A suicide bomber killed an estimated nine people and wounded about 30 others after driving an oil tanker packed with explosives into an Iraqi police headquarters in the northern city of Tikrit. The explosion left a large crater and severely damaged surrounding buildings. Most of the people killed and injured were reported to be police officers, according to officials. No one has taken responsibility for the attack, but Sunni Muslim militants with links to al Qaeda have recently stepped up violence in protest against Iraq’s Shiite-led government. At least 274 people were killed in Iraq in March, the most since August 2012.
Syrian state media, SANA news agency, said rebels have set three oil wells on fire in Deir al-Zour province, causing the loss of nearly 5,000 cubic meters of gas a day. Syria’s Furat Petroleum Corporation claimed a total of nine oil wells had been set on fire by the rebels, and said it was working to extinguish the blazes. SANA said the damage to the oils wells occurred after disputes among opposition fighters, who control much of the province, over "sharing stolen oil" from the region’s fields. Meanwhile, fierce fighting in the Sheikh Maqsud neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo has caused hundreds of families to flee, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Fighting in the mostly Kurdish neighborhood has escalated since Friday, as government forces worked to prevent rebel advances. According to the SOHR as well as Syrian state media, opposition fighters killed a pro-government Sunni cleric in Sheikh Maqsud on Saturday. On Friday, opposition forces reportedly overtook Dael, a strategic city about 58 miles south of Damascus on the highway connecting the Syrian capital with Jordan. On Easter Sunday, the newly elected Roman Catholic Pope Francis called for peace across the globe, but singled out Syria, in his first public address from the Vatican. He appealed for peace "above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort."
- Popular Egyptian TV satirist Bassem Youssef has been released on bail after several hours of questioning on Sunday over allegations he insulted President Mohamed Morsi and Islam and disturbed public peace.
- Gaza’s Prime Minister Khaled Meshal, who lives in exile, is expected to be reelected political office chief of Hamas in elections Monday in Cairo.
- Jordan’s King Abdullah II swore in a new government Saturday.
- Israel has tapped the Tamar offshore natural gas field, which is expected to supply 50 to 80 percent of Israel’s natural gas for the next 10 years, and save the country $274 million a month.
Arguments and Analysis
Syrian refugees in Lebanon: And still they come (The Economist)
"WHEN Zaharith left the fighting of Damascus for the safety of Lebanon, she did not expect to find herself in jail. But the young Syrian is living in an abandoned prison in Souawiri, a town in the Bekaa valley. Damp walls stretch up to a tiny barred window and heavy locks dangle from the iron door which seals the cell she shares with five other families.
Zaharith is one of over 1m refugees who have fled Syria. With fighting intensifying the flow shows no sign of abating. Lebanon has accepted the largest number. The Lebanese government now estimates that there are 1m Syrians in the country, which has a population of 4m, including workers and refugees who have not registered.
Initially most were taken in by local families, many poor themselves, but that capacity has reached its limit. Two thirds of Syrian refugees are now renting houses and apartments, sending prices soaring. Many are running out of money and are forced to settle for the bare minimum. "Some people live in garages, or chicken coops or cow stalls that have been sealed off and are paying rent for that," says Ninette Kelly, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon."
It’s a Charity! It’s a Movement! It’s the Muslim Brotherhood! (Issandr El Amrani, Latitude Blog, The New York Times)
"The feints and pretenses of Egypt’s post-revolutionary politics have been dizzying, but the situation in which the Muslim Brotherhood finds itself these days may be the most puzzling yet.
Although it is the most powerful political group in Egypt – the country’s president, his immediate entourage and half of the Parliament are all members – a lawsuit has been filed to declare it illegal. In response, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to pass itself off as an nongovernmental organization.
The group was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, who advocated mixing religious studies with political activism to cultivate a more moral Muslim youth, fight British imperialism and ward off what he considered to be the West’s insidious influence. For years it had to endure the plots of the colonial-era secret police, brutal crackdowns, and the ebbs and flows of repression and wary accommodation."
–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey