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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
9 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Rev. Ziad Hilal, S.J., has been working tirelessly to ease the suffering of those who remain in Homs. To read more about his work, especially with children growing up in the crosshairs of snipers, read his Letter From Syria in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Jesuit priest’s work continues in Homs (Vatican Radio) A month after the Jesuit Rev. Frans van der Lugt was murdered in the Syrian city of Homs, his friend and fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Ziad Hilal, is continuing his tireless humanitarian work…

Pope: Church in Ethiopia, Eritrea a witness to unity (Vatican Radio) The church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a unique example of “witness to the unity of the people of God.” Though from different countries and different rites, “each with its own particular richness” shares the same mission of service of Christ and his church. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ address to the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea on their pilgrimage…

Lebanon deports Palestinians back to Syria (Al Jazeera) Lebanon’s General Security department has forcibly deported 41 Palestinian refugees back to Syria, despite the fact that they had entered the country legally. The move on 4 May ran counter to an earlier decision by the Lebanese government to not deport any refugee back to Syria under any circumstances. Lebanese authorities pointed out that the arrests and the following deportation was due to the fact that the detainees held forged visas to Libya. After long hours of interrogation at Beirut International Airport, a decision was made to deport the group…

Evidence mounts: Syrian regime hasn’t abandoned chemical weapons (Der Spiegel) Although Damascus has turned over 92.5 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin, as agreed, reports indicate it continues to deploy poison gas against the Syrian people. Given chlorine’s use in everyday products, it isn’t included in the list of weapons the regime has agreed to place under international control. Its deployment against humans is nonetheless prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Syria is a signatory. At least 10 chlorine gas attacks have been carried out since April 10 in the border areas of the Idlib and Hama provinces…

Egypt’s Sisi tells media not to push for democratic reforms (Al Jazeera) Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the country’s former military chief, warned newspaper editors Thursday not to cover freedom-of-speech issues or press for other democratic reforms, as such actions could lead to protests that jeopardize national security…

Ukraine’s political divisions play out among its Orthodox congregations (Christian Science Monitor) As Ukraine’s political divisions play out on the geopolitical stage, the country also faces an unsettling schism among its main churchgoers. And, as with national politics, a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-Moscow factions may be fueling the centrifugal forces that threaten to unravel Ukraine…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Christian Unity Eritrea Ethiopian Christianity

6 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Krak des Chevaliers, pictured here in 2010, has stood for nearly a millennium near the Syrian city of Homs. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Krak des Chevaliers: Priceless castle battered by Syria’s civil war (Christian Science Monitor) The Krak des Chevaliers once held off a siege by the Muslim warrior Saladin some 900 years ago, but today bears the wounds of modern warfare — heavy artillery damaged its walls, an airstrike punctured its roof, and shrapnel tore through its religious artifacts. From its towering hilltop perch in western Syria, the world’s best preserved medieval Crusader castle has fallen victim to the chaos of Syria’s civil war as rebels fight to topple President Bashar al Assad. The damage done to the majestic stone structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, shows that the warring sides will stop at nothing, including the destruction of the country’s rich heritage, to hold on to power or territory.

Syrian government says Maaloula’s sites sacked by rebels (Al Monitor) An official report issued by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums for the Rif Damascus governorate revealed the destruction inflicted upon the city of Maaloula and its historical Christian sites, weeks after the army regained control of the city. This report was issued after a visit made by a specialized mission of the Directorate to probe the level of losses incurred by the city. The “armed opposition” has damaged historical Christian sites in the city, destroyed sites and altars, painted over traditional icons and paintings, removed and burned crosses, searched for treasures under altars and in tombs, and searched among the remains of monks and nuns…

In Syria, activists in Raqqa try to confront militant Islamist group (Los Angeles Times) In the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the main commercial street was busy. Shops were open, with customers strolling the aisles, and cars filled the streets. Only a few dozen stores were closed. It wasn’t what activists had hoped for when they called for a citywide strike among business owners on Saturday to protest a tax imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has demanded payment in exchange for electricity, water, street cleaning and protection. Though shop owners chafed at the imposition of a “protection tax,” they feared retribution from the Al Qaeda offshoot group for any act of defiance…

Whose water is it anyways? Resentment pools on Israel-Lebanon border (Christian Science Monitor) The Israeli-Lebanese border has enjoyed a rare, eight-year spell of calm, but worsening water shortages threaten to spark tensions once again. A sealed well used for more than a century by residents of Blida, a small village in southern Lebanon, has found itself on the wrong side of the border as water shortages entice local farmers to tap it. A few miles east along the border, another territorial dispute looms at a Lebanese tourist site beside the Hasbani river, which flows into Israel…

Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II to visit Rome (VIS) His Holiness Karekin II, head of the of the Catholicate of Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church will visit Rome from 7 to 9 May to meet with Pope Francis. The Armenian Church consists of two catholicates and two patriarchates, and around six million faithful. The two catholicates — the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia and the Great House Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon — are in full communion, but they are independent from an administrative point of view…

Mayor of Baghdad: No discrimination against Christians in housing initiative (Fides) The mayor of Baghdad, Abub Naim al Kaabi, has made known his intention to make available public land and housing for low-income Christians in the city. The initiative, according to sources close to the Chaldean Patriarchate, is politically sponsored by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who said: “We will give the keys of prefabricated houses to the citizens without any discrimination…”



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Syrian Civil War Israel Armenian Apostolic Church

30 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




This March 25 photo shows a hospital at Al Azraq, the new Syrian refugee camp east of Amman, which opened today. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Jordan opens new Syrian refugee camp (The Guardian) The Jordanian government and the U.N. have officially opened a new camp for refugees from the war in Syria, with the potential to become one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Although the first refugees began arriving on Monday — 437 so far — the camp, which currently has shelters for 25,000 and infrastructure for 50,000, has been designed to expand to 130,000 if necessary. The camp is 12 miles west of the town of Azraq in the country’s Zerqa governorate, about 60 miles from the capital Amman. Jordan has 600,000 registered refugees in total. The new camp is designed to take the pressure off Zaatari camp, which itself has a population of 100,000 and has reached capacity…

Syria conflict: Dozens die in explosions in Homs (BBC) At least 37 people have been killed in explosions in the Syrian city of Homs, officials say. The attacks, which involved at least one car bomb, also injured dozens. Earlier, at least 14 people were killed and more than 80 wounded in a mortar attack on a technical institute in central Damascus. The attacks come a day after President Bashar al Assad registered to stand for re-election, defying calls to step down as a way of ending Syria’s civil war…

Ecumenical patriarch restates Orthodox condemnation of nationalism (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “It must be remembered that the Orthodox Church issued a synodical condemnation of nationalism way back in 1872, and has done so in numerous occasions since then. The concept of the nation cannot become a determining factor of church life or an axis of church organization. Whenever an Orthodox church succumbs to nationalist rhetoric and lends support to racial tendencies, it loses sight of the authentic theological principles and gives in to a fallen mindset, totally alien to the core of Orthodoxy,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at a 24 April address in the Netherlands…

On eve of elections, Iraq’s waters become weapons of war (Al Monitor) In Iraq, government and terrorist groups have been using water as a tool in their ongoing conflict. Ironically, Baghdad has been divided in two for several days: One part is suffering from water scarcity, while the other part is flooded. In another development two weeks ago, bomb attacks targeted gas pipelines linked to Tikrit, 100 miles north of Baghdad. This led to heavy contamination of the Tigris River…

India’s first Russian Orthodox church in Delhi (The Times of India) The construction of India’s first Russian Orthodox church will soon begin in the capital, a top Russian diplomat said here. One of the largest of the Orthodox congregations, the Russian Orthodox Church had launched a parish here in 2011 but has so far operated out of the Russian embassy premises. “It will be constructed quite soon, and what is required now are the financial inputs for the project from Moscow,” said Sergey Karmalito, senior counselor at the Russian embassy…



Tags: India Iraq Syrian Civil War Jordan Refugee Camps

29 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




An Iraqi woman living in Jordan casts her ballot at a polling station in a government school in Amman on 27 April. Iraqi Catholic refugees, along with their exiled countrymen, are voting in the first parliamentary polls since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from their nation. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Sectarian strife casts a shadow over Iraqi elections (Al Jazeera) As Iraq heads toward its first national elections since the U.S. military withdrew its forces at the end of 2011, deep-rooted sectarian divisions and bloody violence spilling over from neighboring Syria threaten to upend any fragile gains made over the years since Saddam was routed…

Chaldean patriarch fears for Iraqi Christian presence (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I says he is seriously concerned over the continuing decline of Christian presence in the country: “If measures are not taken soon, in 10 years’ time there will only be a few thousand Christians left in Iraq…”

Syria’s Assyrians threatened by extremists (AINA) The heated situation in the Middle East is burdening Christians in general, and Assyrian Christians in particular — chiefly belonging to the Chaldean Church and the Church of the East — amid growing talk about the danger of yet another wave of displacement. The number of Assyrians in Syria is estimated at 400,000, and they are distributed mainly between Hassake, Qamishli, Malikiyah and Aleppo. Assyrians are less present in Damascus and Sednaya, and 350,000 Assyrians live abroad…

