The week at a glance...International
Homs, Syria Shelling continues: Despite agreeing to a U.N. cease-fire, Syrian forces continued shelling the opposition-held city of Homs this week, killing more than a dozen people. The attacks came as the first members of a 30-person unarmed U.N. observation team began arriving in Syria to monitor the truce. Meanwhile, the Friends of Syria, a group of 57 countries supporting the opposition, said international sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, including an oil embargo and a banking freeze, were starting to bite. Diplomats’ wives made an online video aimed at Assad’s British-born wife, Asma, urging her to “stop your husband” and “stop being a bystander” while Syrian women and children are being killed.
Jerusalem Soldier attacks protester: Video of an Israeli soldier’s attack on a pro-Palestinian activist went viral across Israel this week, prompting national soul-searching over how the country deals with protesters. In the video, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner is seen smashing a Danish activist in the face with his rifle, apparently unprovoked. Eisner said a group of European protesters had attacked him with sticks. He was promptly suspended, and his behavior was condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Any reasonable viewer who sees the clip asks himself how many such incidents take place where there is no documentation, and how the army responds when there is no conclusive and public proof of unjustified violence,” said Ofer Shelah, a military columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth.
Cairo Candidates banned: Citing technicalities, Egyptian election officials have disqualified nearly half of the candidates running in next month’s presidential election. Among those banned were the main Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Khairat el-Shater; Salafist candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail; and Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief for former President Hosni Mubarak. Activists from across the political spectrum said the rulings show that the old regime retains control of Egypt. “A nation is being robbed, and a people’s will is being forged,” said el-Shater. The Muslim Brotherhood’s fallback candidate, Mohammed Mursi, is among those still in the running, along with former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
Heglig, Sudan Battle along the border: Clashes between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces over the disputed oil fields near their border have raised fears that the two countries are returning to all-out war. South Sudan seized the contested oil-producing Heglig region last week, and this week the Sudanese government called South Sudan an “enemy” and ordered the area retaken. It’s the worst fighting since South Sudan won independence last year, after some 2 million people were killed in two decades of civil war. The U.N. Security Council called for Sudan to stop airstrikes and for South Sudan to withdraw from Heglig.
Bannu, Pakistan Taliban prison break: In the largest jailbreak in Pakistani history, some 150 Taliban militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and guns stormed a prison in northwest Pakistan this week and freed nearly 400 prisoners, most of them fellow militants. The gunmen drove up in a convoy of pickups before dawn and blasted through the main gate and the prison walls, sparking a two-hour firefight with guards. One of those freed was notorious Taliban member Adnan Rashid, jailed for trying to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf. All of the attackers got away, along with their liberated confederates. Pakistani officials called the attack a “total failure of intelligence,” and provincial prison officials were fired.