Ferocious shelling by Bashar Assad's security forces in the battered central Syrian city of Homs claimed at least 45 lives on Tuesday, according to activists, including that of a prominent video blogger whose horrifying images of the bombardment spread across the globe on social networking websites, but failed to spark any intervention from the international community.
In his last posting on Facebook, activist Rami al-Said, told people around world he appreciated their emotional backing, but begged the Syrian people's supporters to rally outside Syrian embassies against the shelling, and told them their inaction would not be forgiven.
Al-Said shot a great deal of the internet video which has been the only window for the world into the 18-day bombardment of Homs - a city so dangerous that few foreign journalists have ventured inside for weeks.Continue »
MANAMA, Bahrain - Screaming at the riot police, dozens of women dressed head-to-toe in black excoriated the police for dragging away a teenage boy. The police, dressed in shiny white helmets and black flak jackets, held their billy clubs in check. A policeman with a megaphone finally dispersed the crowd, threatening them with jail if they stayed.
The boy was allegedly picked up by plainclothes officers for organizing a protest.
"Welcome to living under a dictatorship," said a young Bahraini-American, an architect from Ohio who was back in Bahrain for the one-year anniversary of the uprisings here.
Those uprisings didn't result in a regime change, the way many of the protests in the Arab Spring did, but they did raise an uncomfortable question for the United States: How long can the U.S. maintain close ties with a regime accused of human rights violations?Continue »
The opposition has already urged demonstrators via a Facebook page to "creep and crawl" into the main squares in the country "immediately after Friday's prayers," particularly in cities and neighborhoods where the observers are expected to visit.
"On Friday, we will march to the squares of freedom, bare-chested, carrying olive branches only, although we are sure we will be confronted by regime's gun fire," activists said.
The presence of monitors should "motivate" Syrians to take to the streets in large numbers and camp out in squares despite "foreseeable violence," protest organizers said.
Updated 11:36 p.m. ET
At least three rockets were allegedly fired from Lebanon into northern Israel Monday, and Israeli Defense Forces returned fire, according to several reports.
Although there were no reported casualties on either side, the event is a dangerous reminder of the costly and deadly 34-day conflict in 2006 that saw Israel pitted against Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.
The rockets from Lebanon on Monday caused minimal damage, landing close to the Lebanese border and just causing some damage to a chicken coop and a gas tank, The Jerusalem Post reports. Although investigations are currently underway, some reports indicate there may have been as many as four rockets fired from Lebanon.Continue »
The streets are clogged by convoys of cars, their young drivers whooping deliriously and tooting their horns in a cacophony of fervor to show the world that Assad still enjoys unwavering support.
"Bashar, Bashar, Bashar," people yell on one of Damascus' chilly nights, as their cavalcades of hundreds of cars, shrouded with Syrian flags and portraits of their president, snarl traffic in this small city of five million, reputedly the oldest inhabited city in the world.
The Middle East is back on the agenda. Israel's military chief of staff reportedly warned this week that an increase in rocket attacks against Israel might lead to a large-scale military operation in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Additionally, Israel's defense minister warned of a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program after the international nuclear watchdog agency reported that Iran conducted secret weapons-related tests and may be close to developing a nuclear warhead.
Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich, the head of the international media division of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), told CBS News that the Israeli military now needs to deal with several fronts, where in the past they have had only one.
Today, Leibovich said, in a regional environment altered by the "Arab Spring," Israel's borders with Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria pose the greatest risks to its population and the IDF. On the northern border with Lebanon, Israel has to contend with the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which stores its weaponry under civilian villages in the south of Lebanon. Near Gaza, Israeli citizens now face missiles fired from the Hamas-run enclave that can reach farther into the Jewish state than ever before. And in Syria, uncertainty surrounding the fate of the embattled Assad regime, which last May organized mass marches on the Golan Heights border with Israel.Continue »
"Syria.... still sees the Arab initiative as an adequate framework for tackling the Syrian crisis away from foreign interference, despite all the holes and the deficiencies of practical mechanism that should have been agreed upon between the Syrian government and the ministerial committee," said a foreign ministry spokesman.
He said in a terse statement carried by the state-run news agency that the "repercussions" of the Syrian issue "would harm the national security and severely damage the common Arab work."
"Thus, we call for an immediate Arab summit assigned to deal with the Syrian crisis and value the negative impacts on the Arab situation," said the official, who welcomed a visit by the ministerial committee -- alongside military and civilian experts in addition to Arab media -- before Wednesday, the deadline for the Arab League's latest resolution, to see facts on the ground.Continue »
The demonstrators cut across social and national divides. Men (some in soldier-like uniform) and women, pupils and students, peasants and businessmen carried banners denouncing what they call the ''illegal'' move by the Arab League and the "conspiracy" against the resistance line of Damascus.
The Arab League said that Assad has pressed ahead with a crackdown on eight-month-old pro-democracy demonstrations and failed to open a dialogue with its opponents despite its peace plan brokered on November 2. The United Nations has said more than 3,500 people have been killed in seven months of violence.
The Arab League said on Saturday it would impose economic and political sanctions on Syria, and appealed to member states to withdraw their ambassadors, as well as calling for a meeting of Syrian opposition parties.
After announcing this month the complete drawdown from troops in Iraq by the end of the year, the Pentagon is planning to increase its military presence in the Persian Gulf region, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the move - which could result in the addition of combat forces in Kuwait and naval warships in the region's international waters - means to protect U.S. interests in the region in the event of a security conflict in Iraq or Iran.
The plans come in the wake of criticism that the Obama administration's decision to withdraw from Iraq fully despite concerns that doing so could lead to instability in the region.
