Update: Reuters has updated their story. President Assad has told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations against prodemocracy supporters have stopped. They are now reporting the Obama administration is expected to publicly ask Assad to step down on Thursday. European leaders are expected to follow the U.S.'s lead shortly after. The UN released a statement Wednesday saying that Ban spoke with Assad on the phone where he:
expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria, including in the Al Ramel district of Latakia, home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees...
The Secretary-General emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped.
The U.S. announced new sanctions against Syrian companies a week ago.
Original post: Forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad went to the town of Latakia and arrested several hundred people this weekend, Reuters reports. After a four-day tank assault in the town, military forces went through knocking on doors, arresting families, and then holding them all in a stadium in an effort to "crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad." Latakia does have a special significance for Assad: his father is buried nearby. It's also expected the UN could refer Assad to the International Criminal Court for charges of war crimes as early as Thursday. The office of UN human rights chief Navi Pillay "indicated that their Syria report will find evidence that Syria has committed grave violations of international human rights law in its actions dealing with protesters over the past five months," according to a diplomat who spoke with Reuters.