The week at a glance...International
Abidjan, Ivory Coast Civil war: Clashes between rival armies in Ivory Coast worsened this week, sparking fears of all-out civil war. The clashes began in November after former President Laurent Gbagbo lost his re-election bid to Alassane Ouattara but refused to leave the presidential palace. Ouattara, the internationally recognized president, commands the loyalty of a militia made up of former rebels and army dissenters, which he says is now the legitimate force in the country. This week, the U.N. said Gbagbo was readying an attack helicopter and rocket launchers for possible use against civilians. Hundreds have a lready been killed in the fighting, and hundreds of thousands are trying to flee the country.
CairoConstitution changed: Egyptians overwhelmingly approved amendments to their constitution this week by a vote of 77 percent. The changes limit a president to two four-year terms and make it easier for independents to run for office. Untouched is a part of the constitution that names Islam as the primary source of national legislation. The vote all but assures that national elections will be held as soon as September, favoring the two groups that currently have the most developed political organizations: the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest Islamist movement, and the National Democratic Party, the party of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak. Some of the youth activists who led the revolution had opposed the amendments, favoring a longer transition under military rule and a more secular constitution.
Gaza StripRockets and retaliation: In a sudden upswing in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets deep into Israeli territory this week, prompting retaliatory shelling and airstrikes. At least four Palestinians were killed, including three children who were playing soccer outside their home. Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, called the killings a “massacre” and a “war crime.” In Jerusalem, a large bomb exploded at a bus stop, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others, several seriously, in the first such attack in several years. Analysts said Hamas appeared to have ended the cease-fire that had held since the Israeli military operation in Gaza ended in 2009.
Daraa, SyriaNext uprising: Syrian security forces this week killed at least six anti-regime protesters who had taken refuge in a mosque in this southern city, marking a dangerous new phase in demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. “They are shooting,” one protester in the mosque told a reporter by telephone. “Killing, killing, and more killing.” The protests escalated last week after the arrest of more than a dozen schoolchildren and soon spread to other cities, where demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners and the abolition of Syria’s 48-year emergency rule. Assad, who succeeded his father 11 years ago, is seen as a relative moderate, but his Baath Party has dominated Syria since 1963 with brutal, police-state repression.
KabulShocking photos: NATO officials braced for a backlash in Afghanistan this week after the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel published graphic photos of smiling U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses of Afghan civilians. Five U.S. soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, are being court-martialed on charges of seeking out and murdering three civilians for fun last year. The case is based largely on the testimony of one of the soldiers, who confessed to his father that he and others in his unit were targeting civilians and manufacturing evidence to make it appear they were under attack. The Army said in a statement that the photos depict “actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army. We apologize for the distress these photos cause.”
North Waziristan, PakistanU.S. kills dozens: Thousands of angry Pakistanis took to the streets chanting, “America, leave,” this week after a U.S. drone strike killed up to 48 people in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan. The U.S. said the dead were Taliban militants, but Pakistani authorities said that the drone struck a traditional jirga gathering, where tribal elders had come to discuss how to share the proceeds from a local mineral mine, and that children were among the victims. The attack was targeted “carelessly and callously,” Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, said in an unusually harsh condemnation of the U.S. action. “The drones are fomenting hatred against the government and turning the people against America,” a Waziristan shopkeeper told NPR. “We are killed by drones and then labeled as terrorists.”
SydneyVictim slams bully: A pudgy 15-year-old Australian became an international hero after a video was posted on the Web of him fighting back against a bully. Casey Heynes said he was surrounded by a group of younger kids who taunted and teased him, and when one of them started throwing punches, he “snapped,” picked the kid up, and hurled him to the ground. Heynes told Australian television he’d been bullied for years. “They called me ‘fattie,’” he said, “slapped me on the back of the head, and tripped me.” He said he was once duct-taped to a pole. The 12-year-old bully who was body-slammed suffered only a scraped knee. Both boys were suspended for fighting.