Syria crisis: Russian roulette of random attacks
Minutes later… or before. Metres on one side… or the other. That can be the measure between life or death in Syria. That's the cruel consequence of random attacks in a ravaging war.
"If the mortar had landed 15 minutes later, the children would have been in their classrooms," lamented a school official in the Bab Touma area of the Old City of Damascus not long after a mortar slammed into a schoolyard full of children this week.
"At 07:45 in the morning, nearly 300 children were playing outside."
Mortars are inaccurate, indiscriminate, and many more are landing in cities across Syria.
They're believed to be fired by rebels, but the government is also accused of launching them into neighbourhoods under its control. So brutal is this war that nothing is considered unthinkable.
Afghans set to defy the Taliban in presidential vote
There's nothing like an election when it's not certain who will win, when candidates campaign like every vote counts, and voters are engaged.
That's Afghanistan in 2014.
This third presidential race since the fall of the Taliban is also certain to be marred by rigging, recrimination and violence.
The run-up to this historic poll on 5 April has already been the bloodiest.
And fears of electoral fraud are pronounced.
Kabul guest house attack: Stories of survival
All five men were visibly shaken. Some were bloodied from scratches. But theirs is an extraordinary story of survival after a four-hour long attack on their Kabul guest house.
"I'm amazed to be alive," one survivor kept repeating as he recounted how he hid under his bed on the third floor of the guest house for more than two hours.
"The gunmen went room to room, firing their weapons, but they never found us," said another man who told me how he crouched in the bottom of his wardrobe for hours.
The US-based Roots of Peace organisation said in a statement the Taliban had launched a "complex assault" on its compound and a nearby day-care centre.
It spoke of "a suicide car bomb followed by at least three armed men" that left two guards with the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) injured and one expatriate with minor cuts from flying glass.
Kabul ushers in uncertain New Year
Kabul's Salaam Khana was once a stately palace where kings were crowned and Afghans gathered to salute their royal ruler.
This week it set the stage for a new chapter in Afghanistan's chequered history.
"We have broken the silence," marvelled Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast, founder and director of Afghanistan's National Institute of Music.
"After 30 years, a new generation of Afghan musicians is playing music here," he exclaimed before he took to the stage to conduct a specially composed song to mark the start of the Persian New Year, known as Nawroz.
There were no kings in this audience to appreciate the uplifting melody and verse. But four Presidents, and senior officials from a dozen countries, along with Afghan dignitaries and diplomats, packed the elegant hall for the International Nawroz Festival.
Lyse answers your questions on Iran
Four days in Tehran
Four days in the teeming mega-metropolis of Tehran is not enough. But it was just enough to savour what's long been special about this city.
There were also moments of surprise. And even a short stay was enough to appreciate the enduring centrality and sensitivity of Iran's engagement with the wider world.
Elegant chinar trees still soar over Vali-e-Asr, the avenue reputed to be the longest in the Middle East, possibly the world. Sadly, there are fewer trees now, but their stately presence is still a lovely Tehran landmark.
The infamous traffic congestion seems much worse than on my last visit five years ago. Preparations for the much anticipated New Year (Nowruz) swells the slowly flowing streams. Travel time had to be factored in to every decision about where we would head next.
Magnificent Islamic architecture, with intricate Persian patterns and decorative brickwork still make you pause.
Iranians hope for better fortunes in Persian New Year
Iranians are preparing for the Persian New Year - the Nawroz festival that symbolises happiness, health and new hope.
The country's shops and bazaars are packed with shoppers but many Iranians are experiencing the hardships caused by crippling economic sanctions.
So how much hope is there this year?
Here's my report from Tehran.
Ashton visit to Iran sparks co-operation and controversy
A visit to explore the potential for a new relationship between Iran and Europe has also ended up highlighting the enduring sensitivity of the old.
Hardliners have been on a political warpath this week after the first visit to Tehran by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
"Do you think our country has no order that you can go anywhere you want and see anyone you want to see?" the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, demanded on Tuesday night.
Leading clerics from the holy city of Qom have now added their voice, accusing the West of "reviving the plot of the soft revolution", a reference to the widespread street protests - blamed on foreign powers - that were sparked by the disputed 2009 presidential election.
When Baroness Ashton first landed in Tehran last weekend, moderate newspapers hailed her arrival as an "achievement" of the reformist President Hassan Rouhani.