US pushes democracy for Egypt after coup
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is turning to top officials to tout democracy, political transparency and peaceful protest for Egypt, a message that took on a hollow tone as the Egyptian military installed a new leader for the country and began rounding up its ousted president and his supporters.
Tens of thousands of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi marched in Cairo on Friday, and gunfire and stone-throwing marked clashes taking place after dark. Across Egypt, at least 30 people were reported killed and more than 200 wounded.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the violence and called on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters.
“The voices of all who are protesting peacefully must be heard — including those who welcomed the events of earlier this week and those who supported President Morsi,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The Egyptian people must come together to resolve their differences peacefully, without recourse to violence or the use of force.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday called Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, for a second time in as many days. The Pentagon said Dempsey had spoken earlier with Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi, the chief of staff of Egypt’s military, although the Pentagon wouldn’t disclose details about any of the calls.
Relatives clash over 911 in Martin case
SANFORD, Fla. — The mothers of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman listened Friday to the same 911 recording of someone screaming for help, and each said she was convinced the voice was that of her own son.
The starkly conflicting testimony over the potentially crucial piece of evidence came midway through Zimmerman’s murder trial in the 2012 shooting of the unarmed 17-year-old.
“I heard my son screaming,” Sybrina Fulton, the teenager’s mother, said firmly after she was played a recording in which distant, high-pitched wails could be heard in the background as a Zimmerman neighbor asked a dispatcher to send police. Moments later on the call, there was a gunshot and the crying stopped.
Gladys Zimmerman, though, testified she recognized the voice all too well: “My son.” Asked how she could be certain, she said: “Because it’s my son.”
The testimony came on a dramatic, action-packed day in which the prosecution rested its case and the judge rejected a defense request to acquit Zimmerman on the second-degree murder charge.
Syrian army fires heavy artillery barrages
BEIRUT — Syrian government troops unleashed a major artillery barrage on the city of Homs on Friday, hitting buildings near a 13th century mosque as they pressed an assault on rebel-held areas in the country’s strategic heartland.
Opposition activists said Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas had joined the fighting in Syria’s third largest city. If confirmed, it would be the first major involvement for the Iranian-backed group since it helped regime troops capture a key border town from the rebels last month.
As the shells landed, thousands of civilians trapped in the city faced severe shortages of food, water and medicine, prompting the U.N. and opposition groups to warn of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have suffered a series of setbacks recently, including the loss of the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last month.
Despite recent shipments of more advanced weapons from Gulf Arab countries, they have been unable to score any major gains in the past few weeks.
The powerful Hezbollah, a staunch ally of the regime, was instrumental in the regime’s victory in Qusair.
By wire sources