Amatuer video of a tank in Hama 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration slapped fresh sanctions on Syria late
Wednesday, targeting a parliamentarian and prominent businessman accused of
supporting the Assad regime, as it extended a bloody crackdown on
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The new sanctions are aimed at MP Muhammad Hamsho, whom the
US Treasury said was acting as an agent for Syrian President Bashar Assad, 45,
and his brother, Republican Guard commander Mahir Assad, 43 – both of whom have
already been placed on the blacklist of those sanctioned for human rights abuses. Hamsho’s business empire includes some 20
“Muhammad Hamsho earned his fortune through his connections
to regime insiders, and during the current unrest, he has cast his lot with
Bashar Assad, Mahir Assad and others responsible for the Syrian government’s
violence and intimidation against the Syrian people,” US Treasury Under
Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in
announcing the measure.
“The sanctions we are applying today to Hamsho
and his company are the direct consequence of his actions.”
designation was announced as the administration indicated it would be taking a
stronger stance in backing the opposition groups, who have been marching against
Assad for months, despite almost 2,000 protesters having been killed by the
On Wednesday and early Thursday, renewed confrontation left an
estimated 45 dead as tanks entered Hama to try occupy the biggest flashpoint in
the uprising against the regime.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said 1,500 families managed to flee Hama in the
last 48 hours, heading mainly to the east or the west of the besieged city.
Other activists said authorities had blocked the road north toward Aleppo and
In the face of such bloodshed, many members of Congress, policy
hands and activists have called on the administration to take swifter and
harsher action that goes beyond individual designations.
trio of senators – Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) – is introducing legislation for further
sanctions that would be much broader than the Treasury efforts, which have
mostly consisted of blacklisting people on the grounds of involvement in human
Under the legislation, companies that do business in
Syria’s energy sector writ large would be affected, as investors; as well as
those who buy Syrian oil and sell gasoline to Syria would be barred from
However, the Senate has already adjourned for its
summer recess, so the measure isn’t set to be considered until September at the