On Wednesday, President Saleh of Yemensigned an agreement to end his 33 year rule in exchange for immunity from prosecution from Saudi Arabia, officially handing over power to his Vice President al-Hadi; a move the UN Security Council welcomed. On Thursday, thousands took to the streets in the capital when alleged pro-government gunmen opened fire, killing five people in Sanaa, while the army reportedly killed 17 Islamists in the south. Cracks are said to be emerging between the anti-Saleh camps, potentially leading to further violence. On Friday, heavy fighting reportedly broke out in Sanaa between security forces and army defectors, with at least two killed. On Saturday, President Saleh returned to the country, amid confusion over his continued role in the country’s politics. Saleh’s son and three nephews still hold powerful posts in the security services and Saleh himself will retain the title of President until an election can be held, though his responsibilities and privileges are unclear. Al-Hadi issued a statement setting February 21st for the election of an interim President, in which he appears to be the only real candidate. On Monday, Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman urged the ICC prosecutor to launch an investigation into the violent crackdown on dissent in the country, though Yemen has not signed the Rome Statute to the ICC. Police and plain-clothed pro-government forces reportedly shot and wounded three protesters on Monday in the southeast; while the VP named opposition leader Mohammed Basindwa as the country’s new interim PM. On Wednesday, fighting between Shi’ite rebels and Sunni Islamists wounded at least 26 people in northern Yemen. At least 13 people were killed during violent clashes between loyalist forces and dissident tribesmen in Taiz on Thursday; while Yemen’s opposition announced that it agreed to the lineup of an interim government with outgoing President Saleh’s party. On Friday, at least 3 people were killed again in Taiz, with residents blaming government troops for shelling the city from surrounding mountains as thousands gathered for an anti-government rally.
Some 15 people were allegedly killed as armoured vehicles stormed a rural area in Homs province, Syria on Thursday, while Arab foreign ministers gave the government until Friday to sign a protocol admitting international observers into the country or face sanctions. On Friday, the military vowed to “cut every evil hand that targets Syrian blood”, while missing the Arab League’s deadline. Violent protests continued, with as many as 19 people killed. On Saturday the Arab League met to discuss what measures to take, potentially including a cut to commercial ties with Syria and a freezing of all its assets, while some 27 civilians were reportedly killed by security forces in Homs and Qusayr and army deserters killed 12 soldiers in an attack on a convoy in the north. The Syrian government denounced the sanctions as “economic war” and hinted at retaliation. The UN humanitarian coordinator said that “humanitarian corridors” to help civilians affected by the current unrest are not justified, though on Monday the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria officially reported that Syrian troops have committed “crimes against humanity” including the murder of hundreds of children and thousands of adults, torture and rape. On Wednesday, Turkey said it had suspended all financial credit dealings with Syria and frozen all Syrian government assets; the Syrian government announced that it had released 912 prisoners detained for involvement in protests; and seven soldiers were killed by army renegades and six civilians were shot dead in fighting between security forces and defectors. On Thursday, the EU imposed tougher sanctions on Syria’s oil and financial sectors and added 11 entities and 12 people to the EU blacklist in response to the government’s violent crackdown on dissent. On Friday, the UN’s top human rights body appointed a special investigator to probe abuses in Syria in an emergency session of the group, while the UN’s human rights chief called for the situation to be referred to the ICC amid a series of large protests calling for the international community to establish buffer zones to protect civilians; Russia reportedly delivered $300 million worth of anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria’s regime; and French authorities have announced they will be increasing security for Syrian opposition members in France who have come under threat in recent days.
The PM in Lebanonhas threatened to resign unless his government agrees to pay Lebanon’s share of funding for the UN backed court investigation of the killing of al-Hariri, which indicted four Hezbollah members in the attack. Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing. Hezbollah has enough votes to block any decision and has previously stated it will oppose the funding. On Tuesday, several rockets reportedly fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel, with no immediate casualties; the first in months across the turbulent border. Israel responded by firing several missiles into the southern Lebanese town of Ayta Shaab. On Wednesday, politicians announced that they had reached a deal to fund the UN backed court investigating the al-Hariri killing through the Higher Organization for Aid, the country’s natural disaster and humanitarian relief fund.
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