United Nations monitors visit a pro-Assad area in the Syrian city of Homs. (Syrian Arab News Agency )
BEIRUT — The United States and European Union slapped Syria with additional sanctions Monday, as international pressure and a United Nations-backed peace plan have failed to quell the violence in a 13-month uprising.
Despite the presence of U.N. monitors in the country, President Bashar Assad's forces have continued to shell cities and shoot at protesters, killing dozens of people Monday, activists said.
A day after a small team of observers visited the city of Hama, tanks shelled neighborhoods while security forces and snipers opened fire in other areas where there were protesters.
"More than 30 people were killed in the morning in Mashaa al-Arbaeen neighborhood," said Sameh, an activist from the city. "Not only because of shelling but also there were cases of security forces storming people's houses and firing at them."
The attack was the worst violence in Hama in months, leaving many homes burned and destroyed. Online videos showed more than a dozen bodies, wrapped in white cloths, laid out on the street as some people leaned down to kiss them.
"People are upset with the U.N. observers," Sameh said. "Yesterday it was peaceful. If they had stayed here like in Homs, they wouldn't dare do this."
Elsewhere in Syria, the monitors visited several Damascus suburbs, including Duma, a day after regime forces shelled and raided the town, leaving several people dead. A massive antigovernment protest filled the street Monday as demonstrators turned out to greet the monitors.
In nearby Zabadani, activists complained that the monitors moved through the town too quickly, as though on an hourlong "tourist" visit. Before their arrival, residents said, some tanks stationed throughout the town were hidden from view.
Online videos showed the U.N. monitors walking near checkpoints manned by soldiers and tanks, in violation of the six-point peace plan that required government forces to withdraw from population centers weeks ago.
The European Union on Monday announced its 14th round of sanctions on Syria, targeting luxury goods as well as equipment, goods and technology that can be used for internal suppression.
"We have imposed additional sanctions against the Syrian regime because of deep concern about the situation and the continuing violence, in spite of the cease-fire," said EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. "The repression in Syria must stop. We are working with the international community to ensure that we enforce sanctions as effectively as possible."
President Obama also authorized financial and travel sanctions Monday against the Syrian and Iranian governments, which have erected an "electronic curtain" in their countries. The sanctions seek to obstruct the ability of the Syrian government to acquire and use technology to intercept GPS, satellite and Internet communications and cellphones used by activists.
Since the beginning of the uprising, activists have accused the Syrian government of disrupting their ability to communicate with fellow opposition members and transmit photos and videos of human rights abuses. The technology has also been used to track down and arrest opposition figures or target their homes.
Amid international criticism of Assad's crackdown, top officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have threatened to use sanctions to further isolate Damascus.
Marrouch is a special correspondent.