Syria on Wednesday released 912 prisoners, while the country's embattled leadership continued with a deadly crackdown on dissent, despite a flood of fresh sanctions.
The government said the released people were involved in the "latest events" but were not linked to what it alleged were "murders" stemming from the opposition uprising and state crackdown.
Activists said new clashes in the flashpoint Daraa province killed at least six civilians and seven Syrian troops Wednesday as security forces pushed into the area.
The head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdelrahman, said that fighting erupted in the town of Dael and that witnesses heard a loud explosion as army vehicles were blown up.
The latest violence came as Syria faces a barrage of new international sanctions.
Turkey suspended all financial credit dealings with Damascus Wednesday and froze its government's assets. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the measures include cutting off links with Syria's central bank, banning the delivery of weapons to the country and suspending the bilateral strategic cooperation agreement.
Washington praised Turkey's action. White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that "the leadership shown by Turkey in response to the brutality and violation of the fundamental rights of the Syrian people will send a strong message to President Bashar al-Assad and his circle that their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
The world's largest Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, on Wednesday urged Syria to cooperate with the Arab League and allow a team of observers access to the country. It also called on Syrian authorities to immediately stop the use of excessive force against its citizens.
In New York, human rights group Amnesty International held a protest outside the United Nations building Wednesday, calling for the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria's deadly crackdown on protests to the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty's Maha Abu Shama told reporters "it is high time for the U.N. body to take decisive action against Damascus" for what the group called "crimes against humanity."
The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an urgent meeting in Geneva Friday to discuss the situation in Syria. The U.N. says violence related to the uprising has killed at least 3,500 people, mostly civilians.
Syria has refused to end the crackdown, calling it a necessary response to attacks by "armed terrorists" on civilians and security personnel.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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