Breathing new life into Lebanon’s ancient art of glassblowing (Christian Science Monitor) Glassblowing, a 2,000-year-old tradition that dates back to the Phoenicians and got its early start in Lebanon, was on the brink of extinction here just six months ago. But thanks to an innovative new recycling project, the country’s last glassblowing family has gotten more work in the past five months than the past five years combined. The craft’s revival is a triumph of cooperation in a country increasingly buffeted by the Syrian war and internal political tensions…

‘A Good Start’: Analyzing Erdogan’s genocide comments (Der Spiegel) Nearly a hundred years after the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman soldiers, Turkey’s prime minister spoke last week for the first time of the “suffering” of the victims. In an interview, Hayko Bagdat, a 38-year-old Turkish-Armenian journalist, discusses the significance of Erdogan’s statement…



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Iraqi Christians Assyrian Church Democracy

28 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 20 April photo, Catholic Suheir Saliba, left, prays beside her Greek Orthodox sister-in-law, Maha Kamal, during the Easter Divine Liturgy in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Jifna, West Bank. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Christian Palestinians reject calls to join Israeli army (Pravmir) Representatives of Orthodox national institutions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories have rejected the recruitment of Christians in the Israeli army yesterday. At a meeting in Jerusalem the foundations emphasized that the churches, Christian institutions and members of Christian denominations strongly reject service in the Israeli army on the basis of ethical, humanitarian and national considerations…

Christians who fled Syria marking Easter in Chicago area (Chicago Tribune) Easter is bittersweet for refugees. They fear for their loved ones overseas. They worry their mass exodus will diffuse their culture and identity. And they note the paradox in fleeing Syria, a cradle of ancient Christendom, in order to worship freely…

Mayor in eastern Ukraine shot as pro-Russian militants gain ground (Washington Post) The mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was shot in the back Monday while taking a morning swim and is now in surgery “fighting for his life,” according reports from city council members and Ukrainian media. Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes is known through social media as a flamboyant character who was a staunch supporter and beneficiary of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych…

Vow of freedom of religion goes unkept in Egypt (New York Times) The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades. Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion…

Egyptian court sentences 683 people to death (Al Jazeera) An Egyptian judge has sentenced 683 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death, including the group’s supreme guide, Muhammad Badie, and confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters previously condemned. Outside the courtroom on Monday, when news of the sentences broke, families of the accused began to scream and several women fainted, falling to the ground. Muhammad Elmessiry, an Amnesty International researcher monitoring the cases, said they “lacked basic fair trial guarantees…”

Ankara sends condolences to Armenians for massacres (AsiaNews) For the first time, the Turkish government has presented its “condolences” to the descendants of the Armenians for the “suffering” of the “difficult period” of the last years of the Ottoman Empire. The message — despite its significance — never uses the term “genocide,” which Turkey absolutely denies…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Middle East Christians Turkey Palestinians

25 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal describes his experiences visiting the regime-controlled side of Aleppo, Syria's largest city. Though some areas showed signs of normalcy, in others the wreckage from the civil war was ever present. (video: Sam Dagher/WSJ)

Syria civil war forces brutal split in Aleppo (Wall Street Journal) Once a vibrant mercantile and cultural center, Aleppo today is a city physically partitioned and traumatized by war. It stands as exhibit A in what Syria’s civil war has become: A ghastly, grinding stalemate in which noncombatants are paying the highest price…

Photos: Syrian refugees’ treacherous hike to safety in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) As the late-day sun slipped behind the mountains in front of them, a ragtag group of around a dozen Syrians desperate to flee their country’s bloody civil war set off on their treacherous nighttime trek across the rugged frontier into neighboring Lebanon. Ahead of them: at least a nine-hour climb in darkness up — and down — the 9,232-foot Mount Hermon. Once in Lebanon, they will join the more than 2.5 million other Syrians across the region who have escaped the civil war in their homeland to begin the life of a refugee…

Tensions rising in East-West as Russian troops gather at Ukraine’s border (Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising in the most serious East-West confrontation since the collapse of the Soviet Union with Russia moving tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, while the NATO military alliance is boosting its presence in several nearby Eastern European countries…

