Deadly clashes over the past week pushed the death toll since the turmoil in Syria began in March to above 550, human rights groups told Reuters.

The Syrian authorities however only recently produced an estimate of civilian casualties — around 128, including 78 soldiers and security personnel — SANA, the state news agency, reported.

Meanwhile the Syrian media continues to report the deaths and injuries of soldiers and security officials and make occasional reference to civilian deaths at the hands of “extremists”, “terrorists” and “armed gangs”.

Yesterday SANA said eight army and security officials were buried in Homs, after being killed by “extremist terrorist groups” in Dara’a and Homs.

The government continues to pledge reforms in a bid to garner support. President al-Assad’s newly appointed Prime Minister Adel Safar announced on Sunday in a cabinet meeting that the government aims to set up three committees that will develop “a comprehensive plan for desired reforms,” focusing on political, security, judiciary, economic, and social policies, SANA reported.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Devatoglu said Turkey is against foreign intervention in Syria, reported Anatolia news agency. "We should work to prevent the possibility [of military intervention]. Foreign intervention in a country like Syria might cause unwanted consequences," Mr Davutoglu said. "Syria should solve the issue by itself. The chance for this still exists so it should not be missed." Turkey sent a delegation to Damascus last week to discuss Syrian reform with President Assad.

Meanwhile, the US, the EU and the UN Human Rights Council all took actions yesterday against the Syrian government. President Barack Obama ordered sanctions against three Syrian officials. The sanctions also target the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and the Al-Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard for providing “material support” for the Syrian government’s crackdown on demonstrators — something both Syria and Iran have firmly denied —.

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday approved a statement condemning Syrian authorities for their role in recent violence against civilians. Nine countries — including China and Russia — voted against the US-backed measure, while 11 others were absent or abstained.

Aid to Syria is likely to drop as the UN Development Program (UNDP) said on Saturday that it would delay its next five-year aid plan for Syria, reported Reuters. The USD 38m plan would come into effect in 2012, and fund programs to promote economic growth; enhance institutional, administrative and legal frameworks; strengthen environmental management; improve disaster prevention and management; and fight HIV/AIDS, according to the UNDP.

In the capital, an anti-US demonstration was held on Sunday outside the US Embassy against what protesters called US “double standards”, reported SANA. The news agency said the protesters believe the “Syrian nation will ‘refute all lies, will not accept injustice, will foil all US conspiracies and will sort out their problems on their own.’”

In other news, following the leaders of Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas agreement to form a unity administration at the next elections, under what has been termed the ‘Cairo Agreement’, Hamas said it would continue to work from Syria. Hamas’ exiled leadership bases its political operations from its headquarters in Damascus, which the Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported at the weekend would move to Qatar.

Finally, the Ministry of Electric Power told SANA that the government is working with Italian and Greek firms to expand the energy sector to meet the country’s growing needs. The statement comes a day after two Qatari companies tasked with building two power plants announced they were withdrawing from the country.

Syria Today (Syria)