BEIRUT – Syrian forces opened fire across two tense borders Monday, killing a TV journalist in Lebanon and at least two people in a refugee camp in Turkey on the eve of a deadline for a cease-fire plan that seems all but certain to fail.
Across Syria, activists reported particularly heavy violence with more than 125 people killed in the past two days.
The Obama administration expressed outrage at the violence spilling over the frontiers, saying the Syrian government appeared to have little commitment to the peace plan that was negotiated by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
The latest bloodshed was a sign of how easily Syria’s neighbors could be drawn into a regional conflagration as President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on a year-old uprising becomes increasingly militarized, despite desperate diplomatic efforts.
Annan brokered a deal that was supposed to begin with Syria pulling its troops out of population centers by Tuesday morning, with a full cease-fire by both sides within 48 hours.
But hopes for the plan collapsed after a fresh wave of violence and new demands by the regime for written guarantees that the opposition will lay down arms first.
Naci Koru, Turkey’s deputy foreign minister, said Tuesday’s deadline for the withdrawal has become void at this stage, state-run TRT television reported.
North Korea appears preparing atom test
Recent satellite images show North Korea is digging a new underground tunnel in what appears to be preparation for a third nuclear test, according to South Korean intelligence officials.
The excavation at North Korea’s northeast Punggye-ri site, where nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009, is in its final stages, according to a report by intelligence officials that was shared with The Associated Press.
Its release comes as North Korea prepares to launch a long-range rocket that Washington and others say is a cover for testing missile technology that could be used to fire on the United States.
Mom finds 3 slain at child care center
A Brooklyn Park, Minn., mother who had a suspicious feeling after she dropped off her toddler at a home child care returned to the house a few minutes later to make a grisly discovery: three adults inside, shot dead.
The woman’s child was unhurt and no other children were at the day care at the time. Police had made no arrests by Monday evening and were seeking a suspect in his mid-20s, believed to have fled on a BMX bicycle.
Police did not release the identities of the victims or the woman who found them.
2 firefighters die in Philadelphia cave-in
Two firefighters who were battling a massive blaze at an abandoned warehouse were killed when an adjacent furniture store they were inspecting collapsed, burying them in a pile of debris, authorities said.
It took about two hours to recover the bodies of Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, because of all the debris, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. Two other firefighters were rescued and taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
The blaze in the city’s Kensington section started about 3:15 a.m. and quickly spread. Dozens of nearby homes were evacuated and the firefighters were trying to make sure that the blaze was out at the furniture store when a wall and roof collapsed, Ayers said.
Bat-killing fungus traced to Europe
The mysterious deaths of millions of bats in the United States and Canada over the past several years were caused by a fungus that hitchhiked from Europe, scientists reported Monday.
Experts had suspected that an invasive species was to blame for the die-off from white-nose syndrome. Now there’s evidence the culprit was not native to North America.
The fungal illness has not caused widespread deaths among European bats unlike in the U.S. and Canada.
In North America more than 5.7 million bats have died since 2006 when white nose syndrome was first detected in a cave in upstate New York.
The disease does not pose a threat to humans, but people can carry fungal spores.
Mega Million prize winner not ID’d
The holder of a winning Mega Millions ticket sold in Maryland claimed a share of the record-breaking $656 million prize on Monday but will remain anonymous, state lottery officials announced.
The winner claimed the prize at lottery headquarters with a ticket matching all six numbers: 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball, 23, said Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett.
The winner will remain anonymous, but officials will share some details at a news conference Tuesday morning, she said. Maryland does not require lottery winners to be identified.
The jackpot was the biggest in Mega Millions history, and the three winners – one each in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas – will each receive more than $218 million before taxes. Kansas’ winner claimed a share of the jackpot Friday, but also decided to remain anonymous.
Teen slaying case bypasses grand jury
A grand jury in Orlando, Fla, will not look into the Trayvon Martin case, a special prosecutor said, leaving the decision of whether to charge the teen’s shooter in her hands alone and eliminating the possibility of a first-degree murder charge.
That prosecutor, Angela Corey, said her decision had no bearing on whether she would file charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has said he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense.
Corey could still decide to charge him with a serious felony such as manslaughter, which can carry a lengthy prison sentence if he is convicted.
A grand jury had been set to meet Tuesday in Sanford, about 20 miles northeast of Orlando.
Corey has long had a reputation for not using grand juries if it wasn’t necessary. In Florida, only first-degree murder cases require the use of grand juries.