December 19, 2012

Dispatches

From news service reports

BEIRUT

Refugee camps bombed as rebels make strong advance

Syrian fighter jets bombed a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus Tuesday for the second time this week after rebels made significant advances, seizing large areas within the camp, activists said.

The rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime have pressed hard against the regime in the past weeks, capturing air bases and military installations in and around Damascus.

Their offensive in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in southern Damascus, which began Friday, is aimed at driving out a pro-government Palestinian faction.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists in the camp said fighter jets dropped bombs on the camp Tuesday afternoon, but there was no immediate word of casualties.

Similar air strikes on Sunday killed at least eight people in Yarmouk.

When the revolt against Assad's rule began 21 months ago, the half-million-strong Palestinian community in Syria stayed on the sidelines.

But as the civil war deepened, most Palestinians backed the rebels, while some groups - such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command - have been fighting on the government side.

CAIRO

Thousands march to protest Islamist-backed constitution

Thousands of Egyptian protesters marched on the presidential palace and Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square on Tuesday to protest a contentious Islamist-backed draft constitution, after the country's Justice Ministry ordered a probe into allegations of widespread voting irregularities during Saturday's first round of voting on the document.

Since the country's political crisis erupted more than three weeks ago, the opposition has kept the pressure on the government of President Mohammed Morsi with mass marches that at times have seen turnouts of hundreds of thousands. Morsi's Islamist supporters have countered with rallies of their own.

Chanting "down with Brotherhood rule," and "your constitution is void," the opposition made its first major street push since Saturday's round of voting on the constitution. Preliminary results showed that 56 percent of voted cast "yes." The second round of voting is set for Saturday.

DUBLIN

New abortion law would back rights in suicide cases

Ireland's government says it will draft a new law spelling out the right of women to receive abortions in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to their lives - including from a woman's own threats to commit suicide.

For two decades, successive governments have resisted passing any law in support of a 1992 Supreme Court judgment that such abortions should be legal in Ireland.

Catholic conservatives particularly oppose the suicide-threat justification, arguing it could be used to expand access to abortion beyond relatively rare cases where a pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

 

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