Syria: ‘heavy fighting’ in Damascus – live updatesBy
• Clashes in Mezze, the Syrian capital’s security district
• ICRC goes to Moscow while UN team heads for Damascus
• British reporters freed in Libya
8.32am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. Reports of clashes in the Mezze district of Damascus point to possible military defections.
Here’s a roundup of the the latest developments:
• Heavy fighting has broken out between Free Syrian Army rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Mezze district of Damascus where several security installations are based. A resident told Reuters: “There is fighting near Hamada supermarket and the sound of explosions there and elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Security police have blocked several side streets and the street lighting has been cut off.”
• The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross is due in Moscow to lobby the Russian foreign minister to try to persuade the Assad government to secure a daily ceasefire in Syria and allow humanitarian access to areas worst hit by the violence. Jakob Kellenberger said he was particularly concerned about the fate of detainees.
• Syria’s two biggest cities Aleppo and Damascus were hit by car bombs over the weekend as UN teams prepared to join a government-led humanitarian mission. On Saturday a twin car bombs killed 27 people in the capital. A day later two more people were killed in another car bomb in Aleppo. A joint mission by the Syrian government, the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was due to start assessing humanitarian needs in towns across Syria which have suffered from months of unrest.
• Two British journalists who were arrested last month by a Libyan militia group and accused of spying have been released and cleared of all charges, Libya’s Interior Ministry has said. Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, 36, and Nicholas Davies, 37, who work for Iran’s state-owned Press TV, were arrested on 23 February by a Misrata militia based in Tripoli.
• A three-way battle for custody of Abdullah al-Senussi, the Gaddafi regime’s spymaster, has broken out following his arrest over the weekend in Mauritania. Senussi is wanted for trial by Libya, France and the international criminal court in The Hague.
• The Libya campaign has come at a potentially high price, making future UN-backed missions to protect civilians less likely, a report by a leading UK security thinktank has warned. The report by Royal United Services Institute released on the first anniversary of the start of Nato’s Operation Odyssey Dawn, said:
For advocates of the responsibility to protect [R2P], the worry should be that there is indeed a legacy of the Libya conflict: China and Russia will presume that the model in future operations is rather regime change under the cloak of R2P, and will be more forthcoming with vetoes. We have already seen this over Syria.
from Matthew Weaver