DAMASCUS, Syria

Bombings kill at least 34 in area that supports Assad

Two suicide bombers detonated explosives-packed vehicles near commercial buildings in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus Wednesday, killing at least 34 people and covering the street with pools of blood and debris.

The latest carnage to hit an area populated by religious minorities who support President Bashar Assad further raises concerns of a growing Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to topple him.

In the country’s north, rebels claimed to have shot down a Syrian air force fighter jet, providing further evidence of their growing effectiveness and improved military capabilities.

Witnesses to the suicide bombings said the second explosion went off after people rushed in to help those injured from the first blast, a tactic often used by al-Qaida in Iraq and elsewhere.

RAMALLAH, West Bank

Palestinians stand to gain from U.N. recognition vote

The expected U.N. vote Thursday to recognize a state of Palestine will be far more than symbolic — it could give the Palestinians leverage in future border talks with Israel and open the way for possible war crimes charges against the Jewish state.

The Palestinians want the 193-member General Assembly to accept “Palestine,” on the lands Israel occupied in 1967, as a non-member observer state. They anticipate broad support.

For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the U.N. bid is a last-ditch attempt to stay relevant as a leader after years of failed peace talks with Israel, at a time when his Islamic militant Hamas rivals are gaining ground.

The U.S. and Israel have tried to block the quest for U.N. recognition of Palestine, saying it’s an attempt to bypass Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down four years ago.

DOHA, Qatar

Huge area of Arctic ice melt highlighted in climate report

An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year, according to the U.N. weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening “before our eyes.”

In a report released at U.N. climate talks in the Qatari capital, the World Meteorological Organization said the Arctic ice melt was one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the United States as well western Russia and southern Europe. Floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering.

But it was the ice melt that seemed to dominate the climate report, with the U.N. concluding ice cover had reached “a new record low” in the area around the North Pole.

– From news service reports