Gaza quiet after Palestinian reconciliation deal (Al Monitor) Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Gaza’s government, declared the end of the seven-year Palestinian split between Fatah and Hamas and agreed to form a unity government in five weeks to prepare for elections at the end of 2014. In contrast to the applause that rose in the conference room attached to Mr. Haniyeh’s home, Gaza’s streets were quiet. Unlike with previous agreements, no celebratory atmosphere erupted in the Gaza Strip. Activist Samah Ahmed, who held a Palestinian flag and went to Jundi Square with others, explains: “We expected big celebrations, but we only found ourselves there. People have lost confidence in these agreements because they previously failed…”



Tags: Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Palestine Aleppo

24 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this August 2013 image, a Syrian Armenian refugee sits on a bed in her apartment in Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave on the eastern suburbs of Beirut. (photo: Dalia Khamissy)

Following the global Armenian diaspora (New York Times) While Armenians had long settled in other parts of the world, the violence of the Armenian genocide in Turkey — begun 99 years ago — set in motion a global exodus that has established communities in many corners of the world. Through her own travels and curiosity, Scout Tufankjian has come to appreciate that diaspora’s diversity, which she saw as a much-needed addition to the traditional historical view of her people…

In Syria, war is woven into childhood (Los Angeles Times) Child soldiers hold rifles in a land where cemeteries fill with tiny graves and kids pretend to dodge sniper bullets for fun. Syrians talk about a “lost generation” of their children, an innocence stolen in the three-year conflict between opposition forces and the government of Bashar al Assad…

Clashes in eastern Ukraine intensify (Washington Post) Ukrainian security forces killed “up to five” pro-Russian activists Thursday in the restive eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned any use of the Ukrainian military against its own citizens. The Russian military launched “tactical drills” Thursday in the regions bordering Ukraine in response to events across the border, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting in Moscow…

In besieged Gaza, Palestinian unity deal sparks hope, caution (Al Jazeera) Shock, disbelief, elation and a surge of giddy optimism were among the reactions of Gazans to Wednesday’s news that Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form a unity government that, if implemented, would end the seven-year schism that separated Gaza from the West Bank. An Israeli airstrike on the besieged enclave the same day, however, served as a reminder of the scale of the challenges that lie ahead…

Why Israel may need to rethink its assumptions on Palestinian unity (Christian Science Monitor) “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] must decide if he wants to make peace, and if so, with whom. It is impossible to make peace with Israel as well as with Hamas, a terrorist organization advocating for Israel’s destruction,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “Signing an agreement of a Fatah-Hamas unity government is tantamount to [calling off] negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” Israel’s approach rests on two assumptions: that Mr. Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah, could enforce a peace deal without reconciling with Hamas; and that Hamas would never give up its stated intention to destroy Israel. Both may need rethinking…



Tags: Ukraine Children Syrian Civil War Armenia Israeli-Palestinian conflict

23 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




As Pope Francis’ newly appointed second secretary, Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid will assist with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondences in the pope’s name. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis names Coptic priest second personal secretary (National Catholic Register) Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis. The position is among the pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position…

Statement on the anniversary of the Syrian bishops’ abduction (Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America) “We … express our grave concern over the escalation of unrest and ongoing violence in countries throughout the Middle East, especially in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. … One year ago, on 22 April 2013, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped by Islamist extremists during a joint philanthropic mission in the region. … For the safety of Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop John and for their return to their communities, let us pray to the Lord…”

More rockets hit Bekaa Valley towns (Daily Star Lebanon) Rockets from Syria hit two Bekaa Valley villages early Wednesday shortly after a Syrian warplane raided the outskirts of a border town known for its support for Syrian opposition fighters. A Lebanese army statement said a Syrian jet fired three rockets into the barren terrain surrounding Arsal shortly before midnight. Less than 20 minutes later, three rockets fired from the mountains targeted the Bekaa towns of Labweh and Nabi Othman, the statement added…

Palestinian factions announce deal on unity government (New York Times) The two main Palestinian factions announced an agreement on Wednesday to heal a seven-year schism and form a unity government within five weeks that would prepare for Palestinian elections six months later. The two groups — the Palestine Liberation Organization, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip — have reached similar accords before that were never carried out…

Tilt towards military unbalances Egypt’s ultra-conservative Salafists (Christian Science Monitor) When Egyptian military leader Abdel Fattah al Sisi made a televised address last July to announce the overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi, he was flanked by a coterie of the country’s most powerful religious figures. To his right sat the pope of the Coptic Church and the grand sheikh of Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning. Neither was a surprise to Egyptians. Less expected was the third religious leader: Galal el Morra, a prominent member of Egypt’s Salafist movement, which espouses a puritanical vision of Islam. This appearance may have been the high tide mark for the Salafists, who have been fractured and dislocated by the post-Morsi political shakedown…



