Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called for parliamentary elections to begin April 27, eliciting concerns from opposition parties. According to the presidential decree issued Thursday, the elections for parliament's lower house will take place over four stages through the end of June. The new People's Assembly will then be expected to convene on July 6. The previous body was dissolved in June 2012 after the January elections for the lower house were deemed unconstitutional. Morsi's Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, which took around 40 percent of the vote in the initial elections, expressed satisfaction with the decision while opposition parties have shown alarm. Head of the main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front (NSF), Mohamed ElBaradei said, "Morsi's decision to go for parliamentary elections amid severe societal polarisation and the eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster." The NSF called for opposition parties to meet on Friday to discuss Morsi's announcement.
Syrian warplanes targeted Damascus International Airport a day after attacks killed an estimated 90 people across the capital. There have been no immediate reports of casualties from Friday's attacks, which hit the towns of Beit Sahm and Shebaa near the main airport road south of Damascus. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there was also fighting in the opposition held areas of Daraya and Moadamiyeh, south of Damascus. No one has taken responsibility for Thursday's car bombing that hit near the offices of the ruling Baath Party as well as the Russian embassy and killed at least 53 people and injured over 200. The government has blamed "terrorists;" the opposition has claimed the regime is responsible. Russia has accused the United States of applying a double standard for blocking a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the car bombing.
- Tunisia's ruling Ennahda has named Interior Minister Ali Larayedh as its candidate for prime minister, following the resignation of Hamdi Jebali Tuesday.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday that Iran seems to be advancing construction of a research reactor at Arak, which could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear arms.
- Over 60 people have been injured in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank during protests over four Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike.
- Yemeni security forces shot and killed three activists on their way to a southern independence rally in Aden and 34 other people were injured in clashes.
Arguments and Analysis
Syria demands a new policy (David Rohde, Reuters)
"Typhoid and hepatitis outbreaks are spreading. An estimated 70,000 people are dead, and another 850,000 are refugees. After covering the battle for Damascus for a month, my colleague - photographer Goran Tomasevic - declared the situation a "bloody stalemate" this week.
"I watched both sides mount assaults, some trying to gain just a house or two, others for bigger prizes, only to be forced back by sharpshooters, mortars or sprays of machine-gun fire," Tomasevic, a gifted and brave photographer, wrote in a chilling first-hand account. "As in the ruins of Beirut, Sarajevo or Stalingrad, it is a sniper's war."
The Obama administration's policy toward Syria is a failure. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are funneling more aid, armaments and diplomatic cover to Bashar al-Assad. And Syrian rebels who once hailed the United States now loathe it."
Syria: The death of a country (The Economist)
"AFTER the first world war Syria was hacked from the carcass of the Ottoman empire. After the second, it won its independence. After the fighting that is raging today it could cease to function as a state.
As the world looks on (or away), the country jammed between Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel is disintegrating. Perhaps the regime of Bashar Assad, Syria's president, will collapse in chaos; for some time it could well fight on from a fortified enclave, the biggest militia in a land of militias. Either way, Syria looks increasingly likely to fall prey to feuding warlords, Islamists and gangs-a new Somalia rotting in the heart of the Levant.
If that happens, millions of lives will be ruined. A fragmented Syria would also feed global jihad and stoke the Middle East's violent rivalries. Mr Assad's chemical weapons, still secure for now, would always be at risk of falling into dangerous hands. This catastrophe would make itself felt across the Middle East and beyond. And yet the outside world, including America, is doing almost nothing to help."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA