In shift, US considers sanctions against Syria's Assad regime

The Syrian Army's incursion into the town of Deraa on Monday is the first time it has joined Syrian security forces against protesters.

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A man throws a rock at a passing tank in a location given as Deraa on April 25, in this still image from an amateur video. Syrian troops in tanks and armored vehicles poured into the southern town of Deraa and opened fire on Monday, residents said, in the latest bloodshed in a crackdown on protests that has escalated sharply in recent days.

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The Obama administration is drafting sanctions against Syrian government officials responsible for the escalating violence against protesters, the Wall Street Journal reported.

After weeks of treading lightly as it weighed its support for the protesters with a desire to engage with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the White House seems to have come down on the side of the swelling ranks of protesters. Obama condemned the brutality of Syrian security forces after more than 100 protesters were killed in Friday's protests alone, as the total death toll climbed above 300 this weekend.

The sanctions would freeze senior government officials' assets in the US and prevent them from doing business with US companies. US sanctions alone wouldn't have much of an impact on the Assad regime, which has few holdings in the US, but they will be significant if European countries follow suit since President Assad and other officials are believed to have much larger holdings in Europe, according to the Journal.

The latest move toward sanctions, which appears similar to the tactic the US used against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi after his crackdown, would come as international opinion turns against the Syrian regime … The outpouring of resentment and anger by Syrian citizens has surprised many observers, and the violence unleashed against protesters has even shaken the support of countries that have long sought engagement with Syria, such as France and the UK.

The intensifying crackdown has significantly diminished hope in Washington and Europe that Mr. Assad can embrace meaningful reforms, US and European officials involved in the sanctions deliberations said. Doubts are also growing in the Obama administration and among its allies that Mr. Assad will survive the uprising.

Regime tactics against protesters escalated further today as the Syrian army sent tanks into the southern city of Deraa, where the protests originated. According to witnesses interviewed by Al Jazeera, thousands of soldiers entered the city, with snipers setting up on rooftops and firing on people in the streets. There were no protests planned in the city for Monday.

Al Jazeera reports that today marks "a change in methods." It is the first time that security forces have cracked down without a protest as an impetus and the first time the army has been used against the protesters. Previously, the clashes have been between protesters and security forces only.

There were also reports of security forces storming the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Maadamiah, according to The New York Times. Information on Monday's crackdowns has been spotty because communication lines to the cities seem to have been cut.

Meanwhile, international calls for action are growing. On Sunday, the international organization Human Rights Watch called for sanctions and travel bans on Syrian officials and a United Nations investigation into the violence against protesters.

And on Monday, more than 100 Syrian intellectuals living in exile outside the country signed a declaration condemning the violence, Al Jazeera reports. Signatories included Syrians from most of the country's main sects, including several Alawite figures who hail from the same sect as the Assad family.

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