Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fled to Saudi Arabia after being injured in a rocket attack on his compound. Aides say Saleh will return to Yemen after receiving medical treatment, but opponents are celebrating his departure as a victory in their nearly six-month popular uprising against his regime. Fighting has died down in the capital city of Sana’a after two weeks of intense clashes between tribal fighters and Saleh’s forces. Saleh was wounded in the chest when a rocket hit his palace on Friday. The attack killed seven people and left a number of Saleh’s key advisers wounded. Before his departure, Saleh temporarily ceded power to his vice president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In Syria, at least 96 people have died over the past three days in the continued crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad. An estimated 65 people were killed in the town of Hama on Friday when government forces attacked demonstrators. The violence spread to a northwestern town on Saturday where residents say government snipers fired on mourners attending a funeral for six protesters killed last week. Human rights groups estimate forces loyal to Assad have killed at least 1,100 people since anti-government demonstrations erupted in March.
The Israeli military has killed a number of unarmed protesters on Israel’s border with Syria for the second time in less than a month. Up to 23 people were killed and over 350 wounded when Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators who stormed the border area from Syria. The protesters had gathered to mark the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria along with the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai desert. There is no evidence any of the demonstrators carried weapons. They had entered the buffer zone on the border by cutting through wires and crawling on the ground. In a statement, the Obama administration refused to condemn the killings, suggesting the shootings fell within Israel’s “right to defend itself.” Thirteen Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops opened fire on protesters at the Syrian border and other crossings last month on the day marking the anniversary of Israel’s founding, what Palestinians call the Nakba, or the catastrophe.
Egypt has closed the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip just days after a widely publicized reopening last week. Most of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have been barred from going abroad since the imposition of the blockade in 2007. Despite opening the border, Egypt had maintained a number of restrictions limiting cross-border movement before ultimately imposing a complete halt on Saturday.
In Israel, thousands of people rallied in Tel Aviv to denounce Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. It was one of the largest pro-peace rallies Israel has seen in years.
Adam Keller: “Israel should recognize the state of Palestine. Israel should make peace with the Palestinians. Israel should accept the ’67 borders as the basis of peace. We think that the government is leading us to disaster, that Netanyahu is leading us to disaster.”
At least 19 people have been killed in a series of U.S. drone attacks along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. According to Al Jazeera, there are concerns civilians are among the dead. The attacks come three days after a U.S. drone attack reportedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al-Qaeda leader. They also come as thousands of people gathered in Karachi for a two-day sit-in against the drone strikes.
Protester: “This sit-in is being staged because America is slowly trying to expand its control over Pakistan. The people of Pakistan want to see their country as a free nation. They want an end to American meddling here.”
The Obama administration continues to suggest it will extend the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal deadline of 2014. On a visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the United States is in “no rush” to leave.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “The Afghan people should remember two main things. First, while the U.S. and our coalition partners may draw down our military forces over time, we are committed to a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan. We will continue to train, equip and support Afghan security forces and do what we can to help the government improve the lives of its citizens. In short, there will be no rush to the exits.”
Gates’s visit came days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed demands for an end to U.S. attacks on Afghan civilians. At a joint news conference, Karzai said the bombings of Afghan homes must come to an end.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “Especially, bombardment of civilian homes is an issue that the Afghans definitely want to end. We cannot take this anymore, and the Afghans want a change in it.”
Five American soldiers were killed in Iraq today when rockets hit a military base in eastern Baghdad. It was one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq since combat operations came to a nominal end late last year.
NATO forces in Libya have launched missions against the regime of Col. Mummmar Gaddafi using attack helicopters for the first time. Two American-built Apache attack choppers have assaulted targets in the oil-rich city of Brega. Defense officials in Paris said French helicopters also joined in the mission. The Gaddafi regime, meanwhile, is being accused of lying to foreign journalists about a wounded infant it said was hurt in a NATO attack. Reporters were taken to the hospital room of a baby girl and told she was injured in a NATO air strike. But a hospital staffer later told reporters the girl had been in a car accident.
A robot sent into Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has detected the highest levels of radiation since the devastating earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant in March. Radiation levels near the plant’s No. 1 reactor have reportedly reached 4,000 millisieverts per hour, an exposure level roughly equivalent to 40,000 chest X-rays. The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will not send workers into the area due to the dangerously high levels of radioactivity. An estimated 40,000 tons of “highly-contaminated” radioactive water are believed to be resting below the reactor. Japanese officials have begun moving in large tanks to remove the water.
Hundreds of people gathered at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on Saturday to call for the release of the alleged whistleblower U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. The protest marked the first public event in support of Manning since his transfer to Fort Leavenworth in April. Manning was previously held in solitary confinement for nine months at a Marine brig in Virginia following his arrest for allegedly leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
In eastern Arizona, high winds threaten to fuel the spread of a massive wildfire that has already torched nearly 200,000 acres and forced more than 2,200 people to evacuate their homes. Dubbed the “Wallow Fire,” the blaze has been described as one of the worst in the state’s history.
In Peru, leftist Ollanta Humala is claiming victory in a runoff presidential vote. Unofficial results show Humala with a slim lead over opponent Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former right-wing Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, now in prison for human rights abuses.
A march against the U.S.-backed war on drugs continued through Mexico City on Saturday to protest the violence that’s claimed more than 38,000 lives since 2006. The march began in the central Mexican state of Morelos, led by the Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was killed by gunmen earlier this year.
Javier Sicilia: “We have a national emergency here. If the government does not listen to what the people are asking of them, then we are heading to a point of no return that will hurt more than the violence we have already seen.”
The marchers plan to arrive in Mexico’s most violent city, Ciudad Juárez, later this week.
More than 80,000 people gathered in the Greek capital of Athens over the weekend in the largest show of opposition to planned austerity measures since demonstrations broke out last month. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is pushing a plan to impose over $9 billion in cuts this year.
Police in India have broken up an anti-graft fasting demonstration led by the country’s most famous yoga guru, Swami Baba Ramdev. Indian authorities detained Ramdev as he launched a hunger strike attended by tens of thousands of people. Ramdev is protesting what he says is rampant corruption in India, including allegations of kickbacks at the Commonwealth Games and a telecom scam that may have cost the government $39 billion. Riot police reportedly used clubs and tear gas to disperse the massive crowd.
Hundreds of people are beginning a five-day march in West Virginia today to protest mountaintop removal mining. The demonstrators will walk from Marmet to Blair Mountain, in an event marking the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest armed confrontation in U.S. labor history. In 1921, thousands of miners in the area marched to organize non-union coal mines. This year’s demonstration is billed as an effort to demand sustainable job creation in all Appalachian communities, abolish mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights and preserve Blair Mountain.