Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
BEIRUT (AP) — Heavy fighting between forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels preceded the dawn start of a proposed truce Friday, activists said, dimming prospects for a break in the bloody 19-month civil war.
Battles were still in progress at daybreak Friday, the beginning of a four-day Muslim holiday that was to coincide with the cease-fire, proposed by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and endorsed by the Security Council.
If it takes effect, it would be the first pause in the fighting that has taken tens of thousands of lives. Earlier attempts by mediators to bring about a cease-fire failed, though elements of both sides had accepted truce proposals.
The Syrian regime accepted the cease-fire but left itself some significant loopholes, saying it would respond to rebel attacks. Some opposition groups said they would abide by the truce, but several rebel commanders dismissed it as irrelevant.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists, said the latest clashes took place in the central province of Homs, in Deir el-Zour in the country’s east and in the city of Aleppo. At least four rebels were killed and six soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, the Observatory said.
The group said three people were also wounded when troops tried to disperse protesters after Friday prayers in the southern province of Deraa, where the uprising began.
Rebels claimed major gains in the key battleground of Aleppo Thursday, pushing into predominantly Christian and Kurdish neighborhoods that had previously been held by pro-Assad forces in northern part of the city, the country’s largest.
The short holiday cease-fire was all a divided international community could agree on after the failure of a more ambitious plan for an open-ended truce and political transition talks by Brahimi’s predecessor, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, in April.
The truce appeared shaky from the outset, since neither side has shown an interest in laying down arms, pushing instead for military gains.
Also, it wasn’t clear when exactly the cease-fire was supposed to begin, and there were no arrangements for monitoring compliance.
Brahimi has not said what was supposed to happen after four days, an ominous sign, since Assad and opposition leaders disagree sharply on how to proceed. Assad refuses to resign, while some opposition leaders say his departure is a prerequisite for any political talks. The fragmented opposition factions disagree over whether to negotiate with Assad at all.
Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, more than 35,000 people have been killed, including more than 8,000 government troops, according to activists.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.