CAIRO — In a grim conclusion to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Syrian security forces killed at least seven protesters across the country Tuesday, activists said, as the United States announced new sanctions against top Syrian officials.
Security was heavy as thousands of people poured out of mosques to stage antigovernment demonstrations after early morning prayers at the start of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan.
The deaths came in the southwestern province of Daraa, where the protests began nearly six months ago, and in the restive central city of Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network.
Several people were injured in the capital, Damascus, and one person died Tuesday after being wounded during a protest there Friday, a Damascus-based activist said. The man's funeral took place at midday, drawing large crowds in the city center, the activist said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, an activist group, says 551 people were killed during Ramadan; the United Nations has said that more than 2,200 people have been killed since protests started in March. The government has allowed few reporters into the country.
Since the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi fell last week, voices in the Syrian opposition demanding armed insurrection have grown louder.
International pressure is mounting on Assad, with even longtime allies calling on him in recent days to undertake reforms. Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, said Sunday that his patience had run out. Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Syria's government had to recognize the Syrian people's "legitimate" demands.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against three top Syrian officials: Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, Assad adviser Buthaina Shaaban and Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul Karim Ali. The officials' U.S. assets are restricted, and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.