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Tuesday
Oct252011

Syria, Yemen (And Beyond): Two Cities Burning in Two Countries

Houses burn after they were lit on fire, reportedly by regime supporters, in Ahlbit in Syria's Idlib Province on Monday

See also Syria Video Special: Homs is Still Burning
Yemen Feature: Drones & the Killing of an American Teenager
Monday's Tunisia, Libya, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Election, Liberation, Protest


1920 GMT: A couple of the protest videos from Syria tonight --- the Ghouta and Qosour districts of Homs:

Al-Jabileh section of Deir Ez Zor in the northeast:

1900 GMT: Despite claims of a cease-fire in the Yemeni capital Sana'a (see 1510 GMT), a medical official said two people were killed and at least 40 wounded when President Saleh's forces opened fire on thousands of protesters in the streets surrounding Change Square.

"The people want to prosecute the butcher," the protesters chanted, as some held posters saying that, after the death of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, it was time for Saleh to "listen to your people".

Mohammed al-Qubati, who runs a field hospital for the protesters, gave the casualty figures and said dozens of people had breathing difficulties from tear gas fired by the troops.

Raw video from Associated Press of the attack by Saleh's forces:

1840 GMT: An EA source in Bahrain sends us this update:

Today afternoon clashes in Aldair village, after police force attacked a pro-democracy protest. The road where the clashes [took place] is just behind the Bahrain Airport.

1832 GMT: This picture, posted by an activist, shows people protesting the Tunisian election results, claiming that the Al Nahda party paid poor voters for their vote:

However, Al Jazeera posts this photo, celebrations outside of Al Nahda's headquarters. It should be stressed that so far there are only a very small amount of people protesting the results, and we've yet to see any credible evidence of legitimate fraud allegations. So far, these protests are probably not a major movement:

1824 GMT: CNN's Arwa Damon sends these two tweets (which we've reformatted):

A doctor in Homs says that he used to work at a government hospital, and some colleagues would collaborate with the security forces and refuse to operate (on protesters), just extract info & let them die.

[The Doctor] says he treats 4-10 people in a secret clinic per day, says has gunshot & RPG patients. many die.

1817 GMT: This video reportedly shows medical students protesting against the Assad regime on the Mezzeh highway in Damascus. One protester holds a sign with today's date:

1808 GMT: The Associate Press publishes this video, edits of Youtubes videos showing the Yemeni government forces opening fire on protesters earlier today in Sana'a:

1802 GMT: Syrian military raid houses, reportedly in Babs Sbaa, Homs, today:

1746 GMT: This video reportedly shows a tank shelling Taiz, Yemen. It appears to be the same video that we posted video of yesterday:

1735 GMT: Signs of trouble in Tunisia? Al Jazeera is reporting that between 400 and 600 protesters have gathered, alleging that Al Nahada, the party that appears to have received the most votes, has rigged the election:

The Reuters news agency reports that about 400 people were at the protest outside the ISIE, alleging that al-Nahda and other groups had committed fraud during Sunday's vote.

They carried banners which read: "What democracy?" and "Shame on you Ghannouchi!", a reference to al-Nahda's leader Rachid Ghannouchi.

"There has been falsification even before the vote. There are parties like al-Nahda which gave money to voters," said Saifallah Hanachi, one of the demonstrators.

"We are not against Islam, but Ghannouchi's party should be punished for these violations of the election law," Amira Ben Yahia, another demonstrator, said.

1514 GMT: A much larger protest last night in Sanabis, Bahrain:

1510 GMT: The violence in Yemen may, once again, be temporarily halted. The Guardian reports:

The Yemeni government has signed a ceasefire with a dissident general to try to end weeks of violence, Reuters is reporting. Explosions and gunfire could still be heard in the north of the capital, Sana'a, however.

The deal between the governemnt of Ali Abdullah Saleh and General Ali Mohsen was due to come into effect today at 3pm local time (1pm BST).

Saleh faces opposition from protesters, tribesmen and renegade soldiers, a conflict that tipped into street fighting last month. Yesterday Saleh welcomed a UN security council resolution calling on him to begin a transition of power.

1506 GMT: Another video from last night's protests in Bahrain. Protesters in Al Eker hold a Bahraini flag with a message written on it, "[Protests] Will continue until the fall of the regime."

1501 GMT: A human chain formed last night in the village of Aldair, Bahrain:

After the chain is broken, police clash with protesters:

1451 GMT: At least 50 people have been killed as a fuel tank exploded in Sirte, Libya. The people were cued in line when the explosion went off.

1424 GMT: According to a leading human rights activist, another major activist, Wafi Almajed has been given a stiff prison sentence in Bahrain:

Wafi almajed, husband of activist @angryarabiya sentenced to 2 years for illegal gathering, waiting 2 hear sentence of other 7 charges

The 2 years sentence of alkhawaja's son in law wafi is for only 1 of his 8 charges-lawyer expects sentence to add up 2 4 years min

Wafi almajed-30 years old, is father to a 2 year old girl, he is sentenced for his relation to activist alkhawaja and nothing more

1418 GMT: International observers have largely been happy with the Tunisian election so far, which makes this particular report slightly troubling. According to Al Jazeera:

Reuters reports that the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has declined an offer from al-Nahda to join a coalition.

