Israeli Troops Fire at Protesters on Golan; Syria Reports 14 Dead

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Israeli troops on Sunday fired at pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to rush the barbed-wire fence between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Syrian state media report that 14 protesters were killed, scores more wounded.

Among those reported killed were a woman and child.

The protesters were marking the 44th anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Middle East war, defying Israeli warnings to stay clear of the boundary fence. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in that conflict.

The Israeli military accused Syrian authorities of instigating Sunday's disturbance to deflect attention from their crackdown on a popular uprising.

Israeli officials say they were determined to prevent a repeat of last month's deadly demonstrations during which thousands of Palestinians stormed Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon. Those protests were on the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel.

There were also protests by Palestinians Sunday in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Hundreds demonstrated at the Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah where Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Sunday's demonstrations and those that occurred last month are part of a campaign by Palestinian activists leading up to September when the Palestinian leadership plans to seek United Nations membership as an independent state.

In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is considering an initiative by the French government to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. He told his Cabinet he first wants to discuss the proposal with the United States.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who visited both Israel and the West Bank last week, has suggested that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators attend a peace conference in Paris at the end of next month. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the proposal on Saturday.

Dozens Detained in Bangladesh Anti-Government Strike

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Police in Bangladesh have detained dozens of opposition demonstrators during a nationwide anti-government strike in the capital, Dhaka.

Thousands of police and security personnel were deployed around the country Sunday as supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh National Party held a strike in protest of the government’s attempt to change the constitution.

Three bombs exploded in the capital during the strike, leaving one person wounded, while in other parts of the country at least 20 activists were injured in scuffles with police.

Authorities detained at least 60 opposition activists in the capital and elsewhere in the country as they attempted to hold street protests.

The strike was called after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League party announced plans to repeal a provision that requires it to hand over power at the end of its term to a caretaker government while elections take place.

Death Toll Rises in Europe E. coli Outbreak

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The death toll in Europe from the outbreak of a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria rose to 22 on Sunday.

European health authorities reported the deaths of an additional three people in Germany. Except for one woman who died in Sweden after a visit to Germany, all of the fatalities have been within German borders.

Experts are still searching for the source of the highly contagious bacteria, which can cause acute kidney failure. German officials told reporters Sunday that the culprit may be locally grown bean sprouts.

Health authorities say about 2,000 people, most of them in Germany, have been infected. Ten other European nations and the United States have reported 90 infected people, nearly all of whom have recently been in northern Germany.

Germany's health agency on Friday advised against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces.

The outbreak is the deadliest in modern history to involve E. coli, and appears to be the second- or third-largest in terms of the number of people who have become ill. Scientists say the bacteria is a previously unknown genetic recombination of two different E. coli strains.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

India Police Break Up Guru’s Hunger Strike

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Police in India swooped down early Sunday morning on the hunger strike venue of the country's most popular yoga guru who was leading his followers in a mass fast, part of a populist campaign to fight corruption.

The New Delhi police used tear gas to disperse the thousands of supporters of Baba Ramdev who was briefly detained.

A police spokesman said permission had been given to Ramdev to hold a yoga function for 5,000 people, not the more than 40,000 people who turned up at the venue.

Ramdev, who hosts a daily yoga television show, had erected a huge tent for his hunger strike against corruption. He has said millions of people want to see India free of corruption, and have social justice.

Ramdev was demanding a return of so-called black money, cash stashed in foreign bank accounts and used to pay bribes. He was also calling for the execution of corrupt government officials.

Critics charge Ramdev has ties to right-wing Hindu groups, and they question his sincerity, arguing he lives lavishly with money from his multi-million dollar business ventures. But his call to end widespread corruption appears to be resonating in a country still reeling from a $39 billion telecom scandal and a scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games that have seen some ministers end up in jail.

NATO Continues Air Assault on Libya

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

NATO war planes on Sunday continued their assault on targets in and around Tripoli, hitting a military barracks in the Libyan capital and checkpoints near Brega.

The attacks are designed to keep up pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to bring to an end his 42 years in power.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who visited the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Saturday, said the campaign against pro-Gadhafi forces is intensifying. But he rejected suggestions that it has strayed from the U.N. mandate to protect civilians.

He told reporters in London Sunday, “This is not mission creep .”

Hague defended the use of British and French attack helicopters, which were employed for the first time on Saturday. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Minister Sergei Ivanov warned that use of the helicopters puts NATO “one step” closer to a ground operation.

Russia abstained when the U.N. Security Council voted in March to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. It has repeatedly called for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

A special Russian envoy is due Monday in Benghazi, where he plans to meet with members of the rebels' Transitional National Council.

Yemen: From Jasmine Revolution to Widespread Unrest

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 11:50 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A timeline of how Yemen has plunged from protests to near full-fledged civil war:

January 22: Hundreds of students and other protesters gather at Sana'a University, calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The demonstrators were apparently inspired by the protests that led to the ouster of Tunisia's President.

March 1: Tens of thousands of opposition activists demand the ouster of Mr. Saleh. President Saleh fires five of 22 provincial governors, some for criticizing the crackdown on the protests.

