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NPR News

Sanctions Follow Syria's Deadly Crackdown

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The Obama administration has imposed new sanctions against key officials in Syria. The move comes after more than 60 people reportedly were killed during demonstrations yesterday against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

NPR's Kelly McEvers is monitoring the situation from Beirut.

KELLY McEVERS: The administration ordered a freeze on the U.S. assets of three Syrian officials, including the brother and cousin of President Assad. The sanctions also target the Syrian intelligence chief and a wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps for providing what the administration calls material support for the Syrian government's crackdown on demonstrators.

The top human rights body at the U.N. also condemned the Assad regime and demanded it be allowed to investigate the recent killings. The European Union has reached a preliminary agreement to impose an arms embargo on Syria as well.

Inside Syria, a leading human rights group says 62 people were killed during protests in cities and towns around the country yesterday. At least 15 of these were demonstrators trying to enter the besieged southern city of Daraa where the protests began last month.

Syrian tanks and armed forces have closed the city off. Residents reports snipers on the rooftops. They say anyone who moves will be shot. The city has been without water and electricity since Monday.

Residents say shelling continued through the night last night. Today they say army reinforcements have entered Daraa and sporadic gunfire is being heard in the city center. Because foreign journalists can't enter Syria, these reports cannot be verified.

Today it's expected that funerals for those who were killed yesterday could turn into further protests. Syrian officials say demonstrators are actually armed gangs, and are a threat to the stability of the country.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.