5th Feb 2023

EU to toughen sanctions after Syria bloodbath

  • President Bashar al-Assad sent in tanks to crush protests in the central Syrian city of Hama (Photo: Travel Aficionado)

The EU is likely to toughen sanctions against the Syrian regime after some 100 people were reportedly killed in the city of Hama when government tanks stormed in on Sunday (31 July), crushing protests in the five-month-long stand-off with President Bashar Assad.

"I am shocked at the latest reports from Syria that large numbers of civilians have again been killed in a totally unjustified assault by Syrian security forces on the town of Hama, using tanks and other heavy weapons against citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

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Condemning the killing which took place on the eve of the holy month of Ramadam, Ashton said that the actions "once again show the hollowness of the promises of reform made by the government" and urged Assad's government to engage in a real dialogue with opposition.

Germany has requested that the UN Security Council meets on Monday to discuss the situation. Punitive measures have so far been put in place at EU and US level only.

The UN Security Council - made up of 15 permanent and rotating members - has so far failed to agree even a resolution condemning the Syrian crackdown because Russia and China - both allies of Damascus - have threatened to veto it.

Brazil, India and South Africa have also indicated they do not support the draft French and UK text for fear it may lead to another military intervention as in Libya.

Meanwhile, the EU is likely to toughen sanctions against the Assad regime by blacklisting five further people from his entourage. The EU has already banned some 20 people from travelling or doing business with member states, including a dozen firms linked to the Syrian army.

The EU sanctions and US similar US measures have so far had little impact, however.

According to the Syrian National Organisation of Human Rights, the Sunday offensive is one of the deadliest since protests began in March, with more than 100 people killed by armoured units which overran makeshift barricades in the town of Hama.

The government said its actions were aimed at "protecting" the population from "armed gangs" vandalising public and private property in the city, the site of even greater atrocities under Assad's father.

"It's a massacre. They want to break Hama before the month of Ramadan," an eyewitness who identified himself as Ahmed, told the Associated Press by telephone.

Unlike in Libya, Syria has not seen mass defections from the army, with only few soldiers refusing to execute civilians, Al-Arabiya TV has reported.


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