- Israel has conducted airstrike in Syria - U.S. official
- Obama does not foresee sending U.S. troops to Syria
- Wildfire on Southern California coast threatens 4,000 homes
Posted: 03 May 2013 08:18 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel has conducted an airstrike in Syria, apparently targeting a building, a U.S. official said on Friday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate. CNN quoted two unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel most likely conducted the strike "in the Thursday-Friday time frame" and that Israel's warplanes did not enter Syrian airspace.
CNN said the officials did not believe Israel had targeted a chemical weapons facility. CBS News cited U.S. sources as saying Israel targeted a warehouse.
There was no official confirmation. Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told Reuters, "I'm not aware of any attack right now."
A White House spokeswoman referred questions on the CNN report to the Israeli government. The Pentagon declined comment.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli military spokeswoman said, "We do not comment on reports of this kind."
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington said, "We cannot comment on these reports, but what we can say is that Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon." Hezbollah fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006.
The CNN report said that during the time frame of the attack, the United States had collected information showing Israeli warplanes overflying Lebanon.
In January this year, Israel bombed a convoy in Syria, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources in the region.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart in Washington, and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Lou Charbonneau at the United Nations, Writing by Sandra Maler; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 03 May 2013 06:23 PM PDT
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he does not foresee a scenario in which he would send U.S. ground troops to Syria and outlined a deliberate approach to determining whether the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in a 2-year civil war.
Obama insisted that the United States has not ruled out any options in dealing with Syria as the United States investigates whether the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons.
But Obama, who has spent much of his presidency winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, made clear he was not inclined to send troops to Syria, saying "I do not foresee" such a scenario.
Leaders in the region that he has consulted on this issue agree with him, Obama said.
If Syria is found to have used chemical weapons, however, Obama will be under pressure to take some action beyond what the United States is already doing. The Obama administration is considering sending lethal aid to Syrian rebels.
Obama, who has come under fire from some critics in Washington who contend he has a muddled approach to Syria, insisted the United States is not standing by even as it waits for a chemical weapons ruling.
"We're not waiting," he said. "We are working to apply every pressure point that we can on Syria."
The United States has said it has "varying degrees of confidence" that chemical weapons have been used by Syria's government, which violates a "red line" that Obama had established against such action.
At his news conference with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, Obama said more evidence is bound to turn up if Syria is continuing to use chemical weapons.
"If in fact there is the kind of systematic use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, we expect we are going to get additional further evidence and at that point we will absolutely present that to the international community," Obama said.
Any additional steps taken by the United States, he said, will be based on the "facts on the ground" in Syria and what is in the best interests of the American people and U.S. national security."
He stressed he would not be pressured prematurely into a deeper intervention into Syria.
"I'm going to make those decision based on the best evidence and after careful consultation, because when we rush into things, when we leap before we look, then not only do we pay a price but oftentimes we see unintended consequences on the ground. So it's important that we do it right," Obama said.
Privately, U.S. officials predict it will be weeks before any conclusion is reached about whether Syria used chemical weapons. Syria denies using chemical weapons.
Obama administration officials have not specified what "physiological" evidence they have that Syrian forces used sarin but U.S. government sources said it included samples of blood from alleged victims, and of soil.
Obama has repeatedly shied away from deep U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict, which erupted in 2011 and has killed 70,000 people and created more than 1.2 million refugees.
A New York Times/CBS News poll released on Tuesday found that 62 percent of Americans believe the United States has no responsibility to do something about the fighting between Assad's forces and anti-government rebels.
Only 39 percent of respondents said they were following the Syrian violence closely, indicating that it is not among U.S. citizens' top concerns.
(Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 03 May 2013 06:06 PM PDT
CAMARILLO, California (Reuters) - A fierce, wind-whipped wildfire spread on Friday along the California coast northwest of Los Angeles, threatening 4,000 homes and a military base as residents were evacuated ahead of the flames and a university campus was closed.
More than 950 firefighters had built containment lines by late afternoon around about 20 percent of the inferno, which has blackened 18,000 acres (7,280 hectares) of dry, dense brush and chaparral since erupting on Thursday morning. More firefighters were said to be on the way.
Fire managers said they expected it would take until next Monday to achieve full containment of the blaze, which sent a pall of thick smoke drifting over the beach community of Malibu and farther inland across Los Angeles County.
Several farm buildings and recreational vehicles were engulfed and fire officials said 15 homes were damaged, along with five commercial properties. While 25 outbuildings were destroyed, no residential structures were lost and no injuries had been reported to firefighters or civilians.
Some 4,000 homes were considered threatened, with evacuations ordered for about a quarter of those residences, the Ventura County fire and sheriff's departments said.
The so-called Springs Fire and a flurry of smaller blazes around the state this week marked a sudden start to a California fire season that some weather forecasters predict will be worsened by a summer of high temperatures and drought throughout much of the U.S. West.
"We're seeing fires burning like we usually see in late summer, at the height of the fire season, and it's only May," Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Tom Kruschke told Reuters.
The temperature in Camarillo hit a record high of 96 degrees F (36 C) by late morning on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Strong, erratic winds that complicated efforts to combat the Springs Fire through much of the first day were calmer on Friday, officials said. The improved wind conditions allowed several air-tanker planes equipped for dumping payloads of fire-retardant chemicals to return to the air along with a fleet of eight water-dropping helicopters.
NEW WILDFIRE BREAKS OUT
The Springs Fire, which may have been ignited by a tossed cigarette butt, broke out at 6:30 a.m. local time (1330 GMT) on Thursday beside the U.S. 101 freeway, less than 10 miles (16 km) from the Pacific coast, and spread quickly to the edges of the communities of Camarillo and Newbury Park.
By Friday morning, flames had advanced to within a short distance of the ocean's edge in some places, forcing authorities to close several miles of Pacific Coast Highway.
At the Point Mugu U.S. Naval Air Station on the coast, all non-essential personnel were ordered to stay home for a second day as flames encroached on a firing range at the extreme western end of the base, spokeswoman Kimberly Gearhart said. She said no ammunition was stored at that location, bordered on two sides by coastline and wetlands.
But a base housing unit that is home to 110 active-duty military personnel and their families was evacuated on Friday because of heavy smoke, Gearhart said, adding there was no immediate fire threat to that vicinity and military aircraft were continuing routine flights between the base and a communications post on San Nicolas Island offshore.
In mid-afternoon, residents were ordered to clear out of more than 900 homes in Hidden Valley, an enclave of ranches and estate-type properties southeast of Camarillo. Some 200 dwellings were evacuated earlier along the coastal highway and adjacent canyon roads, sheriff's Sergeant Eric Buschow said.
Previous evacuation orders for two housing subdivisions at the northern end of the fire zone closer to Camarillo were lifted, but those neighbourhoods remained restricted to residents carrying identification, Buschow said.
California State University at Channel Islands campus, including student housing, was closed for a second day, the university said, although official evacuation orders for the school were lifted.
A separate late-afternoon brush fire in the hills above Glendale, a suburb just north of Los Angeles and about 50 miles (80 km) east of Camarillo, prompted the evacuation of a number of homes and an elementary school. But water-dropping helicopters and ground crews moved in to quickly contain it.
A larger fire in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, on Thursday destroyed two houses and damaged two others before firefighters halted its spread, and at least five additional wildfires burned in Northern California.
Hot, dry conditions in Southern California were fed largely by Santa Ana winds blowing in from desert areas to the east.
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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