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7 April 2012
Syria – CNN reported: Syrian forces are targeting civilians displaced from their homes by earlier fighting, an opposition group said Saturday, three days before a deadline for government forces to withdraw from cities. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said the regime is targeting villages and farms around the eastern city of Rastan, where fighting a month ago forced out more than 80% of the city’s residents. They escaped to the nearby area but are now coming under attack, according to the group, which is a network of opposition activists. The death toll has risen to 127, including eight women and five children, the LCC said Saturday. The breakdown of those deaths are 59 in Hama, 28 in Homs, 14 in the Aleppo suburbs, 24 Idlib, one in Daraa, and one in Douma in the Damascus suburbs, the LCC said.
Syria – The Washington Post reported: Syrian forces killed dozens of people in fierce fighting across the country Saturday, with some activist groups reporting more than 100 dead, just three days before a deadline set by a U.N. peace plan for troops to withdraw from urban areas. Representatives of activist groups near the city of Hama described an attack on the nearby town of Latameneh, where demonstrations have been held since the beginning of the year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. More than 70 people died in the assault, including five members of the loosely organized group known as the Free Syrian Army, according to a member of the Syrian Revolution General Command who uses the nom de guerre Abo Adnan. Other opposition groups reported dozens of people were killed elsewhere, including armed opponents of the government and members of the security forces. None of the accounts could be verified because Syria restricts journalists’ access.
Pakistan – CNN reported: Pakistani rescuers continued to tunnel around a Himalayan military outpost on the Siachen glacier, where up to 135 people were buried by a massive avalanche near the Indian border. A blanket of rock and snow, covering one square kilometer, slid over the base near the northeastern city of Skardu early Saturday morning, according to a statement from the military. It’s a very massive scale slide,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. “They are under the slide but we haven’t lost hope. The rescue work is on, and we are keeping our fingers crossed.” A total of 124 army soldiers and 11 civilians were housed at the outpost, having been employed in one of the world’s highest elevation battlegrounds where a series of past conflicts with India have occurred. The Pakistani military says the battalion headquarters had been situated in the mountainous location for two decades and had never before succumbed to such a disaster.
Yemen – CBS NEWS reported: Loyalists of former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh seized the country’s main airport Saturday as tanks and armored vehicles occupied the tarmac and forced authorities to cancel flights, a day after a military shake-up in which key commanders were fired. Driving pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, armed tribesmen along with troops in uniform blasted buildings of Sanaa International Airport and opened fire on one of the airport surveillance towers before surrounding the entire complex, blocking roads and turning away passenger vehicles. The standoff highlighted the challenges facing the country’s new leader, who must balance a promise to purge ex-regime elements from the army with the lingering influence of his predecessor. At stake is the stability of the Arab world’s poorest country, where al-Qaida is poised to fill the vacuum.
Israel – The Jerusalem Post reported: Two rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza Sunday morning exploded in open areas located within the Merhavim Regional Council, near Netivot. There were no reports of injury or damage. The rockets were fired in the direction of Netivot. A tense calm has prevailed over southern Israel since the latest round of violence, during which dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza, ended last month. But on Saturday the Air Force fired at a Gaza terror cell east of Rafah planning to fire rockets at Israel. Palestinian sources said two missiles were fired at two terrorists riding a motorcycle, wounding them lightly. The military wings of Islamic Jihad and of the Popular Resistance Committees rushed to issue a statement Saturday accusing Israel of blatantly violating the lull in the area. Wednesday night, terrorists in Sinai fired three rockets at the southern resort town of Eilat; no injuries or damages were reported in that attack. Hamas denied any involvement.
Gaza – The New York Times reported: The Islamic group Hamas that controls Gaza executed three Palestinians on Saturday, one who was convicted of collaborating with Israel and two others who had been found guilty of murder, according to a statement from the Hamas Interior Ministry. The statement said the three men were hanged at a security site in Gaza City. It did not give any details about their identities. The last executions of Palestinians convicted of collaboration with Israel took place in July, when a father and son were put to death after being found guilty of providing information that helped Israel kill a Hamas leader in 2004. Of the 11 Palestinians executed in Gaza since Hamas took over, most were convicted of spying for Israel.
