The European Union announced on Friday a new round of sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, The Associated Press reported.
The report said that a ban will begin Sunday on exporting to Syria some luxury items or “dual use” goods that could be used for internal repression. A statement by the European Council listed some prime examples: caviar, shoes and clothing costing more than $750; gems and pearls, and cars costing more than $31,400. Also banned are gas masks and certain chemicals and toxins.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the new round of sanctions was necessary and had been designed to avoid affecting ordinary citizens.
“In the current situation, the EU must keep up the pressure on the Syrian regime,” Ashton said in a statement quoted by AP. “EU sanctions target those responsible for the appalling repression and violence against the civilian population.”
The EU already bans arms exports to Syria and oil imports from Syria. No one in the EU can invest in the Syrian petroleum industry, participate in the construction of new power plants, or supply equipment for Syria's gas industry. The assets of 43 companies and 128 people believed to be associated with the repression, or benefiting from the regime, have been frozen.
Other items on the EU's new list of banned luxury goods include, according to AP, truffles, leather goods costing more than $250, tableware, clocks and watches worth more than $625, lead crystal glassware and planes and boats.
Violence in Syria has continued despite a ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The ceasefire was to have gone into effect in April.
On the ground, at least 20 people were killed in violence on Friday, including two demonstrators killed in the northern city of Aleppo by regime forces as thousands protested across Syria, t he Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
A day earlier least 84 people died in clashes and bombings, 48 of them civilians, the Observatory said, bringing the overall toll from two days of violence to at least 104.
AFP reported that Syrian activists uploaded videos of protests outside mosques or street marches showing demonstrators calling for Assad to quit and denouncing Russia for supporting his regime.
Among Friday's casualties were eight people killed in an explosion outside a mosque in Busra al-Sham in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory said.
It also reported fighting between regime forces and rebels entrenched in the Homs province town of Rastan, and in the town of Andan in the northern province of Aleppo.
On Thursday, Amnesty International described in a new report the horrible conditions in Syria, confirming reports of torture, executions, arson, and other actions by the government or its agents against Syrian citizens.
In what was a common pattern, Amnesty described the process whereby regular Syrian army troops swoop through a town, search for “terrorists” and make some arrests. When the troops leave, though, they are followed by members of a group called the “Shabbiha” - the “ghost squads” made up of members of Alawite Muslim clans loyal to Assad.
Clad in black, and often very physically imposing – the result of taking steroids – the militia groups enter a town looting, raping, pillaging, and often killing.
The Shabbiha were fingered by the UN as the ones who carried out the recent massacre in the town of Houla, in which more than 100 people – including women and children – were murdered.
Assad later rejected the claims that his regime's military forces were responsible for the massacre.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)