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Forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi continue to advance on rebel-held towns despite a fifth day of U.S.-led air strikes. The Pentagon says 162 Tomahawk missiles and more than 100 satellite bombs have been fired since the campaign began. But the strikes appear to have done little to slow Gaddafi’s assault on the opposition. Over the past 24 hours, Gaddafi forces have pressed ahead with attacks on the towns of Misurata, Ajdabiya and Zintan. A doctor at a Misurata hospital told the Washington Post around 80 people have been killed since the U.N. Security Council authorized international intervention last week. The doctor says he has stopped counting the wounded, patients are being treated on the floor, and the hospital is running out of supplies. The doctor said, “This no-fly zone doesn’t mean anything to us because Gaddafi only had a few planes and they were doing nothing. We need a no-drive zone because it is tanks and snipers that are killing us.” The number of civilians killed or injured by international forces remains unknown. Britain’s Channel 4 network reports U.S. strikes injured six Libyan villagers during the rescue of two U.S. crew members who ejected from their fighter jet over eastern Libya. The wounded included a young boy who is expected to lose a leg because of his injuries.
The Obama administration says it is negotiating with allied governments on how to scale back the U.S. role in the military operation against Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. Speaking in El Salvador, Obama said U.S. involvement will be reduced.
President Obama: “We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people, but we will not be in the lead. That’s with the transition that I discussed has always been designed to do. We have unique capabilities. We came in, up front, fairly heavily, fairly substantially, and at considerable risk to our military personnel. And when this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone.”
Forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi have released three foreign journalists following their arrest on Saturday. The journalists’ car was set on fire before they were detained. Agence France-Presse journalist Dave Clark spoke briefly to reporters following his release.
Dave Clark: “I don’t really want to talk about the details right now. We’ve just come — we’ve come back after several other questionings and don’t really want to get into another questioning right now.”
Japan is facing growing fears radioactivity from an earthquake-stricken nuclear power station has contaminated food and water supplies. Japanese officials say they have discovered radioactivity above the legal limit in 11 types of vegetables near the Fukushima Daiichi facility, as well as in water at a Tokyo purifying plant. The Japanese government has warned residents not to eat the vegetables and to avoid giving tap water to infants in Tokyo. The warning comes as emergency work to repair the Daiichi plant was halted today after smoke began to rise. Workers were forced to evacuate for the second time in three days. James Lyons of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the exact source of radiation leaking from the plant remains unknown.
James Lyons: “We continue to see radiation coming from the site. The levels are — and the question is, is where exactly is that coming from? Is it coming from the reactor units, the primary containment vessels or from the spent fuel pools? So, you know, without the ability to go up there and actually poke around, it’s hard to determine.”
The Japanese government says the earthquake and tsunami have killed more than 9,300 people, with another 13,786 missing. The estimate of the damages has climbed to over $309 billion.
Yemen’s opposition has rejected an offer from U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign at the end of the year. Saleh made the pledge on Tuesday in the face of ongoing protests and a series of defections by Yemeni military and government officials. In the same speech, Saleh also warned of a “civil war” if protesters continue to demand his removal from office. Yemeni opposition leader Yassin Noman said Saleh should resign immediately.
Yassin Noman: “A president like him, governed this country for 33 years, he should give this country a peaceful — I mean, peaceful future. Do you see?”
Reporter: “Yeah. Should he — do you think he would be able to stay in Yemen after he leaves?”
Yassin Noman: “Yeah, of course, of course. If he — they will assure him a very, very — I mean, a very nice life. His dignity will be kept by people, if he left peacefully.”
The Obama administration continues to temper its criticism of the Saleh regime despite a deadly crackdown on protesters. The U.S.-backed Saleh regime has declared a “state of emergency” following its killing of at least 45 protesters in the capital, Sana’a, on Friday. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner urged “all sides” to practice restraint.
Mark Toner: “What we’re looking for is a path to — or rather, dialogue that leads to a peaceful solution. We’re not going to make any predictions about what may happen in Yemen or the results of that political dialogue. We just continue to call on all sides and all parties to demonstrate restraint and use dialogue to work for a peaceful resolution.”
At least six people have been killed in the Syrian government’s latest attack on protesters. Witnesses say the victims were shot to death when Syrian forces stormed an opposition-linked mosque in the city of Daraa. A number of civilians were also reportedly wounded. Thousands have marched in Daraa this week after the earlier deaths of five protesters. Syrian police have been accused of firing live ammunition and tear gas. At the United Nations, Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the Syrian crackdown.
Rupert Colville: “We are greatly concerned by the recent killings of protesters in Syria and reiterate the need to put an immediate halt to the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, especially the use of live ammunition.”
A top Israeli official is warning of a new full-scale assault on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian rocket fire struck two Israeli towns. One Israeli citizen was wounded after the rockets hit Beersheba and Ashdod earlier today. In response, Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said Israel should consider renewing the late-2008 assault on Gaza that killed around 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Silvan said, “I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation.” The Palestinian rocket fire came after the U.S.-backed Israeli military killed four civilians and four alleged militants the Gaza Strip. Israel says it was targeting militants when it mistakenly fired on a home in Gaza City, killing three teenage boys and a 60-year-old grandfather. Another 10 people were wounded, including children, some of them seriously. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the attack.
Sami Abu Zuhri: “Hamas considers the massacre a war crime, which the Israeli occupation should be held responsible for, along with all the consequences that come with this ugly crime. We stress that this massacre, this escalation in violence and threats, won’t succeed in breaking the willpower of the Palestinian people or deter us from holding on to our national rights and rights to defend ourselves.”
President Obama has cut short a Latin America tour to return to Washington for meetings on the military intervention in Libya. On Tuesday, President Obama met with El Salvador President Mauricio Funes and announced a $200 million pledge to aid the fight against Central American drug cartels. Following his meeting with Funes, Obama visited the tomb of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop assassinated by El Salvador’s U.S.-backed military in 1980. Hundreds of people meanwhile took to the streets of San Salvador to protest Obama’s visit.
Protester: “We, the social and popular organizations, are making our presence heard to repudiate the visit of President Barack Obama. We know he is the Yankee representative of the capitalist empire in the United States.”
A federal judge has rejected the internet giant Google’s controversial deal with authors and publishers to digitize millions of printed books for the world’s largest online library. Google has partnered with some of the world’s most famous research libraries to scan more than seven million books. In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed lawsuits against Google challenging the company’s right to scan copyrighted material and making it searchable online. A $125 million settlement was reached in 2008. But on Tuesday, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan said that while he recognizes the project’s potential benefits, the agreement would grant Google “significant rights to exploit entire books” without permission. Google has defended its project, saying its goal is to give the public access to millions of out-of-print books. But critics have warned the settlement could result in Google having a monopoly of access to information and giving Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books.
South Dakota has enacted a law establishing a 72-hour waiting period for all abortions—by far the longest in the United States. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the measure into law on Tuesday following its approval in the state legislature. The law also requires a woman to undergo pre-abortion counseling to ensure her decision is “voluntary, uncoerced, and informed.” No other state has a mandatory abortion waiting period more than 24 hours. Pro-choice groups have vowed to appeal.
New census data shows the population of Detroit has reached its lowest point in 100 years. The figures show the Motor City’s population has declined by 25 percent in the last decade, helping to make Michigan the only state where overall population has declined. Michigan also saw its first drop in African American residents since statehood. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing plans to appeal the findings, which could impact the city’s ability to qualify for state and federal funding.