North Korea – The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported: Just two months ago, amid celebrations of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, an Iranian rocket roared off a military launch pad and placed a 110-pound Earth observation satellite into orbit. The U.S. State Department grumbled about possible missile applications, but that was pretty much it. Now it’s North Korea’s turn. As it prepares to launch a rocket to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of its founder, it too is telling the world that its goal is to get a satellite into orbit. It is even promising to give international observers front-row seats at its newly built launch facility — just like Iran did in February. But the international condemnation is much louder over the satellite launch North Korea plans sometime between April 12 and 16. The U.S. is promising to scrap a just-signed food aid deal if the rocket is launched. Tokyo and Seoul have vowed to shoot it down if it veers off course. Russia and China, which have long-standing ties with the North, have urged Pyongyang to rethink its plans.
8 April 2012
South Korea – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: South Korea, Japan and China expressed concern over North Korea’s plan to launch a rocket this month as the communist nation’s activities raise tension in the region. North Korean space officials have moved all three stages of a long-range rocket into position at the launch site, the Associated Press reported yesterday. The plan must be canceled “immediately” because it threatens peace and security in the region, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday on its website. Robyn Meredith reports on Bloomberg Television’s “On the Move Asia” with John Dawson.
Afghanistan – The LA Times reported: Tackling one of the major sources of friction in Washington’s tenuous relationship with Kabul, U.S. officials on Sunday signed an agreement that gives Afghan authorities legal and operational oversight over nighttime raids carried out by American troops — a tactic that has been successful against Taliban insurgents but deeply unpopular with Afghan citizens. The pact with Afghan officials was hailed at a signing ceremony in Kabul, the capital, as an important steppingstone toward an overarching strategic partnership agreement that will govern the relationship between the two countries after U.S. troops withdraw at the end of 2014. That broader agreement is expected to address issues such as the number of U.S. counter-terrorism forces that will be deployed in Afghanistan after American troops leave and the size of Afghan security forces that Western nations will help fund at a time when many of those countries face a troubled economic climate.
Syria – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: A U.N. brokered peace plan for Syria appeared close to collapse Sunday as the government demanded a written guarantee that opposition rebels would lay down their arms before the government would withdraw troops from cities and towns. The statement cast serious doubt on hopes that the peace plan – the only initiative thus far backed by Syria’s allies China, Russia and Iran as well as the United Nations and the Arab League – could quell the violence stemming from a government crackdown on a yearlong uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kofi Annan, the joint U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, issued a statement Sunday in Geneva, saying he was shocked by “a surge in violence and atrocities” that were in violation of assurances Syrian officials gave him.
Nigeria – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: A suicide car bomber struck on a busy road Sunday after apparently turning away from attacking Nigerian churches holding Easter services, killing at least 38 people in a massive blast. The explosion rattled Kaduna, a city long at the center of religious, ethnic and political violence in the nation. Nearby hotels and homes had their windows blown out and roofs torn away by the force of the blast, which engulfed a group of motorcycle taximen. Witnesses said it appeared the explosive-laden car attempted to go into a compound of churches before it detonated, but was blocked by barriers in the street and was turned away by a security guard.
Iran – The Times of India reported: The United States and its allies are pressing for an end to Iran’s high-level uranium enrichment and the closure of a facility built deep under a mountain as talks on Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West resume this week. Iranian media and Western officials said the talks, which collapsed more than a year ago, would begin on Saturday in Istanbul. A return to the table, as the Western allies tighten sanctions over what they say is Tehran’s programme to develop nuclear weapons, had been in doubt after Iran and the P5+1 countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – released conflicting statements about the venue. Tehran had earlier voiced concerns about holding talks in Turkey, whose opposition to Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad in Syria has angered the Islamic Republic. “After weeks of debates, Iran and the six world powers agreed to attend a first meeting in Istanbul,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing unnamed sources. State-run English language Press TV carried the same report.
Israel – CBC NEWS reported: Israel declared Guenter Grass persona non grata on Sunday, deepening a spat with the Nobel-winning author over a poem that deeply criticized the Jewish state and suggested it was as much a danger as Iran. Grass’s most famous book, The Tin Drum, is about the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War as told through the lives of ordinary people. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999. Late in life, Grass, 84, admitted to a Nazi past. In a 2006 autobiography, he admitted he was drafted into the Waffen-SS Nazi paramilitary organization at age 17 in the final months of the Second World War. Israel’s dispute with Grass has drawn new attention to strains in Germany’s complicated relationship with Israel — and also focused unwelcome light on Israel’s own secretive nuclear program.