The slapping of sanctions came a day before President Obama was to make a major policy speech on the recent developments in the Middle East and North African region including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Obama signed the Executive Order imposing sanctions against President Assad and six senior officials, including Vice President, Prime Minister and Defense Minister, in an effort to increase pressure on his government to end the use of violence against its people and begin transition to a democratic system that protects the rights of the Syrian people.
In his statement, Obama said the Syrian Government was continuing with escalation of violence against its people through attacks, arrests and harassment of protestors and political activists, and repression of democratic change, overseen and executed by numerous elements of the government.
Simultaneously, the Department of the Treasury announced designation of 10 individuals targeting Syrian officials and others responsible for human rights abuses, including repression against the Syrian people, as well as a set of companies tied to Syrian corruption.
"The US continues to strongly condemn Syrian government's use of violence and intimidation against its people and urges President al-Assad and his regime to answer calls of their people for a more representative government and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform," the Treasury said in a statement.
"The actions the Administration has taken on Thursday, May 19, send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria," said David Cohen, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
"President al-Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government, and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform," he said.
Also, Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has suspended certain licenses for export and re-export to Syria of US origin parts and components needed for the overhaul or refurbishment of certain long-range, high- capacity commercial aircraft not currently in service.
BIS took this action under the authority of Section 750. Eight of the Export Administration Regulations and all persons holding relevant licenses have been notified of this action, an official statement said.