U.S.: Syria Must Stop 'Outrageous' Repression of Anti-government Protests

White House statement says President Assad and the Syrian government should 'respect the universal rights of the Syrian people.'

Syria must stop its violent repression of ongoing anti-government protests, the White House said on Tuesday, saying it was "deeply concerned" by reports of Syrian forces wounding protesters and as well as denying them medical care.

Activists said earlier Tuesday that Syrian security forces attacked areas surrounding the southern town of Banias, days after an ambush on a military patrol there left at least nine people dead.

Daraa, Syria protest - AP - 8.4.11

Damascus-based human rights lawyer Haitham al-Maleh told the German Press Agency DPA that an unknown number of people had died of their injuries in the nearby village of Beit Jnad, just outside of Banias.

International and Arab reactions to the violence in Syria had been relatively subdued, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested America would not be getting involved.

She said late last month that Assad is a different leader than Libya's Muammar Gadhafi, and that many members of Congress who have visited the country believe he's a reformer.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the White House said it was "deeply concerned by reports that Syrians who have been wounded by their government are being denied access to medical care."

"The escalating repression by the Syrian government is outrageous," the statement read, adding that the "United States strongly condemns the continued efforts to suppress peaceful protesters."

"President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied," the White House added.

At least two people were reportedly wounded Tuesday when Syrian security forces raided the al-Baida village near Banias, according to residents.

"The army banned youth from Banias from entering the village to help the families there," a resident of Banias told the German Press Agency DPA.

The resident, who wish to remain anonymous, said that security forces took over al-Baida at dawn, barring anyone from entering the village.

The security crackdown comes after Sunday's attack on a military patrol in Banias that killed at least nine people, including two policemen, according to state news agency SANA.

The Syrian army has since cordoned off the Mediterranean town of Banias and its surrounding villages, with military checkpoints set up throughout the area.

Parts of Banias were without electricity for the last two days, and landline phones were disrupted, activists said.

At least 250 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured in Syria since anti-government protests began in the country last month, according to al-Maleh.

Countrywide protests calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down have been met with a violent government crackdown, notably in the southern city of Daraa.

There have been numerous reports of protesters killed, but such reports are difficult to verify since foreign journalists and human rights groups are mostly barred from entering Syria.