Tags: Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Palestine Coptic Catholic Church

22 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 14 January photo, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II receives Egypt’s minister of Irrigation and Water Resources to discuss the Ethiopian dam project and its impact on the relationship between the two nations. (photo: Coptic Orthodox Church)

Coptic pope advises Ethiopian patriarch to postpone visit (Daily Sabah) Patriarch Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has indefinitely postponed a visit he was scheduled to pay to Cairo on Friday upon a request from the Coptic Orthodox Church, a source with the Egyptian church said Monday. According to the source, who asked not to be named, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II had advised his Ethiopian counterpart to postpone the visit due to concerns stemming from the dispute over Ethiopia’s controversial multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam on the Nile River…

Aleppo’s children struggle to stay in school (Al Monitor) An unofficial survey conducted by a group of activists from civil society organizations in Aleppo determined that half of the schools in the city and surrounding countryside were badly damaged or destroyed. The damage has come mostly from Syrian regime shelling against armed opposition groups that used some schools close to military front lines as headquarters…

Syria: Rebels resist in Homs, Christians commemorate abductions (Vatican Radio) Syrian rebels are making their last desperate stand in the city of Homs, as government forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad make their strongest push yet to dislodge them from their positions in the city that was an early and important hub of unrest…

Maronite patriarch calls on international community to end war (SANA) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch and All the East reiterated his call on international community “to stop the terrorist war in Syria.” In a speech after the Divine Liturgy in Bkerke, the patriarch said: “Its time for U.N. to shoulder its responsibility…”

Fight brews between Israeli settlers and army (Al Jazeera) In two weeks, the residents of the settlement of Yitzhar, known as one of the West Bank’s most ideological and uncompromising, will vote on whether it’s acceptable to fight the army that is assigned to protect them. Perched on a hill outside of the Palestinian city of Nablus, this small town of about 1,100 people has developed an oversized reputation. In 2011, it earned the distinction of carrying out more attacks on Palestinians than any other settlement in the occupied West Bank — one out of every six incidents documented by the United Nations that year involved a resident of Yitzhar…

In Iraq, gangs seize homes of fleeing Christians (AINA) Gangs in Baghdad are seizing homes left vacant by Christian families who have been forced to flee from sectarian violence, according to Barnabas Aid. Iraq’s Christians are most at risk of having their homes seized as they lack the tribal affiliations that protect their Arab Muslim neighbors…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict

17 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Terrorism expands from Sinai to Cairo (Al Monitor) The violence in Egypt has taken a marked geographical shift in recent months from the remote areas of the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal to the metropolises of Cairo and the Nile Delta. Analysts have two divergent opinions to explain this shift. Some analysts believe that the move by armed extremists toward the capital did not happen voluntarily and was not a planned strategy, but rather a shift enforced on these groups due to security measures and army operations in the Sinai Peninsula. The second opinion argues this was a premeditated step taken by armed groups, to extend the war against the post-Muslim Brotherhood regime…

Ukrainian security forces kill three pro-Russian protesters (New York Times) Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country…

Ukrainian civilians take up arms (Der Spiegel) It remains unclear what Russia might have in store for eastern Ukraine, but nationalist groups are preparing for the worst. In terms of their numbers, right-wing groups were only a minority during the Maidan protests, but they formed the backbone of the revolt against the Yanukovych government…

Syrian war takes heavy toll at a crossroad of cultures (New York Times) At the first-century Temple of Bel, one of the best-preserved buildings in the ancient city of Palmyra, a prominent column bears a new scar. A mortar shell left a telltale splash mark on the stone, without budging a structure that has stood for 2,000 years. Elsewhere, two other columns have collapsed, officials said, and bullets have pockmarked walls. But compared with the wholesale destruction that was feared, the damage, for now, is minimal. Yet the war has left deeper, less obvious wounds. Illegal digging, long a problem at the many sprawling archaeological sites in Syria, has accelerated during three years of conflict. Grave robbers, some crude, others professional, have stolen numerous objects from Palmyra’s tombs, museum officials say, sometimes sawing funeral friezes in two to make them easier to carry…

Report: Journalist killings in Syria likely to go unpunished (Al Jazeera) A spike in targeted murders of journalists in Syria landed the war-shattered country for the first time on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Impunity Index, joining a list of countries where journalist killings are most likely to go unpunished, the international watchdog said Wednesday. More than 60 journalists have been killed by crossfire in the past three years, according to C.P.J. At least 61 were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, most by rebel forces, it said. Some of the journalists have since escaped or been released…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Cultural Identity Russia





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