According to the Times, the administration will seek to bolster ties with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman as a new "security architecture" for the region.Continue »
More than 450 Palestinians were transferred from Israeli prisons to the West Bank and Gaza, where massive celebratory rallies festooned with green Hamas flags were held. In Gaza City, tens of thousands crammed into an open lot where a huge stage was set up, decorated with a mural depicting Schalit's capture in a June 2006 raid on an army base near the Gaza border. The crowd exhorted militants to seize more soldiers for future swaps.
The rest of the prisoners -- about 550 more -- are to be released in a second phase in two months.Continue »
Al Qaeda's newly appointed chief Ayman al-Zawahri hailed what he described "the defeat of America in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Afghanistan" in yet another speech dedicated to the Arab spring. Al-Zawahri devoted a major portion of his speech to Libya, congratulating Libyan people on the fall of the Gaddafi regime and warning against NATO's hidden colonial intentions.
"O' our people in Libya ... O' Mujahideen ... sons of the Mujahideen .. O' supporters of Islam in Libya ... beware of the plots of the West and its allies as you build your new country. Don't let them fool you and steal your sacrifices and your sufferance," Al-Zawahri said, as he urged Libyans to choose a "pure and pious Jihadi leadership" that would adopt Shariah law as the country's new constitution.
The remarks aren't the first time al-Zawahri has sought to capitalize on the string of government-toppling protests known as the Arab Spring. In an audio recording last month, he claimed that the Sept. 11 terror attacks paved the way for the "Arab volcano" that has swept over the region.Continue »
The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans on Wednesday that a terrorist group may be planning to abduct Westerners in the capital of Riyadh.
"The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reminds all U.S. citizens to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times," the embassy said in a message posted on its website.
The message offered no specifics about the possible abduction plot but simply advised U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia to follow security procedures, including varying travel routines and avoiding large crowds.
Saudi Arabia has waged a heavy crackdown on Islamist militants since al Qaeda's Saudi branch launched a wave of attacks in the country in 2003, including suicide bombings and shootings that killed dozens of Saudis and foreigners. At least 11 Americans were among the dead.Continue »
Thousands of Palestinians Friday gathered in the streets of West Bank cities to watch President Mahmoud Abbas address the U.N. General Assembly on giant screens in a festive atmosphere. On hearing Abbas' confirmation of the region's request to become a U.N. member state, the crowd roared.
"With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine," some people said.
The same crowd earlier set fire to U.S. flags in protest to President Obama's remarks about vetoing the Palestinian bid in the Security Council.
King of Jordan Abdulla II ibn Al Hussein on Tuesday called for two-state negotiations between Israel and Palestine and argued that tensions between the two countries threaten security in the region.
King Abdullah, speaking at an IBM conference in New York, said "the central threat in the region remains the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
He added that a two-state agreement between the two countries was needed. Israel and Palestine tensions have mounted in recent days over the settlements as well as refugees.Continue »
Speaking to the Arab League Tuesday, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan bolstered his position of leadership in the Arab world, and highlighted his country's rift with Israel, saying, "The recognition of a Palestinian state is the only right way. It's not an option, but an obligation. God willing, by the end of this month, we will have the opportunity to see Palestine in a very different status at the United Nations."
Abbas set the date for the commencement of the Palestinian Authority's statehood bid for September 20, the day before President Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly. He is then expected to outline the Palestinian position when he speaks to the General Assembly on September 23. But the timing of a vote -- and whether or not Abbas will attempt to bring the vote to the Security Council, where the Obama Administration has vowed to veto a Resolution, or direct to the General Assembly -- is not clear.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told CBS News that Israel is still hopeful that there will be a diplomatic solution and the vote averted, "We have to sit down with the Palestinian authority in direct negotiations in order to bridge the problems. There is no other way around that." Prosor said, "We are trying to get to direct negotiations - up to the last moment."
In Cairo, at an Arab League meeting, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that there is no united position on the Palestinian statehood bid, "There is no resolution on the table yet, so there is no position."
After meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr, she said, "What is clear from the European Union is that the way forward is negotiations," but Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in a press conference after the meeting that "consultations and communications will continue in order to reach the goal" of Palestinian membership at the U.N.
Some have forecast dire consequences if the showdown reaches the U.N. A New York Times editorial this week said, "A United Nations vote on Palestinian membership would be ruinous. Yet with little time left before the U.N. General Assembly meets, the United States, Israel and Europe have shown insufficient urgency or boldness in trying to find a compromise solution. The need for action is even more acute after alarming tensions flared in recent days between Israel and two critical regional players -- Egypt and Turkey."
Palestinian statehood question to be center stage at U.N. in Sept.?Supporters of Palestinian state could circumvent U.S. veto at United Nations
At the U.N., Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin confirmed that Moscow would back the Palestinian bid, "We will vote in favor of the Palestinian U.N. bid, but I must say that we will not push Palestinians to move in that direction."
In Washington, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made the president's position clear.
"Our view remains that neither course - neither the Security Council nor the General Assembly - is going to lead to the result that they seek, which is to have a stable, secure state living in peace; that they have to do this through negotiations; and that that's the fastest and best course to do so."
Nuland said that the Obama administration is speaking with Israelis and Palestinians to get them back to negotiations before the U.N. General Assembly.
Prosor, meanwhile, doubted that the Palestinian bid represented all Palestinians, "Abbas is coming to the United Nations and declaring unilateral statehood about what? Is it Abbas or is it Hamas? It's the only guy I know who is the President of an Authority who has zero authority about what is going on in Gaza."