Investigators of the OPCW/ U.N. fact-finding team dispatched last year were attacked Tuesday by rebel factions. No one was harmed but one vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb. The team was en route to Kfar Zeita to investigate a chlorine attack and a ceasefire had been agreed upon for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to allow the team to work. Assad’s regime is behind schedule on the elimination of chemical weapons, having only sent away 8% of their stock.
Under Assad’s scorched earth approach to rebel elimination, Syria’s oldest synagogue was destroyed this past weekend by an air raid, which flattened the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, a rebel stronghold. The Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue was 400 years old and contained many relics of the faith, which are all presumed to be lost. An estimated 33 churches, hundreds of mosques, and 6 UNESCO world heritage sites have been destroyed since the start of the civil war three years ago.
Li Zhifei, head of a rhino horn and elephant ivory smuggling ring, was arrested Tuesday when he tried to bring in 30 horns which amounted to $4.5 million to American dealers. The pieces were hidden in porcelain vases. The trade of rhino horn and ivory has been prohibited by international law since the 1970s. He is being jailed for 6 years as well as paying a fine of $3.5 million before his deportation.
Muslim Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic have carried out an attack in the capital of Bangui, killing 11 people in a church. There is great animosity between the Muslim and Christian groups in the CAR since the outbreak of civil war in 2012 when the Beleka demanded the resignation of president Boizize. The violence then expanded to more religious lines with the Christian militant group Anti-Balaka pitted against the Seleka. Violence has increasingly spread to civilian populations in recent months.
As expected by the international community, former General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has won a landslide victory in the Egyptian election, the first since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood last year. The 93% majority outcome is not surprising, as the only opposition to al-Sisi was made illegal and stripped and imprisoned. Turnout for the election was lower than in previous years and experts fear the new culture of protest and revolution in Egpyt as a hindrance to democratic ideals and paving the way for another harsh dictatorship.
In response to Nicolas Maduro’s harsh dealings with the recent protests across Venezuela, the United States House has placed sanctions on the regime, against the wishes of the White House, which believes such measures would worsen the situation. “The legislation calls for a travel ban on some members of the Venezuelan government and for their assets in US banks to be frozen.” The protests began this past February with protesters blaming failed left-wing policies for high inflation, crime and the shortage of many staples. “Mr Maduro says right-wing sectors inside and outside Venezuela had come together to create dissent and destabilise his government.”
According to the Twitter account of @abusulayman321, an American citizen is responsible for a recent suicide bombing in Syria. The State Department says if this is true, it would be the first case of an American suicide bomber in the civil war. He was allegedly a militant for Jabhat al-Nusra, an al Qaeda’s affiliate. The issue of westerners fighting in the war is not a recent development. There is a rebel regime composed of British citizens in Syria, which has been among the most violent and lead to the British to prohibit travel to the country. The largest security concern is the return of these citizens.
The government of Iran has released a statement denying the allegations made by a recent Wall Street Journal investigation that claims Iran, “has kept active and intact its core team of weaponization researchers.” Iran claims the WSJ is simply repeating the false claims of an internal terrorist group and the allegations are baseless. “The statement also said that Tehran has lived up to its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
The government of South Sudan has said it has received loans from oil companies to offset the economic losses of their decreasing oil production due to the recent civil war, which began in December 2013 when the President accused the Vice President of a coup and the two split the country along ethnic lines with President Salva Kiir’s forces representing the Dinka majority, and Riek Machar’s backing representing the Nuer group.
Argentina has reached a deal with the international credit group to repay its loans and overdue debts over 5 years. The first payment of at least $1.15 billion is due May 2015 and the next a year after. The Paris Club is usually a last ditch effort for countries in such a position and Argentina has been forced to go this route after defaulter on $102 billion of public debt in 2001 shunned other international lenders. The Paris Club is an unofficial group composed of Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and USA.