Reports of Shelling in Syria Crackdown, Rising Mississippi River Flows South
Witnesses said the Syrian army is stepping up its crackdown in restive cities, shelling residential areas in Homs, the country’s third-largest city and home to some of the biggest anti-government demonstrations.
Security forces are reportedly using live ammunition and tanks in parts of the city, following up on early morning raids and mass arrests in recent days. President Bashar al-Assad has promised to put down the unrest, blaming the challenge to his government on extremist groups. The government has categorized protesters as part of “armed terrorist gangs.”
President Assad has said promised reforms would continue and that those arrested would be dealt with, but he has suggested that in order for changes to be implemented the protests must first cease.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has insisted that Assad “heed calls for reform and freedom and…desist from excessive force and mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators” and that international evaluators to be allowed into Daraa. The European Union has placed sanctions on some members of the Syrian government, though not on Assad directly.
Residents Along Mississippi River Brace for More Floods
After cresting in Memphis on Tuesday, the historically high Mississippi River flowed south toward Louisiana and Mississippi as residents moved to higher ground. Farmers were preparing for what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal predicted could be up to 3 million acres of flooded land.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre spillway in order to alleviate some of the pressure and divert water. The river’s crest could take days to reach Louisiana, where New Orleans residents are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
The levels seen this week are the highest on record since 1927, reaching almost 48 feet in Memphis.
President Obama has declared several counties disaster areas, making them eligible for federal aid. National Guard troops have been mobilized to help place sandbags and evacuate residents.
View a photo essay of “The Mighty Mississippi.”
Libya Rebels Claim Major Gains in Misrata
Rebel forces say Moammar Gadhafi’s forces have been pushed back in the contested city of Misrata, where they claim to have gained control of the city’s airport in a “major victory.” Witnesses say hundreds of rebels could be seen celebrating in the streets of Misrata.
Misrata, about 125 miles from Tripoli, is the only city in the western part of the country where the rebels have some control. Its port has been a main lifeline during the government’s siege, with few humanitarian supplies going in or out.
NATO has stepped up its air campaign in recent days, with more strikes on the capital city of Tripoli.
Iran Postpones Trial of Detained Hikers
A picture obtained from Iran’s state-run English-language Press TV shows detained hikers Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal waiting to meet their mothers for the first time since their arrest in Tehran on May 20, 2010. AFP/Getty Images/Press TV.
A lawyer for the three American hikers arrested in Iran said their trial on charges of espionage has been postponed, though no official reason was given. The lawyer also said he has not been given access to his clients, whom he believes are suffering from health problems, in several months.
Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were taken into custody in July 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border. Shourd was later released, though she is still considered part of the trial. All three claim that any crossing into Iranian territory would have been purely accidental, while Iran’s government accuses them of spying. Chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari said they had “equipment and documents and received training.”
If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison.