The United Nations has released a report finding that at least 191,369 people have been killed since the start of Syria's conflict in March 2011 through April. Data from four groups, including human rights organizations, and the Syrian government was used to determine the estimate, which was more than double the number of deaths documented in 2013. Though, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the count is likely an underestimate. Meanwhile, the Syrian army has sent reinforcements to its airbase at Tabqa, about 25 miles east of the northeastern city of Raqqa, to counter an attack by Islamic State fighters. The base is the government's last major position in the area, which is mostly held by Islamic State militants.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched attacks Friday in efforts to reclaim two northern towns from Islamic State militants. Kurdish pesh merga fighters, supported by U.S. air forces, over took a district near Jalawla while Iraqi troops and fighter planes advanced toward Saadiya, both areas near the Kurdish region. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are suggesting the possibility of wider operations against the Islamic State. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, said Thursday that the Islamic State could not be defeated without dealing with its militants in Syria. However, he said he was not predicting the United States would conduct airstrikes in Syria, as the military has carried out recently in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described the Islamic State as an imminent threat and did not rule out military action noting, "We're looking at all options."
- Two tourist buses crashed near a Red Sea resort about 31 miles from the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh killing at least 33 people and wounding 41 others Friday.
- The United States, Britain, France, and Germany are discussing drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Gaza conflict calling for a cease-fire meanwhile Hamas has executed 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.
- Iranian authorities have released an Iranian-American photojournalist who was arrested in July alongside Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi.
Arguments and Analysis
'Iran: Dried out' (Najmeh Bozorgmehr, The Financial Times)
"The drying out of the river means about 2m people - 40 per cent of the population - in the Zayandeh Roud basin who depend on agriculture have lost their income, says Mostafa Hajjeh-Foroush, head of the agriculture committee of the Isfahan Chamber of Commerce. 'If this situation continues they should think of changing jobs,' he adds.
The water that disappeared - a result largely of mismanagement and overuse rather than drought - is stored at the Zayandeh Roud dam and diverted for domestic and industrial consumption, leaving the city's 11 river bridges standing as symbols of what is missing."
'Sisi Victorious (with apologies to the late Ossie Davis)' (Ellis Goldberg, nisralnasr)
"While the most common optic used to view events in the region remains that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has also become increasingly fashionable to think in terms of a struggle for influence between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (aided by its friends in the United Arab Emirates) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (with an occasional assist from Qatar). Through these lenses Egypt is no longer an independent player in the Arab world but merely a dependent supplicant for favor in a conflict between far more powerful forces. While this may be true to some degree, it ignores how rapidly Egyptian diplomacy has used the assets-meager as they may be-at its disposal to reverse the negative impact of the criminal violence through which the current regime came to power. Whether this is due to remarkable skill or dumb luck remains to be seen, but the new government has done a superb job of taking advantage of opportunities."
-- Mary Casey
KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images