Human rights activists say Syrian forces continue the violent crackdown on civilians as new reports suggest that at least 24 civilians were killed, following attacks in various cities.

Despite international condemnation, fresh EU sanctions and a meeting of the U.N. Security Council Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seem determined to stay in power at all cost, prompting analysts and activists to ask what it will take for the leader to step down.

Anti-government protests have gripped Syria for months, and while the civilian death toll keeps on increasing, both camps appear decided not to back down.

With allegations of killings, torture, illegal imprisonment and recurrent repression, anti-Assad protesters say the regime has lost its legitimate, leading activists to vow they will only stop protesting once their leader is ousted.

Reports from Syria say that the latest attacks by security forces came on Monday as people protested following evening prayers on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

Residents in Hama said that tanks returned to the city, resuming their shelling while troops targeted civilians.

On Sunday, warning of the brutality of the regime, Rights groups said that at least 80 people were killed throughout Syria in attacks including 52 in Hama and neighbouring villages.

Sunday's attack provoked an international outcry, prompting the U.N. Security Council to schedule a meeting on Tuesday to continue discussing a draft resolution condemning Syria's attacks against civilians.

On Monday, as attacks were taking place in Syria the Council held an emergency session, held behind closed-door, to discuss possible ways of reprimanding the Syrian regime for its violent crackdown.

European powers meanwhile vowed to take new sanctions against the regime and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the violence and appealed to Council members like China and Russia that are fiercely against a resolution-having being disappointed with the handling of the Libyan Conflict- to review their position.

New EU sanctions against the Syrian government include travel bans and asset freezes on five more officials associated with its bloody crackdown, bringing the total of Syrian officials sanctioned to 30, including Assad himself.

Clinton also announced she is due to meet U.S. based Syrian political activists in Washington on Tuesday, which will be her first direct interaction with the exiled opposition since anti-government protests began in March.

However, Russia on Monday seemed to become less tolerant of Assad's behaviour as Moscow
condemned "the use of force against peaceful protesters" and urged restraint.

Turkey also sharply raised its public condemnation of Mr Assad's government following the attacks on Hama, a move the EU countries had asked Ankara to take for a few weeks.

"Beginning the holy month of Ramadan within a bloody environment is unacceptable," President Abdullah Gül told the Anatolia news agency on Monday, adding: "The use of heavy weapons against people in Hama when Ramadan began shocked me. It is not possible for us to remain indifferent to this violence."

The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also called for stronger sanctions but insisted that international military intervention is "not a remote possibility."

With foreign media barred from reporting, it is difficult to verify accounts of the unrest in Syria but Rights groups and activists insist that Syrian forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians during the crackdown.

The government, on the other hand, has blamed much of the violence on terrorists and "armed gangs", who it says are backed by western powers and have killed hundreds of security personnel.

In 1982, Assad's father Hafez also faced popular uproar and an estimated 20,000 people were killed in Hama after the regime used similar excuses and said the army had put down what it called an "Islamist revolt".

Measures, condemnations and sanctions against Assad and his government seem to have little effect as security forces are still accused of killing civilians on a daily basis, making it clear the leader is decided to keep using violence as a tool until protests wear out.