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NATO Leaders Call for Gadhafi’s Departure, Thousands Protest in Syria

President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a joint op-ed published in the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times saying their three nations “have been united from the start” and said allowing Moammar Gadhafi to remain in power “would be an unconscionable betrayal” of the Libyan people.

They defended the existing NATO mission, saying “tens of thousands of lives have been protected” but adding that “the people of Libya are still suffering terrible horrors” perpetrated by Gadhafi’s forces, especially in places like Ajdabiya and Misrata, where they described the weeks-old bombardment of the city as a “medieval siege.”

Despite the NATO air strikes, ground fighting has remained intense as opposition forces continue their campaign against government forces who are more heavily armed and financed. Rebels said 23 people died in Misrata Thursday and that civilians have been targeted by rocket attacks.

Thousands of Protesters Press Government in Syria

Demonstrators gathered Friday across Syria in another series of protests calling on the government of President Bashar Assad to implement reforms. Previous gatherings in the southern city of Daraa have been met by security forces who have used live ammunition and tear gas. Though numbers have been difficult to confirm because of restrictions on foreign media, some say 200 people have died in a month of unrest in Syria.

Assad has promised some reforms, including ending a decades-old state of emergency, but the overtures have done little to lessen the pace of protests.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States believes “that there is credible information that Iran is assisting Syria…in quelling the protesters,” a statement refuted by both the Iranian and Syrian governments. The relationship between Iran and Syria has been a source of concern in the region for the U.S. government. In 2009, a wave of demonstrations followed the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but was quelled.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement saying Assad “should insist that his police and military refrain from using violence against peaceful demonstrators and instead he should seize the opportunity to open a process of real discussion.”

Italian Activist Found Dead in Gaza

The body of a pro-Palestinian activist who was abducted and killed was found Friday in an empty house in Gaza, according to Hamas police, who said a radical group calling itself Tawhid and Jihad was responsible. The group had sent a letter to Hamas demanding the release of its leader and setting a deadline of late Friday. Autopsies indicate the hostage was killed before that deadline.

Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, had been living in Gaza since 2009, was well-known and protested Israel’s blockade of the area. Arrigoni kept a blog and posted a video explaining his work on YouTube. He had previously lived in Eastern Europe and Africa.

Tawhid and Jihad has not taken responsibility for his killing, and a video of him being held has not been independently verified. Hamas said it has one suspect in custody in connection with Arrigoni’s death.

Suicide Bombing Injuries 28 at Indonesia Mosque

A man blew himself up at a mosque in a police station in West Java, wounding 28 people gathered for Friday prayers. Witnesses said the man came in alongside others before detonating his explosive in their midst.

Indonesian police have battled extremists in the country in recent years. Among the most prominent attacks was the 2002 Bali night club bombing, which targeted foreign tourists. The government has stepped up its efforts to crackdown on militancy. Indonesia’s population of 237 million is largely Muslim but has a secular government.

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