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.
Last week, Shaimaa's 23-year-old mother arrived dead to central Gaza Strip's Deir al-Balah hospital when doctors found out that her unborn girl had still been alive inside her womb.
When the war turn into barbarism. When hospitals, disability centres , schools are not safe it is not a humanitarian crisis.
Violence in China’s far-western Xinjiang province continues as its Muslim Uighur population face religious and cultural restrictions.
Separately, U.S. lawmakers were working in Congress to provide millions of dollars in additional funding for Israel's "Iron Dome" missile shield.
The Ukranian parliament has rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Twenty eight migrants, mostly Bangladeshi, were wounded when foremen at a strawberry farm opened fire on about 200 immigrant workers who were protesting for back pay in the southwestern town of Manolada in April last year.
Corey Robin, a Jewish professor of political science at Brooklyn College and a longtime critic of Israel, was also arrested at the protest.
The government increased fuel prices after spending about $3 billion on energy subsidies last year, nearly a third of state revenue.
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine intend to take part in talks with Moscow, Kiev and the OSCE security and rights organisation in Belarus.
“We brought dolls to refer to the children of Gaza,” Neta Golan, a spokesperson for the group, told Anadolu Agency outside the court.
France, the Philippines and the U.S. also decided to pull out staff this week.
The United Nations relief agency’s Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl condemned the killing children in their sleep.
In the absence of a deal, Israel has ordered its ground forces to focus on locating and destroying a warren of tunnels.
To get aid into Gaza, Iran has to fly it to Egypt and then take it across the Rafah border crossing. The only other option would be to go through Israel, unthinkable for Iran.
A joint rescue team is searching for those missing after a fishing vessel capsized with 48 on board in North Sumatra.
It is likely that the losses sustained by Morganti Development LLC, which owns a stake in the Gaza power plant, will be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, who ironically also help fund the Israeli army.