Syria's biggest trade partner Turkey suspended all financial credit dealings with it on Wednesday and froze its government's assets, joining the Arab League in isolating President Bashar al-Assad over his military crackdown on opponents.

In Syria, military funerals were held for 14 members of the army and security forces, evidence of the rising cost of its battle to smother a revolution inspired by uprisings across the Arab world that toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya this year.

Announcing the new Turkish measures, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference Turkey would block delivery of all weapons and military supplies to Syria. Relations with Syria's central bank were suspended and a cooperation agreement was halted until there was a new government in place.

Until a legitimate government which is at peace with its people is in charge in Syria, the mechanism of the High Level of Strategic Cooperation has been suspended, Davutoglu said.

Assad's government had come to the end of the road, he said.

Muslim Turkey, which last year had $2.5 billion in bilateral trade with Syria, was once one of Assad's closest allies, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan lost patience with him. Turkey now hosts Syrian army defectors and opposition group.

Ankara has said any sanctions would not hurt the Syrian people and has ruled out cutting off electricity and water supplies. It has also said civil aviation by Turkish Airlines to Damascus will continue.

Turkey, a NATO member, has a 900 km (560 km) long border with Syria. It said on Tuesday it did not want military intervention in Syria but was ready for any scenario, including setting up a buffer zone to contain any influx of refugees.

In other sanctions moves, a Dubai government, in a Twitter feed from its press office, said that UAE airlines were preparing to suspend flights to Syria. But it later said the report was not official and it was unable to confirm or deny if a flight ban would be imposed.


Syria does not admit most foreign journalists. It says it is fighting an insurgency by armed groups supported from abroad, who have attacked its troops trying to defend the peace.

What began eight months ago as a one-sided crushing of unarmed street protests is now sliding towards civil war.

Five civilians were shot dead when security forces broke up a protest in the northern city of Idlib on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, and fighting erupted between government troops and army renegades in the southern town of Dael.

The sound of explosions shook the town of Dael on Wednesday morning, it said in a statement.

All phone lines were cut but an activist contacted the group after fleeing the town to report that 30 busloads of security forces had stormed Dael and two buses were blown up by defectors.

On Tuesday, 14 members of the security forces were laid to rest with flowers and wreaths, state news agency SANA said. It named the dead but did not say when they were killed.

The martyrs were targeted by armed terrorist groups while they were in the line of duty in Homs and the Damascus countryside, it said.

Rebels on Tuesday ambushed an army vehicle in the north killing three soldiers, the Human Rights Observatory said. it said the vehicle was targeted by suspected army defectors.


Syria said it had freed 912 prisoners held for taking part in anti-Assad protests, SANA reported. Those liberated did not have Syrian blood on their hands. Some 1700 prisoners were released earlier this month, SANA said.

Under the terms of an Arab League deal aimed at ending the violence, Syria agreed earlier this month to withdraw the army from urban centres, release political prisoners, launch a dialogue with the opposition and admit foreign observers.

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said he was still hoping Syria would admit observers and avoid sanctions due to be finalised by Saturday.

European and Arab diplomats say the top United Nations human rights forum will paint a grim picture of events in Syria at a special session on Friday which is likely to condemn the Syrian government for crimes against humanity.

A U.N. report said on Monday Syrian forces have committed murder, torture and rape against pro-democracy protesters. The U.N. says more than 3,500 people have been killed since March.

Friday's human rights committee session is partly designed to put pressure on China and Russia, which have blocked measures by the U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria, to take a stronger stand, say diplomats.

Turkey said it fears an exodus of Syrians if violence worsens, and border states might have to create a buffer zone to cope with masses of refugees.

France has raised the idea of a secured humanitarian corridor to relieve civilians, a step which would appear to imply some use of armed forces for security and logistics.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Peter Graff)