkey is over events in its southeast neighbour.
According to witness accounts, soldiers drove through the village of Khirbet al-Jouz on Thursday. There were also unconfirmed reports that forces were firing machine guns randomly in the nearby village of Managh.
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Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone from Khirbet al-Jouz, Mohamed Fezo, a witness, said: “At 6:30 [Thursday] morning about 30 tanks and several buses carrying thugs and intelligence operatives attacked Khirbet al-Jouz. They opened fire randomly across the village.
“Most of the villages population has escaped to the Turkish border expecting the village to be attacked. When the army did attack, the people escaped to Turkey, around 2,000 of them.
“The only people who remained in the village were the elderly who couldn’t escape. We have received confirmed reports that some of these men have been arrested.”
Buses for refugees
Several hundred people broke through the barbed wire marking the frontier between Turkey and Syria on Thursday and were seen advancing on a road used by Turkish border guards, a few kilometres from the village of Guvecci.
They were flanked by Turkish police vehicles and minibuses, called apparently to ferry the refugees to tent cities the Turkish Red Crescent has erected in the border province of Hatay.
At the weekend, the Turkish Red Crescent announced it had begun providing urgent humanitarian aid to those massed on the other side of the border.
More than 1,300 civilians have been killed and about 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian human rights groups, in the crackdown that has seen troops dispatched to crush pro-democracy protests across Syria since March.