In brief: Syrian troops, rebels battle in crucial suburb of capital
Beirut – Syrian forces and anti-government rebels fought bruising skirmishes Saturday in the rubble of Dariya, a war-torn western suburb of Damascus that both sides have identified as necessary for victory because of its proximity to the capital city’s center and the main military airfield.
On Saturday, tanks tried to enter Dariya, and a MiG fighter jet shelled the neighborhood that was once home to more than 200,000 people but now has about 10,000. At least 3,000 are fighters, according to rebels and activists there.
An anonymous Syrian government official told the Associated Press that the Syrian army had advanced in the strategic suburb, but rebels said the stalemate continued.
Removing grounded cruise ship will cost more, take longer
Giglio, Italy – More time and money will be needed to remove the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the rocks off Tuscany where it capsized last year, in part to ensure the toxic materials still trapped inside don’t leak into the marine sanctuary when it is righted, officials said Saturday.
As shipwreck survivors and relatives of the 32 killed began arriving on the island of Giglio to mark today’s anniversary of the grounding, environmental and salvage experts gave an update on the unprecedented removal project under way.
Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, told reporters that officials are now looking at September as the probable date to remove the ship, taking into account conservative estimates for poor weather and rough seas. Originally, officials had said they hoped to tow it from Giglio’s waters by early 2013.
Dozens of police injured in clash over ties to Britain
Belfast, Northern Ireland – At least 29 police were injured Saturday as protesters clashed in the Northern Ireland capital of Belfast in an ongoing dispute about the province’s ties to Britain.
About 1,000 British loyalists demonstrated peacefully at first until they ran into a group of Irish nationalists in the city’s east, sparking renewed fighting.
Police attempted to control the violence with water cannons and rubber bullets. Demonstrators responded by throwing rocks and firecrackers and torching cars. Four of the injured police had to be taken to a hospital.
The protests began six weeks ago when the City Council, which now has a stronger Catholic, pro-Ireland faction, voted to hoist the Union Jack only on designated days. Previously, the flag had been displayed every day.