Syrian Forces Push Into Hama

HAMA, Syria, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Syrian forces pushed into Hama, maintaining their crackdown on protesters as Western leaders discuss possible reactions to the unstable situation.

Many people fled Hama to nearby villages, fearing the army would gain total control in the city, witnesses told the BBC Tuesday.

Security forces have cracked down on protests throughout Syria, often after prayers Monday on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Rights groups said government troops killed about 140 people since Sunday, most of them in Hama.

While Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces tamp down protests, the U.N. Security Council was preparing to resume discussions on the months-long crisis. Russia, which has resisted agreeing to a resolution condemning the violence, has indicated it could back a diplomatically-worded statement.

Also, the European Union expanded its list of sanctioned individuals in Assad’s government, including Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib targeted by asset freezes and travel bans, Adnkronos International reported. Assad’s uncle and members of state intelligence or local militias also were added.

The additions bring to 35 the number of individuals, including Assad, subject to the EU sanctions since March. Four Syrian companies also are subject to the EU actions.

Italy recalled its ambassador to Syria for consultations, citing the “horrible repression” of citizens, the BBC reported.

The current crackdown, which observers said appears meant to prevent protests from growing during Ramadan, has brought strong international condemnation. Government officials said Assad wants to enact reforms, but that “armed gangs” backed by an unnamed government are attacking Syrian citizens and security forces.

Ex-Detroit Mayor Released From Prison

JACKSON, Mich., Aug. 2 (UPI) — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was released from prison Tuesday and will go to Texas to rejoin his family, officials said.

Kilpatrick, 41, was allowed to transfer supervision of his two-year parole to Texas, where his wife and sons live in Grand Prairie, a Dallas suburb, The Detroit News reported.

Kilpatrick wore a light colored shirt and dark pants or jeans when he left the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Kilpatrick used social media such as Twitter to share his thoughts about jail and being released.

“All I can dream about is being united with my family. Hurry up Tuesday!” one Twitter post read.

Kilpatrick is expected to go to Texas within the next 24 hours, where he will report to parole officials who will supervise him until his parole ends, the Free Press said.

The disgraced ex-mayor was sent to prison in March 2010 by Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner, who ruled Kilpatrick violated terms of his probation by hiding personal finances from the court. The probation arose from Kilpatrick’s admitting he lied when he testified in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former Detroit police officers who said they were expected to facilitate and hide Kilpatrick’s extramarital affairs.

Restrictions Hampering Somalia Famine Aid

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — U.S. anti-terrorism restrictions are preventing the delivery of urgently needed food aid to famine-stricken parts of Somalia, a humanitarian aid official said.

Shannon Scribner of the international relief agency Oxfam said the drought in East Africa should prompt an end to all restrictions, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

“What needs to happen is all actors on the ground — insurgents, the U.S. government and donors — need to lift any restrictions on providing aid,” Scribner said.

Under current restrictions, U.S.-funded groups could face prosecution if they pay “taxes” or tolls demanded for food shipments by the militant Islamic group al-Shabab which has links to al-Qaida.

Officials have told the Post the Obama administration is moving towards easing such restrictions.

They said it is taking time to hammer out the details of providing expanded licenses to aid groups working in areas controlled by al-Shabab.

“The fear on the part of the Obama administration is of being put in a position, by opponents, of channeling food aid to terrorists,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College in North Carolina.

FBI Aids Michigan Assault Investigation

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug. 2 (UPI) — The FBI has offered its assistance in the investigation of assaults on young women near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, a town spokeswoman said.

Six assaults, including two rapes, have occurred during the past two weeks and all the victims ranged in age from 18 to 26, The New York Times reported.

Two of the woman were University of Michigan students while the others were area residents.

Police said five of the attacks involved sexual assaults and the sixth was a robbery attempt.

Each of the victims was walking alone at night.

Ann Arbor spokeswoman Sandra R. Berchtold said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is providing assistance to local authorities “as needed.”

Berchtold declined to be specific about the role the agency might play.

“We have a predator, or predators, operating in our community,” Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones told a news conference.

Detroit Strip Club Owner’s Story Rejected

DETROIT, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Detroit strip club owner apparently fled to the Ukraine in 2005 to escape being charged with human smuggling, a U.S. magistrate has concluded.

U.S. Magistrate Laurie Michelson said in newly released court documents that just weeks after Veniamin Gonikman left the country his business partner and family members were charged with human trafficking, the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday.

They were accused of smuggling eastern European women into the United States and forcing them to work long hours at Detroit strip clubs.

Gonikman’s son and other associates are serving prison sentences ranging from seven to 14 years.

“It would be unrealistic optimism — or denial — for (the) defendant to think he was not next or had not already been charged,” Michelson wrote.

She recommended that Gonikman’s request to have the charges against him dropped be denied.

