Syrian activists: Shooting near Lebanon border


The European Union released Friday the names of Syrian officials and companies to be added to a growing sanctions blacklist, as activists reported fresh shooting and clashes in the west of the country.

Syria is trying to crush an 8-month-old revolt challenging President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule, but the mounting death toll has led to broad international condemnation.

Sanctions blacklists are a key tool used by the international community to exert pressure on the regime. The EU list bans those named from traveling, and also freezes their assets in countries which comply with it.

The EU’s latest sanctions, which were announced Thursday, target 12 people and 11 companies. They add to a long list of regime figures previously sanctioned by the EU, including Assad, his top associates, and high-ranking security officials.

The identities of those on the new list were made public Friday in the EU’s official journal. They include the ministers of finance and the economy, as well as army officers.

The sanctions are punishing Syria’s ailing economy — a dangerous development for Damascus because the prosperous merchant classes are key to propping up the regime.

Syrian business leaders have long traded political freedoms for economic privileges. The sanctions, along with increasing calls by the opposition for general nationwide strikes, could sap their resolve.

Meanwhile, activists reported heavy shooting in the western Syrian town of Talkalakh, near the border with Lebanon.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited witnesses as saying that shooting erupted early on Friday, and that dozens have been wounded.

Activist groups also reported anti-government protests in Idlib province, near Turkey.

The reports could not be independently confirmed. The regime has sealed the country off from foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting.

On Thursday, the U.N.’s top human rights official said Syria has entered a state of civil war. More than 4,000 people have been killed since mid-March, the U.N.s says.

Until recently, most of the bloodshed was caused by security forces firing on mainly peaceful protesters. There have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting Assad’s forces — a development that some say plays into the regime’s hands by giving government troops a pretext to crack down with overwhelming force.




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