Syrian forces bombard northern town, refugees flee to Turkey; Should Obama have told Assad to resign?; Aftershocks rock Christchurch prompting evacuations; Afghan Taliban struggling as fighting season begins; Turkish PM wins third term; North And South Sudan talk peace; and more
Top of the Agenda: Military Pressure in Northern Syria
After advancing for days, Syrian forces bombarded the northern rebel town of Jisr al-Shoughour with tanks and helicopter gunships (NYT), clashing with armed civilians and mutinous soldiers and causing thousands of residents to flee across the border to Turkey.
According to the BBC, over five thousand Syrian refugees have registered with Turkish officials, while another five thousand have entered Turkey unofficially. Hundreds more are amassed along the border in Syria, waiting to see whether the army will advance further and seize other rebel strongholds, including the nearby town of Maarat al-Numan.
This interactive feature from the Guardian maps out the advancement of Syrian troops on Jisr al-Shoughour and the movement of refugees toward Turkey.
The military operation is the latest in a series of crackdowns by President Bashar al-Assad's government against a three-month pro-democracy movement that has killed 1,300 civilians (Reuters).
In his blog Pressure Points, CFR's Elliott Abrams criticizes the Obama administration for not publicly calling on Assad to resign.
In a recent essay for the London Review of Books, CFR's Mohamad Bazzi analyzes the Syrian Ba'athist regime's strategy for maintaining power.
This Economist essay argues that the tide is slowly turning against Syria's Assad.
PACIFIC RIM: Vietnam Holding Live-Fire Drills
Vietnam's navy is holding live-fire drills in the disputed South China Sea (BBC) amid a heightening dispute over maritime borders with China.
New Zealand: Two earthquakes rocked Christchurch today (SydneyMorningHerald), causing significant damage and prompting evacuations. The quakes are part of a series of aftershocks since a February 22 earthquake that killed 182 people.