Welcome to Middle East Live.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:
• Israeli warplanes have attacked a target inside Syria following several days of heightened warnings from government officials over Syria’s stockpiles of weapons. Syrian state media said that military command had confirmed a “scientific research centre” north-west of Damascus was struck at dawn on Wednesday, causing damage. Two people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the site, which was engaged in “raising the level of resistance and self-defence”. American officials, confirmed that US was notified about the attack, and said they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to the New York Times.
• Russia said it was “deeply concerned” about the Israeli air strike. In a statement on the Russian foreign ministry’s website it said if confirmed the unprovoked attack was an unacceptable violation of the UN charter.
• Lebanon’s Hezbollah group has condemned the attack as an act of “barbaric aggression”. In a statement it expressed “full solidarity with Syria’s command, army and people”, AP reports.
• Arab Gulf states pledged the bulk of the cash in a record UN funding drive at a conference in Kuwait on Wednesday that raised more than $1.5bn humanitarian aid to Syria. The pledges came after Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, warned of a “catastrophic” situation. “I appeal to all sides and particularly the Syrian government, to stop the killing,” he said.
• Syria’s opposition leader has expressed a willingness for the first time to talk with representatives of the Assad government in a surprise move that split opponents of the regime, the New York Times reports.
Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, coupled his offer with two demands: the release of what he described as 160,000 prisoners held by Mr. Assad’s government and the renewal of all expired passports held by Syrians abroad – a gesture apparently aimed at disaffected expatriates and exiled opposition figures who could not return home even if they wanted to. Khatib’s offer quickly provoked sharp criticism from others in the Syrian opposition coalition, with some distancing themselves from it and complaining that he had not consulted with colleagues in advance.
Located on flatlands and ringed by wheat and potato fields that offer little cover or concealment, the base and the village at its eastern side have even been nigh unapproachable. To venture near has been to risk machine-gun and rifle fire, as well as high-explosive ordnance from armoured vehicles and tanks or an attack from one of the patrolling aircraft that serve as the lifeline for entrapped soldiers within.
The rebels hope to change that this winter. In recent weeks they have rejoined the battle for Minakh with greater intensity, driven in part by a sense that the government garrison on the base – thinned by casualties and defections – is significantly weaker than what it was.
• Britain will offer to work alongside Algerian forces on counter-terrorism as part of a joint security partnership announced by David Cameron in Algiers on Wednesday evening. Cameron, on the first visit to Algeria by a British prime minister since the country’s independence in 1962, said his aim was to help the country “help itself” amid a growing threat from al-Qaida-linked terrorists in the region.
• President Mohamed Morsi has sought to reassure the German government that he is committed to leading his country on the road to democracy as he seeks funding and relief on €240m of debt amid concerns that his country is sliding into deeper chaos. Morsi, on a whistlestop tour of Europe while deadly clashes continued in his homeland, gave his assurance that parliamentary elections would go ahead “within a few months” and that a constitutionally valid government would be on its feet “within three or four months”.
• The opposition has shifted its tactics by calling for a national dialogue and opening negotiations with the ultraconservative Salafist group, the Washington Post reports. The change in approach comes days after the opposition National Salvation Front shunned Morsi’s offer of talks.