March 8: The government deploys military vehicles and extra troops in Sana'a, the capital, as police open fire on protesters, reportedly for the first time, killing at least one person and wounding 80 others.

March 18: As protest crowds swell, security forces fire on protesters in Sana'a, killing at least 52 people and wounding more than 100. President Saleh declares a state of emergency. World leaders criticize the crackdown.

March 20-21: President Saleh dismisses his entire Cabinet. Some senior military commanders join the protesters calling for the president's ouster.

April 2-3: Yemen's opposition leaders urge President Saleh to hand over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. He refuses. Rival demonstrators clash throughout the country.

April 5-8: President Saleh accepts an invitation from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to hold talks in Saudi Arabia with opposition representatives.

April 10-11: GCC foreign ministers urge President Saleh to transfer his powers to his vice president. Mr. Saleh welcomes the proposal, but does not specify a timeline for stepping down.

April 14-15: Opposition leaders give Mr. Saleh a two-week deadline to resign. More religious and tribal leaders side with the protesters.

April 17-18: Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate across Yemen, despite facing live ammunition from government forces. An opposition delegation headed by former foreign minister Mohammed Basindwa meets with Gulf Arab mediators in Saudi Arabia to lay out conditions for entering formal talks. The effort is unsuccessful.

April 19: The U.N. Security Council meets on Yemen for the first time since the protests erupted in January. Russia and China reportedly prevent the council from publicly endorsing a draft statement calling on the parties in Yemen to “exercise restraint and enter a dialogue.”

April 21-25: The GCC presents President Saleh with a plan for ending the political impasse and unrest. The plan calls for Mr. Saleh to resign within a month and for a presidential election two months later.

April 30-May 1: Yemen's main opposition coalition accuses President Saleh of refusing to sign the Gulf agreement. Mr. Saleh says he will sign as the leader of the ruling General People's Congress party but not in his capacity as president, as required by the plan.

May 15: Yemen's main opposition coalition says the GCC plan to end the country's political crisis is “dead.”

May 21-22: Yemen's opposition says it has signed a Gulf-brokered deal that would see President Saleh's transfer of power within a month. Mr. Saleh denounces the proposed deal as a “coup.”

May 23-26: Deadly gun battles break out in Sana'a between Yemeni security forces and forces loyal to tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar. The opposition tribesmen take control of several government buildings.

May 27: Opposition tribal leaders say they are talking with the government and that a cease-fire is in effect, temporarily halting most of the fighting with security forces. International calls continue from several world powers calling for Mr. Saleh to leave office soon.

June 3: President Saleh and five other Yemeni officials are wounded in a rocket attack on the presidential compound in Sana'a.

June 4: President Saleh's forces and forces loyal to tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar accept a Saudi-brokered cease-fire. A truce negotiated a week earlier quickly deteriorated. Mr. Saleh flies to Saudi Arabia for treatment. Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi takes over.

June 5: There are celebrations in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, after word spreads that President Saleh left the country.

Celebrations Mark Departure of Yemen’s President

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

There were celebrations in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, on Sunday, after word spread that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh had left the country.

Mr. Saleh was wounded in Friday's rocket attack on the presidential compound. He and several high-ranking officials were flown to Saudi Arabia Saturday for medical treatment. There is no official word on his condition although reports say he is undergoing surgery for his wounds.

In Sana'a, people danced and sang, declaring “victory.” But there also were expressions of concern about whether Mr. Saleh's 33 years in power have come to an end or whether he will be returning to Yemen.

Under Yemen's constitution, Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi takes over. He has conferred with the U.S. ambassador . He also has met with military commanders, including several members of Mr. Saleh's family.

The president's departure has not ended the violence. In Taiz, gunmen attacked the presidential compound, killing four soldiers.

On Saturday, Yemeni government officials and rebel tribesmen agreed to a new cease-fire brokered by Saudi Arabia. But just a week ago, a similar truce quickly collapsed in renewed fighting between President Saleh's forces and loyalists to an opposition tribal leader, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since the popular uprising against Mr. Saleh began in January.

Sudan Dismisses UN Call For Abyei Withdrawal

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 11:40 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

North Sudan's government has rejected a call from the U.N. Security Council to pull its troops out of the disputed Abyei region.

On Friday, the Council condemned the north's occupation of Abyei, describing it as a “serious violation” of the 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan's north-south civil war.

The north's foreign minister, Ali Ahmad Karti, responded late Saturday, saying the north cannot be asked to withdraw from Abyei because it is Sudanese territory.

Both north and south Sudan claim ownership of Abyei, an oil-rich land on the north-south border.

In a separate development, the United Nations says fighting broke out Sunday in the state of South Kordofan, also on the north-south border. A U.N. spokesman in Khartoum reports an attack on a police station in the town of Kadugli and shooting in the village of Umm Dorain.

She says U.N. peacekeepers have been sent to investigate.

The events of the past two weeks have raised fears of a new civil war in Sudan.

Last week, the north Sudan army demanded that southern troops in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states leave immediately. A southern army spokesman, Philip Aguer, denied that southern soldiers were in either state.

