Today is Day 1,098 of the Syrian conflict.
The past 24 hours have seen a barrage of Syria-related developments: Israel has bombed several Syrian military targets. The UN says it has solid evidence to prosecute Syrian war crimes. The US has closed the Syrian embassy in Washington. Lebanese troops have been deployed to the refugee-filled town of Arsal.
Here are the details.
Hours after a bomb in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights injured four Israeli soldiers, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) released a statement saying that Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian army training facility, a military headquarters, and artillery batteries on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. The Syrian army has released its own statement, saying that the airstrikes killed one Syrian soldier and wounded seven, and warning Israel about such "hostile acts ... endanger[ing] the security and stability of the region." For context: Earlier this month the Israeli army killed two Hezbollah fighters it said were planting a bomb on the Syrian side of the border. Hezbollah has been supporting the Syrian government in this conflict.
Also in the past 24 hours: The UN has updated its Syrian "perpetrators list," and says it has enough evidence to indict individuals from both sides of the Syrian conflict for war crimes. The UN says that the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — one of several extremist groups jockeying for dominance on the rebel side of the conflict — carried out "mass executions of detainees" in January.
Yesterday, on the three-year anniversary of the violence in Syria, and following the Syrian Embassy's suspension of its provision of consular services, the US closed the Syrian embassy in Washington, DC and told the Syrian diplomats working there to go home.
The closed Syrian embassy is pictured in Washington on March 18, 2014. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Below is a photo this morning from the Lebanese town of Arsal. As you can see, those are troops.
Just Monday, GlobalPost published a piece in which correspondent Tracey Shelton interviewed both refugees and permanent residents of this town. The town has been flooded with Syrian refugees, particularly in the past month as the Syrian government first bombed and then recaptured the rebel stronghold of Yabroud, just over the border into Syria.
On Tuesday, residents of the neighboring town of Labweh reportedly blocked the main road out of Arsal with a sand barrier. Labweh is mostly Shiite. Arsal is mostly Sunni. (For those who aren't keeping track, recall that Lebanese group Hezbollah is also Shiite, and is fighting on Assad's side, while there's a strong Sunni influence on the rebel side.) Residents of Labweh had said several rockets had been fired at them from Arsal, resulting in one death. But the sealing off of Arsal then sparked intense protests from Sunnis elsewhere in Lebanon, who according to The Daily Star expressed soldarity with Arsal by blocking several highways with burning tires. If you're thinking this doesn't sound good, you're not alone. It's just the latest example of the sectarian aspect of the Syrian conflict spilling over into Lebanon.
Lebanese security forces reopened the road to Arsal Wednesday. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk says he is sending more policemen to "beef up" the security presence in the town.
Upon security forces' arrival in Arsal this morning, according to The Daily Star, mayor Ali Hujeiri slaughtered sheep in their honor.