Two car bombs exploded in the Syrian city of Homs Wednesday killing 25 people and wounding 107 others, according to Syrian state news agency SANA. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 21, but said it was expected to rise. The explosions, about 30 minutes apart, hit the government-controlled residential district of Karm al-Loz causing heavy damage. Meanwhile, the United States and Turkey are investigating new accusations of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has accused the Assad regime of conducting chemical attacks at least four times in recent months, mainly in the suburbs of Damascus. A U.S. State Department official said they couldn't confirm these reports but "take all allegations of chemical weapons use seriously and are looking into it."
- Talks between Iran and world powers wrapped up Wednesday with "intensive work" remaining, though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would not halt nuclear activities.
- Turkish authorities have maintained a ban on YouTube despite a court ruling that it violated human rights.
- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the U.S. denial of a visa for Tehran's selected U.N. envoy, Hamid Aboutalebi, would be "unacceptable."
- Israeli archaeologists have found a 3,300-year-old sarcophagus believed to hold a Canaanite official in the service of Egypt.
- Three Al Jazeera journalists have returned to court Thursday a day after Egyptian authorities arrested a freelance reporter, who had worked for Al Jazeera, for allegedly inciting violence.
Arguments and Analysis
'American anti-tank weapons appear in Syrian rebel hands' (Charles Lister, The Huffington Post)
"In three videos (one, two, three) published on YouTube on 1 and 5 April, members of moderate Syrian rebel group Harakat Hazm were shown operating American-manufactured BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). All three videos - two show missiles being fired and the third shows several missiles on the back of a pick-up truck - were filmed in and around the town of Heesh in the northern governorate of Idlib. This marked the first time such weapons have been seen in Syria since the eruption of conflict in the country three years ago.
At first glance, this appears to be an extremely significant development. However, some level of care must be taken at this stage in terms of drawing conclusions as to what this means. More videos showing BGM-71 TOWs being used in Syria - and preferably in the hands of additional rebel groups or in other areas of the country - will be necessary for this to represent a potential state-based program of providing valuable weaponry to moderate rebels. However, for now, this possibility appears more likely than not and the arrival in some form or another of such new weapons seems worthy of some investigation."
'Corruption in Construction: Egypt's Failing Infrastructure' (Amira Mikhail, Atlantic Council)
"The collapse of buildings across Egypt is a problematic phenomenon on several fronts. Most obviously, it endangers the lives, properties and homes, and well-being of the Egyptian public. The devastation of losing one's home, not to mention the loss of human life alone, should translate into the implementation of building regulations and a more strict and urgent move towards construction reform. As laid out in Article 46 of the country's new constitution, all Egyptians have a right to ‘live in a healthy, sound and balanced environment,' with protection of this right being a ‘national duty.' The overarching failure to enforce building laws and regulations, and to enforce maintenance ordinances directly endangers civilians lives and property, two fundamental rights set forth in Articles 2 and 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that state: ‘everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.'"
-- Mary Casey