New exodus flows from Syria

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
April 3, 2013

A new wave of Syrians escape violence in Damascus, North Korea bars entry to joint factory zone, and rockets fly over Israeli-Gaza border. Today is Wednesday, April 3, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


Free Syrian Army fighters enter a kindergarten building in Sidi Meqdad area in the suburbs of Damascus, March 25, 2013. REUTERS/Ward Al-Keswani/Shaam News Network/Handout

More Syrians flee as conflict spreads in Damascus. Following the deadliest month in Syria’s war, more families living in the increasingly volatile capital city are fleeing:

Many Syrians in the capital had long asserted that the uprising-turned-civil war would not breach the city center. Others insisted they would stay, no matter the consequences. But fear has begun to grip even the most resolute residents. For many the tipping point was a hail of mortar bombs and rockets that shook Damascus for several days last month as rebels and troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brought tit-for-tat bombardments to the core of the capital.

Reuters spoke to families who were leaving elderly parents and businesses behind as they moved to Egypt and parts of Syria less afflicted by violence. More than 1 million Syrians have left the country, and around 4 million are displaced within Syria, according to aid groups. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 62,554 people have died in the conflict, but unofficial estimates suggest the number of casualties could be nearly twice as high.

North Korea closes access to border factory zone. North Korea cut off access for South Korean workers to a joint industrial zone called Kaesong. The move reflects North Korea’s anger over heightened U.N. sanctions and join military drills between Washington and Seoul:

[The closure puts] at risk $2 billion a year in trade that is vital for an impoverished state with a huge army, nuclear ambitions and a hungry population.

China’s deputy foreign minister Zhang Yesui expressed “serious concern” over tensions on the Korean peninsula in a meeting with U.S. and South Korean ambassadors on Tuesday.  Roughly 800 South Korean factory managers and workers remain in the industrial park. They risk running out of food, as all supplies are shipped to Kaesong from South Korea through the access point. The park’s 123 companies employ 50,000 North Koreans and it serves as a steady source of revenue for the hermit state. It is the only joint operation between the two countries.

Rockets fly along Israeli-Gaza border in most serious incident since truce. Israel and Hamas exchanged fire along the Gaza border after a Palestinian prisoner held by Israel died of cancer.

The Israeli military said two rockets fired from Gaza had struck southern Israel in a morning attack on Wednesday, causing no casualties, hours after its planes targeted “two extensive terror sites” in the north of the territory. Israel launched the air strike after three rockets hit its south on Tuesday. An al Qaeda-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for that attack and Wednesday’s salvo, saying it was responding to the death of the 64-year-old prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdeya.

Since the November truce, rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel on two previous occasions. Tuesday marked the first time Israel launched an aerial strike since the ceasefire. Chief IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai said of the 4-month-long peace, “I assess that Hamas has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate.” On Tuesday, Hamas re-elected Khaled Meshaal as its leader. Meshaal played a key role in facilitating the November ceasefire.

Nota Bene:  North Koreans smile, joke, and kick a goat on the banks of Yalu River in this gallery of Reuters photography.

Standouts:

Mafia goes green - Italy seized $1.7 billion in clean energy assets from the mob. (Al Jazeera)

Defuse and delay - An unexploded World War Two bomb was discovered near a main railway station in Berlin. (Der Spiegel)

“Resolution” ruse - Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon argues that Cyprus’ banks resolution is nothing but a bad joke. (Reuters)

It’s Turkey time - Israelis are eager to visit Turkey after the two countries recently repaired ties. (Ha’aretz)

Viral discourse - Chinese citizens bypass state-censored news to discuss Avian flu cases on social media. (Time)

From the File:

  • Militants storm Afghan court as Taliban stand trial; seven dead
  • South African doctors say Mandela “much better”
  • Pope stresses “fundamental” importance of women in Church
  • Jailed Kurdish rebel leader set to make fresh peace process call
  • Spaniards take fight against evictions to politicians’ doorsteps
No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/