Top of the Morning: Bloodiest 24 Hours in Syria; Palestinian ‘Freedom Ride’; Casava Disease in Africa

Top stories from the EST Edition of today’s DAWNS Digest.  Sign up to receive the full round-up of global humanitarian news.

The Bloodiest 24 Hours Since the Syria Uprising Began

Things are taking a sharp turn for the worse in Syria. “At least 70 people have been killed in violence across Syria over the past 24 hours in one of the bloodiest days since an anti-government uprising began eight months ago, activists reported. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 27 civilians were shot dead by security forces and 34 soldiers as well as 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes. Most of the victims were killed in the southern flashpoint province of Deraa, the observatory said in a statement…Meanwhile, Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, said he no longer has confidence in the Syrian regime, warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his country is on a ‘knife edge’ and the brutal crackdown threatens to place Assad on a list of leaders who “feed on blood”. Turkey has also threatened to cut electricity supplies to Syria.  (Al Jazeera

The Palestinian “Freedom Ride”

A group of Palestinian activists are mimicking American civil rights activists of the 1960s to protest what they consider illegal and unjust prohibitions from freely travelling to east Jerusalem from the West Bank. The activists, with journalists in tow, boarded a bus near an Israeli settlement that was headed to Jerusalem. Not long after, Israeli border police arrested the group. “Dubbing themselves the ‘freedom riders,’ the activists hoped to highlight what they say are Israel’s policies of occupation and segregation, similar to those imposed on African-Americans before the civil rights movement upended the infamous Jim Crow laws. The bus companies Egged and Veolia carry those living in Israeli settlements in the West Bank into Israel, stopping primarily in locations that Palestinians are not allowed to access. The activists say the buses are merely a symbol of a wider prohibition: the ban on West Bank Palestinians entering Jerusalem.” (CSM

Cassava Blight On the Verge of Epidemic

Cassava is a starchy root vegetable that can grow in tough environments. It has been a staple crop in central Africa for generations and can account for as much as a third of the total calorie intake for people in countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or DRC.  So, when we read headlines like “Casava virus on verge of epidemic” we are bound to take notice. “FAO experts say Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is on the verge of becoming an epidemic, and have called for an urgent increase in funding, research, training, surveillance and other measures to help farmers and breeders. The appearance of the disease in previously unaffected areas, and the lack of continued funding for research and development work to address CBSD in the region, have added to the threat already presented by Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD). In Rwanda, a surveillance analysis conducted by the National Agricultural Research Institute in 2010 showed a 15.7 percent rate of infection on local varieties and 36.9 percent in improved varieties. “None of the cassava varieties currently being distributed to farmers seem to be tolerant to the effects of CBSD. We urgently need to get information on the extent and severity of the outbreak, and to support investments to identify disease-tolerant varieties and coping strategies for farmers,” said Jan Helsen, leader of FAO’s European Union-funded Regional Cassava Initiative in Eastern and Central Africa. (FAO