'Assad's brother tops list of Syrians hit by US sanctions'

Report: US Treasury to release names of officials to be targeted by US sanctions; Germany announces support for EU sanctions on Syria; 453 reported dead in clashes between army and anti-government protesters.

assad brothers 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
assad brothers 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maher Assad, brother of Syrian President Bashar Assad is likely to top the list of Syrian targets of US economic sanctions, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had collected the names of at least 453 civilians killed during almost six weeks of pro-democracy protests in Syria.
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The sanctions, which Washington is considering, would freeze assets of Syrian officials in American banks, according to Al Arabiya. The US Treasury Department reportedly plans to release the list of officials to be hit by sanctions before Friday.
Assad's brother, commander of the Syrian Army's Fourth Division, is considered the second most powerful man in Syria.
Germany announced on Wednesday that it is in favor of European Union sanctions against Syria's leadership, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday.
"The possibility of enacting EU sanctions against the Syrian leadership will be examined, we will strongly support such sanctions," he told a regular news conference.
Witnesses said they saw at least 30 Syrian Army tanks on tank carriers seen moving on the Damacus Circular Highway on Wednesday.
Snipers intermittently shot into Deraa, a witness told CNN, adding that the situation is "worsening day after day."
Syrian opposition group the National Initiative for Change called for democracy that will "safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war." The group said that its "massive grassroots revolution" will break Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, unless he makes democratic reforms, AP reported.
Without reform, the group reportedly said, "there is no alternative left for Syrians except to move forward along the same path as did the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans before them."
On Tuesday, Syria's envoy to the UN said that his country is perfectly capable of conducting its own transparent inquiry into the deaths of anti-government demonstrators and needs no outside assistance.
"Syria has a government, has a state," Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters who asked about a call by UN chief Ban Ki-moon for an investigation. "We can undertake any investigation by our own selves with full transparency."
"We have nothing to hide," he said outside the UN Security Council chambers, where members failed to agree on a statement condemning Syria's government.
"We regret what's going on, but you should also acknowledge the fact that this unrest and riots, in some of their aspects, have hidden agendas," he said, adding that some foreign governments were trying to destabilize Syria.
Asked by reporters to name the countries that Damascus believes are behind the unrest, Ja'afari said it was "too early" to provide details.
Ja'afari was speaking as Syrian President Bashar Assad poured troops into a suburb of the capital overnight while his tanks pounded Deraa to crush resistance in the southern city where the revolt against his autocratic rule began on March 18.
White buses brought in hundreds of soldiers in full combat gear into the northern Damascus suburb of Douma, a witness told Reuters on Wednesday, from where pro-democracy protesters have tried to march into centre of the capital in the last two weeks but were met with bullets.
Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said security forces have killed at least 35 civilians since they entered Deraa at dawn on Monday.
The organization, founded by jailed human rights lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani, said electricity, water and telecommunications remained cut in Deraa and tanks kept firing at residential buildings, with supplies blood at hospitals starting to run low.
At least 400 civilians have been killed by security forces in their campaign to crush the protests, Sawasiah said, adding that the United Nations Security Council must convene to start proceedings against Syrian officials in the International Criminal Court and "rein in the security apparatus".
The UN secretary-general has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of people he has described as peaceful demonstrators.
Ja'afari said Assad had instructed the government "to establish a national commission of inquiry and investigation about all the casualties among civilians."
"We don't need help from anybody," he said.
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Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East