Conflict in the Middle East continues to grow as violence spreads from various flashpoints.
A senior United Nations official warns that Syria could be divided into two if the current chaotic situation does not improve.
Steffan de Mistura is the secretary-general’s special envoy for Syria. He describes an official divide as a “worst-case scenario” for the country. But, he notes the country is already unofficially dividing.
Mr. de Mistura adds that Russia’s recent military intervention in Syria has made the situation more dangerous. He warns that increasing military action in the conflict could lead to what he calls “an incident” between the U.S. and Russia.
In northern Syria, a U.S. defense official reported that the U.S. airdropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition to rebels on Sunday.
The move supports the Pentagon’s recent decision to “pause” – or, temporarily stop – its failed program to train and equip Syrian rebels. Instead, the U.S. is increasing material support to some trusted groups fighting on Syrian battlefields.
In Yemen, the human rights group Amnesty International has investigated a series of airstrikes against Houthi rebels last summer. The group accuses a coalition led by Saudi Arabia of making the strikes. About 100 civilians died, including many children.
Amnesty also claims to have found the remains of cluster munitions. This kind of weapon is banned under international treaties.
Saudi Arabia did not answer Amnesty International’s charges directly. But, it has said in the past that it targets only rebel fighters, and it that it does not use cluster bombs.
The United Nations issued a report last month describing reported violations of international law by all sides in the conflict.
Israel and Palestine
In Jerusalem, Palestinians increased attacks on occupying Israel.
One Palestinian with a gun and another with knives attacked passengers on a bus. In another part of the city, a man crashed a car into people at a bus stop. He then left the car and stabbed people nearby.
A fourth attacker stabbed a person at a bus stop in a town north of Tel Aviv.
More than a dozen Israelis were wounded in the three attacks. One of the attackers was killed, two were wounded, and the fourth was detained.
The recent attacks add to a growing death toll. Seven Israelis have been killed and 25 others wounded by stabbings and other attacks by Palestinians.
Twenty-five Palestinians have been killed, mostly by Israeli police answering the attacks. Israeli soldiers have also killed Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and firebombs.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the recent violence on “acts of aggression” by Israeli settlers in lands Palestinians want for a future state.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas, the Palestinian National Authority, and a group called the Islamic Movement for encouraging violence. Mr. Netanyahu says the groups are spreading “lies” that Israel is planning to take over the Al Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site.
Al Aqsa in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, was built in the 700s and has been recently visited by religious Jews who want to return the site to Judaism. They call it Temple Mount, named for the Jewish holy site there that was destroyed in the year 70.
I’m Jim Tedder.
Lisa Schlein, Carla Babb, Henry Ridgwell and Mike Richman reported this story. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it into Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
worst-case scenario – adj. the worst possible outcome in a situation
cluster munitions – n. bombs that explode as part of a group
What do you think of the growing unrest in the Middle East? Write your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook page.