"There is a non-international armed conflict in Syria," a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Hicham Hassan, told Reuters; in other words, a civil war. This means it is now crossing a threshold that can help lay the ground for future prosecutions for war crimes. People who order or commit attacks on civilians including murder, torture or rape, or use disproportionate force against civilian areas, can be charged with war crimes in violation of international humanitarian law. The ICRC, which is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, had previously classed the violence in Syria as localized civil wars between government forces and armed opposition groups.
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has warned his followers that there is a risk of civil war if he is not re-elected in the October 7 presidential election. "If the right wing's presidential candidate [Henrique Capriles] gets into [office], it would put an end to the social programs promoted during 14 years of government and, as a result, the country would enter into a civil war," he said on Friday according to the state-run AVN agency.
At least 12 police officers have been wounded in Turkey as militants associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) detonated a roadside bomb in the east of the country. The attack took place outside a police shooting range in the province of Van, which borders Iran. Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched an armed conflict against Ankara in 1984 with the aim of creating a separate state in the mainly Kurdish south-east Turkey.
The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) naval force, General Ali Fadavi, has said that Iran will use its capability to block the shipment of “even a single drop of oil” through the Strait of Hormuz if Iran’s security comes under threat, the Fars news agency reports. He also said that the IRGC and the country’s navy would be increasing their military presence in international waters. Iran has been threatening to close down the Strait, a key transit route for tankers transporting oil from the oil-rich countries surrounding the Persian Gulf to consumers worldwide. The US and the EU have adopted a number of sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to end its nuclear enrichment program, which the West suspects has military purposes. Some of the sanctions have curbed Iranian oil sales, a key source of income for the Islamic Republic. Iran maintains that the nuclear program has strictly peaceful purposes.
Police have used tear-gas and water cannon on Kurdish demonstrators in south-east Turkey on Saturday. Clashes broke out after the provincial governor refused the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) permission to hold a rally in the city of Diyarbakir. One of the proposed rally’s goals was to call for the release of jailed PKK militant leader Abdullah Ocalan. The demonstration coincided with the first anniversary of a declaration of “democratic autonomy” by Kurdish politicians.
Cuba’s Health Ministry has reported 158 cases of cholera, three times more than in its previous report. The ministry also said that the number of cases of water-spread infections had dropped, largely thanks to its intensive efforts to quarantine those infected, hand out chlorine tablets and educate the population. Almost all of the cases originated from the city of Manzilla in the eastern Granma province. In its previous report on July 3, the Health Ministry stated that three people had died and 53 were infected with cholera. This is the first incidence of cholera in Cuba in decades.
Russia will be conducting its first training exercise involving two S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon system batteries on the Ashluk military polygon in the Astrakhan Region from August 10 to August 16, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said. Apart from the two S-400 batteries, the training will also include Pantsir-S anti-aircraft weapons systems. The S-400 anti-aircraft system is capable of hitting airborne targets at ranges of up to 250 miles (400 kilometers). Russia currently deploys four S-400 batteries, with two stationed in the Moscow Region, and one each on the Baltic and Far East coastlines. A new battery is set for deployment in 2012.
Members of the Russian LGBT activist group Equal Rights has filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, protesting a decision by St. Petersburg authorities to ban them from holding a gay pride march last year. The activists argue that the ban was a covert form of discrimination “prohibited by international law.” They also plan to lodge a complaint against the city’s authorities for preventing them from holding a similar rally on July 7 this year. LGBT activists were planning to stage a demonstration on June 25, 2011, but could not agree on the route of the rally with St. Petersburg authorities. Nevertheless, several people gathered for an unsanctioned meeting, and 14 were arrested and later charged with administrative violations. A similar demonstration this year was banned by city authorities, who argued that it violated the recently-adopted law prohibiting homosexual propaganda. Three people staged a protest despite the ban and were detained by the police.
A total of 38 people have been taken to hospital in the eight days of the San Fermin bull-running festivities in the Spanish city of Pamplona. Four of those injured were gored. On Saturday, four people were harmed in the runs, but their injuries were not caused by a bull. Two men suffered head injuries after falling; one man bruised his shoulder, while another person damaged his knee. Each day, hundreds of runners sprinted along a 2,800 foot (850 meter) route through the narrow streets of the city with six bulls chasing them. This year’s event was calm compared to other years. The same number of people was gored last year, down from nine people in 2010. In 2009, a 27-year-old Spanish man was gored to death, the 15th fatality at the Pamplona run since records began in 1924. The San Fermin festival, which dates back to 1591, honors Pamplona’s patron saint and is also celebrated with fireworks, folk dancing, religious processions and non-stop alcohol drinking.
A suicide bomb has struck the town of Muhrada in the flashpoint province of Hama in Syria, killing three people, reports Syrian state news. One security officer was killed in the blast as well as a woman and child. Opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bomb was targeting a military security installation nearby. The bombing of military buildings has become more prevalent in Syria over recent months. President Assad has branded the attacks as terrorist insurgency on the part of rebel groups, while opposition groups claim the government orchestrates them to discredit Assad’s rivals.
A surfer has been killed in a savage shark attack near Wedge Island, off Australia's west coast on Saturday morning, officials said. It is the fifth such fatality in the region in less than a year. A large-scale air, coast and sea search is underway for the remains of the victim, who was reported to be in his early 20s.
Torrential rains in southwestern Japan have sparked flash floods and landslides, killing 22 and forces almost a quarter of million from their homes. A record 50.75 centimeters of rain struck the southern island of Kyushu, inundating the cities of Aso and Hita. At least 246,000 people on the island have been given the order to evacuate.
A suicide bomber blew himself up at a wedding hall in northern Afghanistan province of Samangan, killing at least 20, report local officials. Among the dead was well-known military commander and Member of Parliament Ahmad Khan Samangani. Local sources say that more than 40 others were also injured by the suicide blast.
More than 500 Magellanic penguins, which are native to southern South America, have been found dead on southern Brazilian beaches, the country’s authorities said on Friday according to AFP. Veterinarians are investigating the deaths of the 512 marine birds which beached on the coast between the towns of Tramandai and Cidreira, some 100 kilometers from the state capital, Porto Alegre. The results of laboratory tests are expected to be ready within a month.
More than 90 out of 103 known species of lemurs - a group of primates unique to the island of Madagascar - are under threat. The northern sportive lemur, for example, has only 18 known individuals left. The conclusion was made on Friday at a workshop by the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some 60 conservationists from all over the globe have met this week in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo to discuss conservation measures aimed at the protection of what now appears to be the world’s most threatened group of mammals.
Hundreds of protesters have clashed with riot police in Madrid on Friday evening over new austerity measures, AP reports. The protesters demonstrated outside the People's Party offices of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy before clashing with riot police, who used batons to prevent the crowds from getting too close to the Socialist Workers' Party headquarters. One person reportedly suffered a broken nose and three people were arrested. The latest package of Spain’s counter-crisis measures includes wage cuts and tax increases, while the country’s population struggles against the recession and an unemployment rate of almost 25 per cent.