News in the Humanosphere: Syria’s second-largest city comes under siege by Assad forces

Aleppo, Syria (Stijn Hüwels/flickr)

Last week, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iranian and Lebanese Shia militia, severed the main road from Aleppo to the Turkish border, a narrow corridor through which the rebels and NGOs alike moved supplies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that several villages in the area were hit by airstrikes on Sunday. A defining battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, seems imminent. Regime forces and their allies on the ground, supported by Russian bombers in the air, are tightening the noose around the eastern half of the city, still held by a coalition of rebel groups. It’s estimated some 320,000 people still live, or subsist, there — under continual bombardment. (CNN http://cnn.it/1LaVdBk)

Quote of the day: “Yes, Turkey has reached the end of its capacity to absorb (refugees). But in the end, these people have nowhere else to go. Either they will die beneath the bombings and Turkey will … watch the massacre like the rest of the world, or we will open our borders.”
— Deputy PM of Turkey Numan Kurtulmus (NYT
http://nyti.ms/1Ptx8rd)

Africa

Islamic extremists have freed an Australian woman kidnapped last month in northern Burkina Faso, although her husband remains in captivity despite pleas from the family and efforts by officials to secure his release. (ABC http://abcn.ws/1PtxbmX

A Sudanese migrant in Israel stabbed and wounded a soldier in an apparent act of solidarity with Palestinians and was shot dead, police said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1T77caI)

Somali government officials said Saturday airport security cameras caught two people dressed in military uniforms passing a laptop to the passenger who died after Tuesday’s mid-flight bomb blast aboard a passenger plane. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Ptxluu)

Guinean authorities have opened a murder probe after a journalist was shot and fatally wounded in clashes outside the offices of an opposition party, officials said Saturday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1PIUFIf)

Because of drought in Malawi and across southern Africa the grain has doubled in price in the space of a year, and now costs around $0.28 a kilo. Many people are struggling to pay for maize, a staple of the diet. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1SXkBkr)

Heavy rains, flooding and a spike in new arrivals could threaten the lives of over 110,000 Burundian refugees in overcrowded camps in Tanzania, six aid agencies said on Monday, amid warnings of rising political tension in Burundi. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1SXkHZ8)

South Africa will not declare a national disaster in response to its worst drought in a century as it hopes ample late rains will continue to improve the situation, deputy minister of agriculture Bheki Cele said on Sunday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1T77azt)

A new UNESCO publication says thousands of African children lack textbooks or must share them. Education experts say that along with skilled teachers, textbooks are essential for meeting the U.N.-backed Sustainable Development Goals, which call for inclusive and equitable quality education for all. (VOA http://bit.ly/1L9d0sC)

MENA

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is temporarily closing its Gaza office after protesters repeatedly tried to storm it. (VOA http://bit.ly/1T77cHH)

The Red Cross said on Sunday it had delivered more food and hygiene kits for around 3,500 people in the besieged Syrian suburb of Mouadamiya near Damascus, expecting to send more in coming days. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/20PDrMW)

A Saudi soldier and a civilian have been killed in cross-border shelling from rebel-controlled northern Yemen, authorities said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1PIUFb1)

Asia

With anxious families waiting nearby, rescuers on Sunday painstakingly pulled more survivors from the remains of a high-rise apartment building that collapsed a day earlier in a powerful earthquake that shook southern Taiwan and killed at least 26 people. More than 100 remained buried in the building’s rubble. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1PtwSbJ)

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it called a satellite, but its neighbors and the United States denounced the launch as a missile test, conducted in defiance of U.N. sanctions and just weeks after a nuclear bomb test. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1PtwMkq)

The United Nations Security Council on Sunday strongly condemned North Korea’s latest rocket launch and promised to take punitive steps, while Washington vowed to ensure the 15-nation body imposed “serious consequences” on Pyongyang as soon as possible. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/20PDrwg)

At least nine people were killed and 35 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a military convoy in Pakistan’s western city of Quetta on Saturday, police and hospital officials said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Ptxdv3)

Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil leaders on Sunday asked the top U.N. human rights official to help determine the fate of more than 4,000 civilians reported missing in the country’s long civil war amid the government’s assertion that most of them are probably dead. (AP http://yhoo.it/1T77aQ3)

Afghanistan expects to hold direct talks with the Taliban by the end of this month, an official said Sunday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PIUEUI)

The Americas

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called on Latin American countries hit by the Zika epidemic to allow women access to abortion and birth control, reigniting debate about reproductive rights in the predominantly Catholic region. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PtxtKu)

Politicians in Haiti have signed a last-minute agreement to install a transitional government that keeps the country from plunging into an immediate power vacuum. (BBC http://bbc.in/1PuLacb)

Salvadoran police have arrested four former soldiers wanted in Spain for the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests during the Central American country’s brutal civil war, officials said Saturday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1L9d23w)

Men exposed to the Zika virus and who have a pregnant partner should use a condom or abstain from sex until the baby is born, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Friday in guidelines aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the virus. (CNN http://cnn.it/1T779M8)

The rapidly spreading Zika virus is discouraging many Americans from traveling to Latin America and the Caribbean, with 41 percent of those aware of the disease saying they are less likely to take such a trip, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1T77b6L)

A man who says he was sexually abused by a priest on Sunday delivered two letters addressed to Pope Francis from Chilean Catholics asking him to remove a Chilean bishop accused of protecting a notorious pedophile. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1PuL8ko)

…and the rest

Turkey has reached the end of its “capacity to absorb” refugees but will continue to take them in, the deputy premier said Sunday, as his country faced mounting pressure to open its border to tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled a government onslaught. (AP http://yhoo.it/1T76SIY)

Two female migrants found dead in a mountainous rural region of Bulgaria died due to freezing conditions, authorities said Sunday, as asylum seekers continue to try to reach the EU despite harsh winter weather. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1T778HZ)

Opinion/Blogs

Do You Know What ‘Vector’ And ‘Endemic’ Mean? We Can Help — Sort Of (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/20PDoRm)

The UN Stamp Collection Just Became a Little More Progressive (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1L9dWwQ)

What Happened in Addis Over International Criminal Court? (East African http://bit.ly/1T77f6c)

How South Sudanese pay for their leader’s war (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1SXmqO3)

Why is the International Criminal Court stepping out of Africa and into Georgia? (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/20PEts9)

How technology is taking down human trafficking (Devex http://bit.ly/1W3AJA9)

The militant philosopher of Third World liberation (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1W3BcCs)

Too important to flail: a strategic financing mechanism for humanitarian assistance (Dev Policy http://bit.ly/1PIV3GL)

Brazilians Have To Learn To Think Like A Mosquito (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1W3AWDw)

I was raped in South Sudan … then went back (Guardian http://bit.ly/1W3B45W)

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