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Violence mars end of holy month in Syria

BEIRUT -- Syrian security forces killed at least seven people, including a 13-year-old boy, as thousands of protesters poured out of mosques and marched through cemeteries yesterday at the start of Eid ul-Fitr, a holiday when pious Muslims traditionally visit graves and pray for the dead.

The three-day holiday marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a time of introspection that many protesters had hoped would become a turning point in the 5-month-old uprising. Instead, the government crackdown on dissent intensified and the conflict has become a bloody stalemate.

"They can shoot and kill as much as they want, we will not stop calling for regime change," an activist in Daraa told The Associated Press by telephone.

In Washington, the Obama administration announced a new set of sanctions on Syria. The regulations ban Americans from doing business with President Bashar Assad's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and two other senior officials: senior adviser Buthaina Shaaban; and Ali Abdul Karim Ali, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon. The Treasury Department's action yesterday also blocks any assets the Syrian officials may have in the United States.

Yesterday's bloodshed was in the southern province of Daraa, the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs. Amateur videos posted by activists online showed protesters calling for the downfall of the regime and even the execution of Assad -- a sign of how much the uprising has grown in five months. -- AP

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