World Bulletin/News Desk
Syrian troops stormed into a Palestinian refugee district in Damascus, opposition activists said, after a four-day artillery assault on the southern suburb where rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad have dug in.
Assad's forces have preferred to use air power and artillery to hit areas where rebels are positioned and infantry raids normally occur only once many have fled. Activists said they feared for civilian inhabitants in the latest offensive.
Assad's use of military force to quell an uprising that began almost 18 months ago as a peaceful pro-democracy movement has cost him many allies in the Arab and Muslim world and caused a trickle of defections from Syrian government and army ranks.
Two Syrian diplomats in Malaysia announced late on Friday that they had joined the opposition, according to a report by pan-Arab television channel Al Arabiya.
Two men identifying themselves as First Secretary Imad Ahmar and Attaché Mahmoud Obedi from Syria's Kuala Lumpur embassy read out a statement on the channel declaring their "support for the Syrian people's revolution against the tyrannical regime".
But the defections so far are seen largely as symbolic and Assad has increasingly relied on a close circle of relatives and senior members of his minority Alawite sect dominating the ruling elite to maintain his grip on power.
Syrian activist Abu Yasser al-Shami said that his friends living in Yarmouk, a densely populated Palestinian refugee camp where 10 people were killed on Friday in shelling, had fled the area on Saturday morning after government troops swept in.
"Assad's forces stormed al-Basel hospital in Yarmouk Camp and arrested many of the injured civilians," he said over Skype.
When insurgents thrust into central parts of the capital in July, they were swiftly pushed back to southern districts, like Yarmouk, where there is a thinner state security presence.
But residents complain that the army uses indiscriminate artillery and air strikes. Palestinians have been divided over whether or not to support Assad, but there are signs that more and more are now starting to back the uprising.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition watchdog based in London, said shells rained down on Hajar al-Aswad district, which neighbours Yarmouk, on Saturday.
It said 170 people were killed in bloodshed on Friday across the country, many of them in Damascus and northern Aleppo, where rebels say they control more than half of what is Syria's most populous city and commercial centre.
The Observatory says more than 23,000 people have died in an uprising that has lasted more than 17 months. Around 200,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
The United States has accused Russia and China of effectively prolonging Syria's bloodletting by blocking efforts at the U.N. Security Council to approve tough sanctions aimed at reining in the Assad government.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of Pacific rim states that Moscow and Western powers remained at loggerheads over how to defuse the conflict - a diplomatic impasse in which Western officials say violence has flourished.
"Our U.S. partners prefer measures like threats, increased pressure and new sanctions against both Syria and Iran. We do not agree with this in principle," Lavrov told reporters. Russia and Iran are Assad's closest allies.
Lavrov said Russia expected the Security Council later this month to formally endorse an agreement brokered by former U.N. Syria envoy Kofi Annan which envisages a transitional governing authority for Syria.
Washington has angered Russia by going outside the United Nations to work with allies on the Syrian opposition's behalf. But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Lavrov it was possible to return to the United Nations if Moscow and Beijing were ready to forego their vetoes and back stronger measures.
Ukraine has informed the Russian airline it will impose tight restrictions on the entry of Russian men into the country
Ukrainian central broadcasting officials confirmed that the group, who were assumed to be pro-Russia separatists, had managed to twice unplug two Ukrainian news channels
Chinese Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun said at a meeting with counterparts from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to tighten control over the Internet and take other steps to prevent "external forces" from fomenting revolution
Ukrainian, Russian and Western diplomats held emergency talks seeking to resolve a confrontation that has seen pro-Russian fighters seize official buildings across eastern Ukraine while Moscow masses tens of thousands of troops on the frontier
The IAEA update showed that Iran had diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium reserve to a fissile content less prone to bomb proliferation.
The statement came after U.N. sanctions monitors called for the world body to stop allowing arms to be shipped to the U.N. mission in Mali after they said a load of military hardware sent by China violated U.N. restrictions.
Government officials in the tiny central African state reacted angrily to the warning by the U.N. mission
The European Rohingya Council accused Myanmar of "slow-burning genocide".
The brigades have claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks on the Iranian embassy in Beirut in February of this year and last November.
A multinational group of five small ships - four minesweepers and a support vessel - will be sent to the Baltic Sea "for the foreseeable future",
According to the official, the peacekeeping force will be composed of troops from all five IGAD member states: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia.
The officials said the original list had been based on estimates, not exact amounts of toxic agents found in storage and production facilities across Syria.
Having already called for the state to be accepted into NATO alongside Georgia to protect them from Russian expansion plans, McCain reiterated these calls in his visit to students at the Academy for Economic Studies.
A 48-hour RMT strike in February brought the network to a virtual standstill and caused travel misery for millions of commuters
The Friends of Yemen group pledged around $7.9 billion in aid in 2012, but most of the funds have been delayed because of technical issues and lagging approvals by donor heads of state
Belarus and Kazakhstan are already members alongside Russia, with Armenia expected to join the bloc soon.