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News Wrap: Refugees Flee Syria for Lebanon as Crackdown Extends

March 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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 HARI SREENIVASAN: The flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon accelerated today. The U.N. Refugee Agency estimated as many as 2,000 Syrians fled the region around Homs over the weekend. Amateur video showed smoke over Homs today, as government forces unleashed a new bombardment.

Elsewhere, anti-government protests were held in several cities denouncing the repression. Meanwhile, the Red Cross and Red Crescent were allowed to deliver aid in parts of Homs today.

U.S. Sen. John McCain called today for airstrikes against the Syrian regime. The Arizona Republican was the first senator to advocate that step. He said President Obama had taken too soft a stance.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces. The ultimate goal of airstrikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama administration has pressed for the U.N. Security Council to demand an end to the violence in Syria. So far, Russia and China have blocked action.

In Yemen, military officials reported at least 107 soldiers died in heavy fighting in the south over the weekend. They said more than 30 al-Qaida fighters were killed as well. On Sunday, the militants attacked army bases in Abyan Province. They seized weapons and turned them on government troops. The raids appeared to be aimed at a pledge by Yemen’s new president to fight the terror network.

Gunmen in western Iraq killed 25 police today in coordinated predawn attacks. Officials said the attackers wore military uniforms and used fake arrest warrants for police officials before killing them. They hit several sites in the former militant stronghold of Haditha, and raised the al-Qaida battle flag after one of the raids.

Emergency teams in the Republic of Congo struggled today to contain fires in the capital, Brazzaville. The fires broke out Sunday after an arms depot blew up, killing at least 200 people. The blast flattened homes, businesses and churches and sent hundreds of injured to the hospital. The government blamed the explosion on a fire ignited by a short-circuit.

The U.S. does have the legal authority to carry out targeted killings against American citizens on foreign soil. Attorney General Eric Holder laid out the justification today in a speech in Chicago. It came five months after a U.S. drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and al-Qaida operative in Yemen. Holder argued such acts are covered by a congressional resolution adopted a week after 9/11.

BP stock hit its highest level today in more than a year after word of a settlement in the Gulf oil spill. The company announced Friday that it expects to pay out at least $7.8 billion to compensate for lost wages, revenues and property damage. BP also will pay medical costs related to environmental illness, and will monitor health problems throughout the Gulf area.

As for the rest of Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 14 points to close at 12,962. The Nasdaq fell 25 points to close at 2,950.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh lost two more advertisers today after branding a law student a slut. That made nine in all. Limbaugh also apologized again. He said he should not have talked that way about a woman who urged insurance coverage for birth control. But Limbaugh went on to say, rappers can say anything they want about women. It’s called art, and they win awards.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.