Despite the sanctions, Assad sends troops into the villages

The death toll from the insurrection, which began in mid-March after protests in Deraa, now stands at 757, with 9,000 people who have been arrested still in custody

The Syrian regime continued its brutal wave of repression yesterday as it sent troops into southern villages around the trouble-hit city of Deraa in spite of EU sanctions announced earlier this week, which targeted top Baathist officials.

Shooting was heard as the army moved in on the five villages in the early hours of yesterday, though no casualties were reported.

Elsewhere a number of suburbs around Damascus, where many middle-class families live, remained under a tight siege operated by the military and security services.

Activists said heavy gunfire was heard in Moadamiyah, a small town about 10 miles west of the capital, while there were reports of numerous house raids in nearby Qatana. Tanks were also seen heading towards the central Syrian cities of Homs and Hama, as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of backing down in the face of mounting protests.

"Any area where there are demonstrations, the government is sending the army," the human rights activist Mustafa Osso told Associated Press.

On Monday there was a small rally in central Damascus, which until now has been relatively trouble-free. Protesters chanted "Stop the siege on our cities", but they were soon stopped by the security services who bundled some demonstrators into a van.

On Monday the EU placed 13 leading Syrian officials on its sanctions list – including a brother of the President. The measures, which include travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo, were designed to punish the government for its violent repression of pro-reform protesters – but they fell short of French calls to include the President himself.

The sanctions come as one Syrian human rights group said the death toll from the insurrection, which began to gather momentum in mid-March after protests in Deraa, now stood at 757. The National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria also said 9,000 people who had been arrested were still in custody. The Independent has also learned that there are now plans by prominent activists inside and outside Syria to issue a declaration within a matter of weeks to establish what has been described as a "shadow government".

A document, being circulated among academics, religious leaders and opposition political figures, is calling for the creation of a Syrian "national council" to devise a blueprint for a post-Baathist state.

Ausama Monajed, a London-based spokesman for the National Initiative for Change, an opposition umbrella group, said: "We plan to get hundreds of people to sign the document. It is a vision for the transitional period."

According to Wissam Tarif, executive of the Spain-based Syrian rights organisation Insan, the declaration would provide a "road map" for the kind of political system which might follow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000 and who took control after his father died following 30 years in power.

"What they are doing is very important," he said. "They are trying to figure out what might happen next."

Activists have not decided where the declaration will be made, but it is likely to happen in a neighbour of Syria, such as Turkey or Jordan.

The unrest was triggered by the arrests of teenagers caught scrawling anti-government graffiti in Deraa in mid-March.

How the death toll soared

18 March First deaths at demonstrations as security forces kill three protesters in Deraa.

8 April Wider protests break out across Syria, with 22 more people reported killed in Deraa.

21 April Assad lifts emergency rule in belated attempt to calm protests, with death toll estimated to be at least 200.

22 April Gunmen kill at least 100 protesters in one day, rights group says.

25 April Troops and tanks pour into Deraa, killing more than 20.

9 May Assad sends in tanks to the city of Homs as the latest reported death toll hits 757.

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit