The embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday pressed on with a deadly crackdown on dissent even as a flood of fresh sanctions further isolated Damascus.
Activists said 14 civilians were killed by Syrian forces in the flashpoint provinces of Idlib and Homs, while in the southern Daraa province, cradle of eight months of anti-regime unrest, a blast killed seven security forces.
The latest violence came as the world’s largest Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, urged member Syria to cooperate with the Arab League and allow a team of observers to visit the country.
The League imposed sanctions on the Damascus regime Sunday after it defied an ultimatum to accept observers under a plan to halt the crackdown which the UN says has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March.
After emergency talks on Syria, a statement by the OIC urged Damascus to “immediately stop using excessive force against civilians” and to “respond to the decisions of the Arab League.”
Speaking after the meeting OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the group “urged Syria to stop violating human rights and to allow Islamic and international human organisations access to Syria.”
Turkey, following the lead of Arab states, also announced Wednesday a raft of sanctions against Syria winning praise from Washington which said the action will further isolate Assad’s embattled regime.
“The leadership shown by Turkey in response to the brutality and violation of the fundamental rights of the Syrian people will isolate the Assad regime,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu announced the sanctions including an immediate ban on all transactions with the Damascus government and central bank and freezing all Syrian state assets in Turkey.
Similar measures would also be taken against “some well-known businessmen who are strong advocates of the Syrian regime,” he said, adding that sanctions will also include a ban on Syrian officials visiting Turkey.
The Arab League, which suspended Syria’s membership in November, approved unprecedented sanctions against Syria including a freeze on government assets, suspending cooperation with Syria’s central bank and halting funding for projects in the country.
On Wednesday a League committee met at the pan-Arab bloc’s Cairo headquarters to decide on a list of Syrian officials who will be banned from Arab countries and whose bank accounts will be frozen.
They were also due to decide on when to implement a decision to end all flights to and from Syria and a list of necessary foodstuffs that will be excluded from the ban on trade with Syria’s government.
Syria is also facing US and EU sanctions and the European Union is set to beef up punitive oil and financial measures against Damascus on Thursday, a move diplomats said was aimed at choking Syrian sources of funding.
They will include bans on exporting gas and oil industry equipment to Syria, trading Syrian government bonds and selling software that could be used to monitor Internet and telephone communications.
The US has slapped Syria with a package of sanctions, including a freeze on government assets, a ban on citizens from doing business with the country as well as a ban on the sale of telecommunications equipment to Syria.
The slew of sanctions appear to have had little impact on the regime in Syria, where the death toll rose again on Wednesday.
Security forces killed nine civilians in the northwestern Idlib province, including a 12-year-old boy and a woman, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Five other civilians were killed by gunfire in separate incidents in the central city of Homs.
And seven members of the security forces were killed in clashes with army deserters in the Daraa town of Dael, the Britain-based group said, adding that their vehicle had been blown up.
More than 164 people were also arrested in Dael where security forces carried out search operations, the group said, adding that 19 people were wounded by gunfire.
State television meanwhile reported that authorities released 912 people who were involved in anti-regime unrest but have “no blood on their hands, the third batch freed this month.
In Jeddah the OIC expressed frustration at the unending bloodshed and raised concerns about the international response to the crisis in Syria at the start of its meeting.
“We also refuse any military intervention and affirm our respect to Syria and its sovereignty… and welcome international and Arab efforts” to reach a solution, the head of the OIC said.
Just days after UN-appointed investigators accused Syrian security forces of crimes against humanity, including the torture of children, the UN Human Rights Council said it will hold a special session on Syria.
Friday’s meeting — the third by the council on Syrian this year — will be convened following a request by the European Union, a diplomatic source said.
Human rights group Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
“It is high time for the UN Security council to take action,” the group’s Middle East campaigner Maha Abu Shama said.
Amnesty International is pressing for an arms embargo, asset freezes against Assad and his associates, as well as an investigation by the ICC.