New details released Monday indicate Gonikman offered a senior Ukrainian investigator $500,000 to let him go after he was discovered living openly in a Ukrainian village in January.

Glass Falls From Toronto Condo 5th Time

TORONTO, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Glass balcony panels were being removed from a high-rise Toronto condominium Tuesday after two panels crashed to the street for the fifth time this year.

Work crews had already been working at removing the glass panels under a city order issued 12 days ago when two tempered panels came loose and dropped from the 18th and 35th floors, the Toronto Star reported.

The first incident happened earlier this year at the downtown Murano buildings. One tower is 45 stories high and the second is 37 stories.

The builder, Lanterra Developments, says on its Web site the “intricately glass design encasing the towers portrays the glass artistry of the [Italian] island of Murano.”

No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents, but each time police have been forced to close the arterial Bay St. to traffic and pedestrians.

Tower residents have been told their balconies are off-limits and that removal of all glass panes could take as long as two months, the report said. It wasn’t known how long replacement work would take once the thousands of panels were all down, the Star said.

Mexican Prosecutors Resign En Masse

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Federal prosecutors in 21 of Mexico’s 31 states and federal districts resigned en masse, but the country’s top prosecutor didn’t offer a reason for the exodus.

Unclear was whether the 21 senior federal prosecutors were being forced out or were quitting in rebellion over Attorney General Marisela Morales and her administration, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The resignations came amid a purge of the agency launched by Morales, who took office in April. A member of Morales’ office said the resignations were tendered Friday.

“The purge is fundamental within the [attorney general's office] to give citizens the results they legitimately demand,” Morales said in a statement. “The Mexico of today requires that those of us in public office act with total dedication and responsibility of service.”

The office announced in July that during the first 100 days Morales was on the job, 462 prosecutors and other officials were dismissed and 111 court officials faced criminal charges on charges ranging from fraud, and theft to abuse of power and falsification of documents. Another 386 employees were in the process of being dismissed.

Der Spiegel: Israel Killed Iranian

BERLIN, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Israel was behind the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist last week in Tehran, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports.

In an article titled “Mossad Behind Tehran Assassinations, Says Source” the German news magazine bases its information on an unnamed Israeli intelligence source who claimed it was the first major operation carried out by the new Mossad director Tamir Pardo.

The report surveys a series of assassination attempts against Iranian nuclear scientists over the past 18 months. The article points out that after last week’s assassination there were conflicting reports concerning the scientist’s identity.

Initially the victim was identified as Darioush Rezaei, a physics professor and expert in neutron transport, but later Iranian authorities identified the dead man as Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student.

Der Spiegel said it believes Professor Rezaei was killed in the attack, noting he has not been seen in public since.

Iran accused Israel and the United States of the killing. While Washington denied any involvement, Israel has remained silent, the magazine said.

The intelligence source also told Der Spiegel the Israeli Air Force supports an aerial attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, a plan the Mossad opposes. As long as the Mossad is leading the campaign against the Iranian nuclear program it continues to get the big targets, the source indicated.

Israel Unveils Secret Missile

JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Israel’s Artillery Corps has revealed the existence of the previously classified Tammuz missile used by the army during the Gaza and Lebanon wars.

With a range of 15.5 miles, the missile is equipped with an electronic optic sensor that transmits the image of its target to operators inside an armored personnel carrier who then manually steer it towards the target, The Jerusalem Post said.

The missile is capable of penetrating armored vehicles. While the missile has been in use since the 1980s, it was decided to reveal it to the public on Monday, the Post and Haaretz reported.

“The missile provides us with the ability to accurately attack targets from a standoff position without needing to physically come into contact with the enemy,” Col. Sharon commander of the Artillery Corps David Sling Formation told the Post.

The Tammuz missile is based on the Spike Long Range Missile developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and is operated by the elite Meitar unit of the Artillery Corps. It was offered for foreign export a number of years ago, the Post said.

The missile was used extensively in the Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah targets but proved more successful when used against Hamas targets in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January 2009.

Report Says Israel Tried To Hit Nasrallah

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A bombing in a Beirut suburb last Friday was an Israeli attempt to assassinate Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, the Kuwaiti daily al-Jareeda reported Tuesday.

Unnamed sources told the newspaper, Israel received information of plans by Nasrallah to meet with senior officials in a southern Beirut suburb, including Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar who was freed by Israel in a Hezbollah prisoner swap.

A number of Hezbollah members are believed to have been injured in the blast but there is no confirmation concerning whether Nasrallah was also injured, the Kuwaiti daily said.

One of those believed to have been injured is Mustafa Badr al-,a senior Hezbollah official wanted by the Special Tribunal in Lebanon investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Web site reported.

After Friday’s explosion, Hezbollah said the blast was caused by a gas leak and secured the site barring police or military officials from approaching, Haaretz said.