The U.S. has placed sanctions on three senior Syrian officials for their roles in the ongoing human rights abuses and the regime’s intelligence agency. The three were Maher Assad, Atif Nijab (Assad’s cousin) and Ali Mamluk, the director of intelligence. This is mostly symbolic as these officials don’t have significant assets in the U.S. but hopefully Europe will also begin enacting sanctions and freezing assets. The Quds Force of Iran was also targeted for its aid to the Assad regime.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has also approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning the Assad regime’s violence. The Council also agreed to launch an investigation into the crackdown, which could lead to indictments of Syrian officials. This is in addition to the U.N. Special Tribunal that is set to implicate Hezbollah and possibly Syrian officials in the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri.
In a remarkable coincidence, the IAEA has confirmed that the site bombed by Israel in 2007 was indeed a secret nuclear reactor under construction. The next report will be released in June and could pave the way for stronger U.N. sanctions. The United Nations Development Program has suspended its activity in Syria.
Meanwhile, this week’s violence has not deterred the opposition. Al-Jazeera says at least 62 people were killed yesterday. At least six were killed in Daraa today. Nearly 10,000 marched in Damascus towards Ummayad Square.
The Republican Guard has been deployed in Damascus and protests are being dispersed in Latakia, Hama, Deir al-Zour, Jassem, Banias, Aleppo, Tabakah, Qamoshli, Idlib, Homs, Amouda and Hassakeh. The regime is claiming that cops and soldiers are being killed and kidnapped by “terrorists.” This could be made up altogether or a way of covering-up the execution of disloyal personnel. The regime claims that four soldiers in Daraa were murdered and two conscripts were kidnapped and released the names of the latter two.
The Reform Party of Syria reports that a siege is under way at Zabadani, with communications and electricity being cut off. This is the strategy also employed in Daraa and Homs, with a resident in the former telling Al-Jazeera that people are collecting rain for use as water. An eyewitness has told Reuters that 83 people were killed in Daraa yesterday. A similar story is being told in Jableh where citizens are being shot in the streets and no one has access to food, electricity or medicine. RPS says that at least 29 have been killed in Homs.
Al-Jazeera has reported that Syrians are fleeing to the Wadi Khalid area of Lebanon.
The Muslim Brotherhood has finally called on people to demonstrate but their delay will not be forgotten. Western analysts hostile to the idea of regime change will claim that this Friday’s escalation was due to Brotherhood participation but in reality, the protests have steadily grown each week.