The United States has imposed sanctions on the assets of Syria's intelligence service and its director, Ali Mamluk, amid a massive uprising against the regime.
The Washington Post quoted White House officials as saying that the Obama administration has also announced sanctions on Maher al-Assad, a brother of the president and a brigade commander of Syria's 4th Armored Division, and Atif Najib, Mamluk's cousin who is a political operative in Daraa province, and on Iran's Quds Force, a paramilitary division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
They claimed that Syria's army unit and the intelligence agency has been playing leading roles in the violent attacks that have left hundreds of people dead since March 16.
U.S. officials have made it clear that the sanctions were intended to pressurise Assad to halt the violence.
"This sharpens the choice for Syrian leaders who are involved in the decisions," Jake Sullivan, the State Department's director of policy planning, said.
Thousands of Syrians had reportedly poured out of mosques and into the streets after Friday prayers, in one of the biggest demonstrations yet in the country.
According to human rights groups, at least 48 people were killed after troops opened fire on demonstrators on Friday. (ANI)