The northern army says Sunday's Umm Dorain incident stemmed from an individual soldier firing at random, and said the situation is now under control. It had no comment on the alleged attack in Kadugli.

The north's May 21 seizure of Abyei occurred just a few weeks before south Sudan is to formally declare independence from Khartoum.

The south voted to split from the north in a January referendum. Abyei was scheduled to hold a separate referendum on which region to join, but the poll never happened because the sides could not agree on who was eligible to vote.

Tens of thousands of Abyei residents fled the area after the northern takeover, and witnesses have reported widespread destruction of huts and buildings in Abyei's main town. The Satellite Sentinel Project, which monitors Sudan through satellite images, has accused the north of conducting “ethnic cleansing” in the area.

Gates Says Goodbye to Troops in Afghanistan

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is retiring at the end of the month, arrived in southern Afghanistan Sunday to say goodbye to American troops fighting to defeat Taliban insurgents.

Gates' visit comes at the same time as U.S. President Barack Obama is considering the scale and pace of troop withdrawals planned to start next month.

Speaking to troops at a base in southern Helmand province, Gates said he would prefer that support troops, not combat soldiers, be pulled out first. He said earlier that only modest reductions to troop levels would be made over the next few months.

The defense secretary warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his country needs to increase security, and that failure to do so would put the smooth withdrawal of U.S. forces at risk.

On Saturday at a security conference in Singapore, Gates said there could be peace talks with the Taliban within a year. He said the talks would be a result of NATO's ground advances in Afghanistan that have put pressure on the insurgents.

It has been nearly 10 years since U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government and go after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. special forces killed bin Laden last month during a raid in neighboring Pakistan. The U.S.-Afghan relationship has become more tense, with Afghan President Karzai repeatedly criticizing the U.S. and NATO for killing civilians during attacks on militants.

Yemen: From Jasmine Revolution to Widespread Unrest

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A timeline of how Yemen has plunged from protests to near full-fledged civil war:

January 22: Hundreds of students and other protesters gather at Sana'a University, calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The demonstrators were apparently inspired by the protests that led to the ouster of Tunisia's President.

March 1: Tens of thousands of opposition activists demand the ouster of Mr. Saleh. President Saleh fires five of 22 provincial governors, some for criticizing the crackdown on the protests.

March 8: The government deploys military vehicles and extra troops in Sana'a, the capital, as police open fire on protesters, reportedly for the first time, killing at least one person and wounding 80 others.

March 18: As protest crowds swell, security forces fire on protesters in Sana'a, killing at least 52 people and wounding more than 100. President Saleh declares a state of emergency. World leaders criticize the crackdown.

March 20-21: President Saleh dismisses his entire Cabinet. Some senior military commanders join the protesters calling for the president's ouster.

April 2-3: Yemen's opposition leaders urge President Saleh to hand over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. He refuses. Rival demonstrators clash throughout the country.

April 5-8: President Saleh accepts an invitation from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to hold talks in Saudi Arabia with opposition representatives.

April 10-11: GCC foreign ministers urge President Saleh to transfer his powers to his vice president. Mr. Saleh welcomes the proposal, but does not specify a timeline for stepping down.

April 14-15: Opposition leaders give Mr. Saleh a two-week deadline to resign. More religious and tribal leaders side with the protesters.

April 17-18: Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate across Yemen, despite facing live ammunition from government forces. An opposition delegation headed by former foreign minister Mohammed Basindwa meets with Gulf Arab mediators in Saudi Arabia to lay out conditions for entering formal talks. The effort is unsuccessful.

April 19: The U.N. Security Council meets on Yemen for the first time since the protests erupted in January. Russia and China reportedly prevent the council from publicly endorsing a draft statement calling on the parties in Yemen to “exercise restraint and enter a dialogue.”

April 21-25: The GCC presents President Saleh with a plan for ending the political impasse and unrest. The plan calls for Mr. Saleh to resign within a month and for a presidential election two months later.

April 30-May 1: Yemen's main opposition coalition accuses President Saleh of refusing to sign the Gulf agreement. Mr. Saleh says he will sign as the leader of the ruling General People's Congress party but not in his capacity as president, as required by the plan.

May 15: Yemen's main opposition coalition says the GCC plan to end the country's political crisis is “dead.”

May 21-22: Yemen's opposition says it has signed a Gulf-brokered deal that would see President Saleh's transfer of power within a month. Mr. Saleh denounces the proposed deal as a “coup.”

May 23-26: Deadly gun battles break out in Sana'a between Yemeni security forces and forces loyal to tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar. The opposition tribesmen take control of several government buildings.

May 27: Opposition tribal leaders say they are talking with the government and that a cease-fire is in effect, temporarily halting most of the fighting with security forces. International calls continue from several world powers calling for Mr. Saleh to leave office soon.

June 3: President Saleh and five other Yemeni officials are wounded in a rocket attack on the presidential compound in Sana'a.

June 4: President Saleh's forces and forces loyal to tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar accept a Saudi-brokered cease-fire. A truce negotiated a week earlier quickly deteriorated. Mr. Saleh flies to Saudi Arabia for treatment. Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi takes over.

June 5: There are celebrations in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, after word spreads that President Saleh left the country.