World News at a Glance
Posted February 6, 2018 9:47 p.m. EST
‘Extreme’ Suffering in Syria as Government Steps Up Bombing
At least 80 people were killed Tuesday in Syrian government air and artillery strikes on besieged suburbs of the capital, Damascus, one of the last rebel-held strongholds. It was the bloodiest day so far in a weekslong escalation that prompted United Nations officials to issue an unusual call for an immediate cease-fire. The toll, compiled by rescue workers, came as at least six more people were killed in another rebel-held area, in the province of Idlib. There, in the past week alone, the government’s Russian-backed air war has damaged several hospitals and clinics and killed dozens of people. U.N. officials declared the situation “extreme.”
Iran Returns Ailing U.S. Citizen to Prison in New Sign of Tension
In a new sign of tensions with the United States, Iran on Tuesday reimprisoned the oldest American known to be held in that country, despite advice from its own doctors to extend his temporary leave because of potentially fatal heart problems. The American, Baquer Namazi, 81, a dual citizen and former UNICEF diplomat, had been given an emergency reprieve from Evin Prison in Tehran on Jan. 28. That step had raised expectations that Namazi might be given a long-term medical parole, signaling Iran’s possible willingness to engage with the United States over prisoners, a long-standing issue. Such expectations appeared dashed.
2 Killed as Earthquake Strikes Taiwan, Toppling Buildings
A powerful earthquake struck Taiwan 10 minutes before midnight local time Tuesday, causing buildings to collapse in the city of Hualien and killing two people, according to authorities. The 6.4-magnitude quake was centered about 14 miles northeast of Hualien, a city of 110,000 on Taiwan’s east coast, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. A 60-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man were killed, according to the National Fire Agency, part of Taiwan’s Interior Ministry. In addition, 202 people were injured, 27 of them seriously. The agency said it had extracted 149 people trapped in rubble. It said 40,000 people were without water.
Hong Kong Court Throws Out Protest Leaders’ Prison Sentences
Three leaders of protests that filled Hong Kong streets for weeks saw their prison sentences thrown out by Hong Kong’s highest court Tuesday, in a case that has drawn international scrutiny over accusations that the government was carrying out prosecutions to punish political opponents. Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law had been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to eight months for their roles in the 2014 protests, known as the Umbrella Movement. Their imprisonment last year had led some pro-democracy politicians to call them “political prisoners,” an accusation the Hong Kong government rejected.
President Zuma’s Speech Postponed Amid South Africa Power Struggle
Every year since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s annual state of the nation address has been given by South Africa’s president. But Tuesday, two days before this year’s address, parliamentary leaders announced it would be postponed. It was not clear when the address would take place or whether the embattled president, Jacob Zuma, would deliver it. The decision stemmed from an intensifying power struggle between Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected leader of the governing African National Congress in December. The men have been clashing over when Zuma should step down to give way to Ramaphosa.
Fake Doctor in India Suspected of Infecting Dozens with HIV
Police officials in India were searching Tuesday for a fake doctor suspected of infecting dozens of his patients with HIV by reusing a dirty syringe. The patients were treated by what is known as a “jhola chaap doctor,” a wandering medical practitioner whose only verifiable qualification is a jhola, the shoulder bag from which they dispense treatments. Most are untrained, and some of the cures they offer can be dangerous, but in India, where the health care system is tremendously challenged, many poor people often feel they have no choice but to pay a few rupees for a jhola chaap doctor.
U.K. Judge Upholds Assange’s Arrest Warrant
A British judge upheld the arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday, assuring that he would remain ensconced in the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he has been for the past 5 1/2 years. Judge Emma Arbuthnot said, “I am not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn.” One of Assange’s lawyers, Mark Summers, asked whether it was in the public interest to keep pursuing his client for breach of bail. “Normally,” Arbuthnot said, “such issues would only be considered if somebody were brought to court to explain their failure to surrender to bail.” Summers replied, “There are exceptional circumstances.”