The Obama administration is considering a range of options against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including possible sanctions on senior officials, to pressure it to halt a violent crackdown, a US official said on Monday.
The measures could include a freeze on assets and a ban on business dealings in the United States, the official said. There was no immediate word on when such sanctions might be imposed.
The White House later said that the US was considering "targeted sanctions" against the Syrian regime.
"The brutal violence used by the government of Syria against its people is completely deplorable," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "The United States is pursuing a range of possible policy options, including targeted sanctions, to respond to the crackdown and make clear that this behavior is unacceptable."
The remarks followed a major crackdown by Syrian forces Monday that saw snipers and tanks entering hotbeds of resistance against the Syrian regime and randomly firing at civilians.
Syrian troops and tanks poured into Deraa, the epicenter of protest in Syria, seeking to crush resistance in the city where a month-long uprising against the autocratic 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad first erupted.
At least 25 people were reportedly killed in the town Monday, as security forces continued to pound the city. Abdallah Abazid, a human rights activist, told AFP by phone "at least 25 martyrs" were killed by gunfire and heavy artillery.
'Savage war on democrats'
A witness in Deraa told Reuters he could see bodies lying in a main street near the Omari mosque after eight tanks and two armored vehicles deployed in the old quarter of the city.
"People are taking cover in homes. I could see two bodies near the mosque and no one was able to go out and drag them away," the witness said.
Snipers were posted on government buildings, and security forces in army fatigues had been shooting at random at houses since the tanks moved in just after dawn prayers, he said.
Tanks at the main entry points to Deraa also shelled targets in the city, a resident named Mohsen told Al Jazeera, which showed a cloud of black smoke hanging over buildings. "People can't move from one street to another because of the shelling."
A leading human rights campaigner said security forces, which also swept into the restive Damascus suburb of Douma, were waging "a savage war designed to annihilate Syria's democrats."
Security forces have killed more than 350 civilians since unrest broke out in Deraa, rights groups say. A third of the victims were shot in the past three days as the scale and breadth of a popular revolt against Assad grew.
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