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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Syrian Students Killed in Damascus Mortar Attack

At least 15 students died and another 20 were injured in a mortar attack of Damascus University’s College of Architecture today. Syria’s state televion blamed the attack on the regime’s opponents, who have increased the use of mortars in fighting in and around the capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization based in London, confirmed the deaths, without saying who had carried out the attack. The news came as the United Nations’ refugee agency said it was looking into reports that Turkey had deported hundreds of Syrians after violence in a refugee camp. “Turkey has no policy of deporting Syrians. It would be against our general policy of accommodating Syrians,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Levent Gumrukcu said. About 1.2 million Syrians have sought shelter in neighboring countries. Another 70,000 have already died in the two-year civil war.

Capital Control on Cypriot Banks to Last One Month

Crowds remained calm today in Cyprus as banks reopened after being closed since March 16. Bank employees expressed their surprise as customers kept their cool even in the face of strict controls and a much-feared run on deposits didn’t happen. The government imposed a curb on money transfers abroad and a cap on cash withdrawals, measures that Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said would be “lifted [...] gradually, probably over a period of about a month according to the estimates of the central bank.” The comments after the government said the restrictions would remain for about a week. The Central Bank of Cyprus reported depositors from other euro area nations moved 18 percent of their savings in February already. The European Central Bank flew in €5 billion ($6.4 billion) in cash to help Cypriot banks during the crisis last night.

U.N. to Send “Intervention Brigade” to DR Congo

For the first time, the United Nations (U.N.) will create an “offensive” brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) amid the 20,000 peacekeepers in the country. The U.N.’s “blue berets” have thus far been sent to keep the peace in conflict zones to help further peace processes, but never took an active military role. More than 2,500 troops will be allowed to engage in combat in order to “neutralize” and “disarm” rebel groups, among which the powerful M23, which have taken over the resource-rich east of the country, at the border with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The force will be deployed “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent,” the resolution said. Separately, the U.N. gave the DRC one week to deal with soldiers accused of raping as many as 126 women in the town of Minova last November as they fled the city of Goma, which has shortly occupied by M23 fighters.

U.S. Flies Stealth Bombers to South Korea in Show of Force

The U.S. flew two B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea in a military exercise in a thinly-veiled message to an increasingly bellicose North Korea, saying its army is able to conduct “long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will.” In recent weeks, North Korea has cut off all communications with South Korea, which it calls the U.S.’ “puppet” on the peninsula. It has also warned that it was preparing to attack U.S. bases in Hawaii, Guam and the mainland, all this after the U.S. led international efforts to increase economic sanctions on the South Asian country, following a third nuclear test last month. North Korea also voided an armistice signed in 1953 which technically paused the war with the south. Observers have described Pyongyang’s attitude as posturing and attention-seeking as the regime seeks to stop U.S. and South Korea’s joint military exercises. As a measure of precaution, new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the deployment of 14 new missile interceptors in Alaska and California earlier this month. Also today, Iran and Syria joined North Korea in blocking the adoption of a treaty that would regulate the $70 billion global arm trade at the United Nations.

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