"Al-Nahda has called for a coalition government. We do not see any necessity to participate," PDP leader Najib Chebbi has said on Mosaique radio.

1411 GMT: Activists are again reporting that the Yemeni military is bombarding the city of Taiz. Yesterday, 4 people were reportedly killed in the city, and another was reportedly killed in Yemen's capital, Sana'a:

In the capital, medics say one person was killed when government troops opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters marching towards the pro-Saleh controlled Al-Qaa district. Witnesses say another Forty protesters were wounded.

In Taez, four civilians died and another seven were wounded in clashes between anti-government tribesmen and pro-Saleh troops.

Witnesses say dozens of houses in the nation's second largest city were damaged by mortar shells. Schools were also said to be shut down in Taez.

Meanwhile, the UN is warning that the humanitarian crisis will only get worse if peace is not restored soon:

"Yemen is on the verge of a true humanitarian disaster... it's at risk of becoming the new Somalia on the political and humanitarian level," Geert Cappelaere, the U.N. Children's Fund's representative for Yemen, told a news briefing.

1402 GMT: The US government is encouraging the Moroccan government to reform:

"We expressed our encouragement for a quick implementation of the reforms that Morocco has charted for itself," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman said after talks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri in Rabat.

The proposed reforms have not convinced a youth-led movement that calls itself February 20, after the date of its first demonstration. It has continued regular protests to press the monarchy for deeper reform.

1347 GMT: A 25 year old Egyptian woman, Samira Ibrahim, is suing the Egyptian military over a "virginity test," which Ibrahim, and Amnesty International, are arguing was a form of sexual assault and torture.Ibrahim is one of 16 women who had to undergo this "procedure" during protests in March.

1342 GMT: Students protest in Khattab, Hama, Syria:

1335 GMT: James Miller takes the blog again.

There have reportedly been clashes between the Syrian military and defected soldiers in Ma'arrat an-Numan, a city of about 90,000 between Aleppo and Hama. Al Jazeera has this report:

More on those clashes in Maraat al-Numan coming from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights now. The UK-based group says that seven security forces personnel were killed by army deserters in the clash.

"Armed men, suspected deserters, attacked a security forces convoy at the entrance to Maaret al-Noman town in Idlib province, killing seven agents, including an officer," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It says that several other people were wounded in the attack. The convoy consisted of 40 vehicles, including buses, 4x4s and cars, the Observatory said.

Ambulance rushed to the scene of the attack, which took place at 1:00pm local time (11:00 GMT) and gunfire could still be heard in the early afternoon, it said.

0428 GMT: A bit of co-operation between the military and the press in Syria --- troops guide a cameraman (working for State TV?) on what to film in the Bab Sbaa section of Homs:

0425 GMT: A march in Mehaza in Bahrain on Monday night:

0415 GMT: Protesters in the Barzeh suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus chant, "Long live Syria, down goes Assad":

0359 GMT: In Tunisia, the moderate Islamic party, al Nahda, has won "90 out of the 217 seats, or 41% of the constituent assembly" according to Al Jazeera. The complete list of the results, in Arabic, can be seen on this Facebook page.

0356 GMT: Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid reports from Misurata:

0345 GMT: According to the main-stream media coverage of the Middle East and North Africa, the major stories on Monday were the election in Tunisia and the continuing debate over the fate of Muammar and Muatassim Qaddafi in Libya.

In Tunisia, as much as 90% of eligible voters turned out in an election that seemed to go off without a hitch. While the world anxiously waits to see what this new democracy in the region brings, the first indications are that Tunisia, the birthplace of Arab Spring, has successfully and democratically elected representation.

In Libya, the world also anxiously awaits to see how this new government handles its transition, but the international community is still asking hard questions about what happened to the Qaddafi family, and its fighters, as well as the perhaps obvious question: what will happen to supporters of Qaddafi, or political dissidents in the future? Late in the day, it appeared as though the Libyan government was listening to those concerns, as announcements were made that the death of Muammar Qaddafi and his son, Muatassim, would be investigated, and a funeral would happen as soon as Tuesday.

While these two stories were huge, there were few surprises. But while the media covered these stories, two major developments appeared to be taking place in the region that were going largely uncovered.

In Syria, the protest movement aroudn the country, and specifically around Damascus, seemed to be revitalized once again, as Syria's third largest city, Homs, continued to burn. For at least the 4th day in a row, the Syrian military was unleashing it's wrath on a city of 1.2 million people, and yesterday it appeared that the rest of the country was not willing to let this story develop in the dark.

See our separate video entry, Syria Video Special: Homs is Still Burning

But while the violence in Syria went under-reported, the violence in Taiz, the second largest city in Yemen, was almost completely ignored. Videos from yesterday's liveblog showed major damage to the city, as smoke could be seen rising from the background, and casualty reports filtered in. While Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said that he welcomed the UN resolution that encouraged him to step down, at least 2 people, including a 10 year old child, were reportedly killed as pro-Saleh forces bombarded the city.

So even as Arab Spring is coming to completion in Tunisia, and a new beginning is underway in Libya, the revolutions in Syria and Yemen may just be heating up, once again. Will the world pay attention? So far, the spotlight is still on the revolutions in North Africa.

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