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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Deaths Return to Hama

Video of Friday's killings in Hama in Syria outside a mosque

See also Bahrain 1st-Hand: The People of Sitra "We Are Still Here. We Are Demanding. We Exist"
"Yes, We Will Tweet": How a Flashmob Took Over a New Media Conference in Lebanon
Bahrain Feature: The Freedom Torch Protests
Syria Video Special: Today's Protests Across the Country
Friday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Back on the Streets?

1950 GMT: Activists say 10 Syrian security agents and an army deserter were killed on Saturday when a bus transporting security agents between the villages of Al-Habit and Kafrnabuda in Idlib Province, in northwestern Syria close to the Turkish border, was ambushed "by armed men, probably deserters".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said that 17 soldiers were killed late on Friday in the central city of Homs when gunmen, believed to be deserters, attacked two checkpoints.

Elsewhere on Saturday, according to the Observatory, five civilians, including a woman and a 15-year-old teenager, were killed and several wounded by gunfire from Syrian forces and snipers in Homs Province (see 1915 GMT).

1940 GMT: The demonstration in Khalidiya in Homs tonight:

1915 GMT: Footage of tanks and protests in Homs --- activists have said that the military fired on people in the Bab Amr section (see 1305 GMT):

1735 GMT: Video of the opposition rally in Al Hajar this afternoon (see 1415 GMT):

1635 GMT: Claimed footage of Syrian security forces beating detaineees, their hands bound behind their backs, in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Friday:

And from today, large participation at the funeral of Ali Alloush in Saraqeb in the northwest:

1415 GMT: A couple of snapshots from the Bahraini opposition party Al Wefaq at the rally in Al Hajar this afternoon --- "If the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry [on the events during protests in February and March] does not result in a political solution, then the crises will continue, and will get worse....The Bahraini nation deserve a better government and they will have it soon."

1325 GMT: Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia was reportedly calm on Saturday, after an overnight curfew imposed because of post-election protests.

The town's weekly market was open, as teams cleaned and repaired public buildings vandalised during two days of unrest over the disqualification of one of the parties in Tunisia's first free elections. A few tanks were stationed by the police headquarters and town hall, and schools remained closed.

Andrew Hammond offers a first-hand account of the trouble on Thursday and Friday:

Talking to people to try and establish a picture of what happened did not clear matters up. The main point that everyone agreed on was that Sidi Bouzid felt insulted by the electoral commission scrubbing the votes of Hachmi Hamdi’s Popular Petition only and on one else’s. They also disliked the way journalists in the room whooped in delight when the commission made its announcement on Thursday night. Both points seemed to confirm to them the marginalisation and disdain they feel from the rest of the country, specifically the affluent elites of the coastal cities.

1315 GMT: Image of a large opposition rally today in the Bahraini village of Al Hajar:

1305 GMT: Activists says Syrian troops have shelled the Bab Amr district of Homs today, following Friday's killing of at least 44 people by security forces.

Raids and arrests also were reported around Deir Ez Zor in the northeast.

Activists said there were casualties, but there is no confirmed number.

Footage of an anti-regime demonstration today in Maliha Al-Atash in Daraa Province in southern Syria:

Nahta in Daraa:

And Al-Lattamneh in Hama Province this morning:

1045 GMT: The conclusion of a first-hand account by Liz Sly in The Washington Post:

Protests erupt on a regular basis, even in Damascus. On a government-escorted visit to the working-class and deeply conservative Midan neighborhood, the calm of one recent afternoon was suddenly shattered by the sound of merchants pulling down their shutters as a roar began to swell. A “martyr” to the cause of the opposition --- a soldier who had defected in Homs --- was being buried, and his funeral procession was accompanied by a noisy anti-government demonstration.

“God is great!” shouted those in the crowd of several hundred young men, as they marched up the narrow street toward a cemetery. And then, with greater force, arose the chant of what has become the chief rallying cry of the protest movement around the country: “The people want the execution of the president!”

The rage, energy and determination were palpable, suggesting that these young men, who have been taking to the streets on a regular basis since March, will not soon tire of their efforts to topple the regime.

A short distance and a world away, a group of students from privileged families debated politics over lattes and cigarettes in a cafe at the glitzy Cham City mall. Four of them supported the government to varying degrees. A fifth, who gave his name as Bassam, remained silent until asked for his views.

“I support the protesters, and I want total change. Including the president,” he said, adding that he had taken part in protests.

The tone of the discussion shifted abruptly.

“My president is untouchable, and I will kill people for him, just as they are killing against him,” screamed one of the students, Mariam, as she kicked Bassam under the table.

Bassam responded quietly that he was prepared to die for the sake of change. “My life is not more precious than the lives of those who have gone before,” he said.

The friends checked their watches and said it was time to go. Taking their farewells, they headed into the darkening streets and went their separate ways.

0920 GMT: Demonstrators in Sanabis chant, "We will welcome the Freedom Torch" and "Men and women are protesting; the revolution never ends".

0917 GMT: Journalist Andy Carvin, in Beirut for a digital media conference, gives a snapshot of the campaign against Bahrain human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, "Spent about 30 mins with @NABEELRAJAB. He got 6 or 7 harassing phone calls in just that period."

0915 GMT: Journalist James Foley writes, "Sirte residents report collecting 500 bodies in the last week, some from mass graves, some they say from air strikes, some in ones and twos."

0515 GMT: Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, a Syrian-born American citizen, pled not guilty on Friday to charges he spied on anti-Syrian government protesters in the US.

Prosecutors claim Soueid provided video and audio recordings of demonstrators to Syrian intelligence officials.

0505 GMT: An analysis of Sunday's Tunisian election, in which the Islamist party Ennadha won 41% of the vote, by Erik Churchill for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes:

The large secular parties’ reliance on advertising and reluctance to meet voters outside of the major cities made it difficult for undecided, rural voters, to put their confidence in them. The majority of Tunisians showed this weekend that Ennahda not only understood their preferences, but also that Tunisian voters cannot be taken for granted and should be reached out to directly. As the final votes are tallied, secular parties should reflect on the valuable lesson that was taught this weekend.

0500 GMT: The US company Blue Coat Systems has admitted that at least 13 of its devices to censor Web activity have been used in Syria, but it claims it does not know how the equipment reached Damascus.

Blue Coat, based in Sunnyvale, California, says it shipped the Internet filtering devices to Dubai late last year, believing they were destined for a department of the Iraqi Government. The company says it alerted U.S. authorities in recent days to the "improper transfer" and is cooperating with Washington's inquiries.

0450 GMT: The opening paragraphs of the story in The New York Times are provocative:

Once one of Syria’s closest allies, Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military.

The support for the insurgents comes amid a broader Turkish campaign to undermine Mr. Assad’s government. Turkey is expected to impose sanctions soon on Syria, and it has deepened its support for an umbrella political opposition group known as the Syrian National Council, which announced its formation in Istanbul. But its harboring of leaders in the Free Syrian Army, a militia composed of defectors from the Syrian armed forces, may be its most striking challenge so far to Damascus.

On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria.

Turkish officials describe their relationship with the group’s commander, Col. Riad al-As’aad, and the 60 to 70 members living in the “officers’ camp” as purely humanitarian.

0440 GMT: The number of deaths on Friday in Syria was notable --- at least 44 people reportedly perished at the hands of security forces --- but so was the pattern.

We expected further casualties in Homs, the country's third-largest city, as the military continued its attempt to suppress resistance, but the deaths returned to Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre where tens of thousands died. The northern city had been a flashpoint earlier in the conflict but had been relatively subdued --- at least compared to Homs --- in recent weeks.

The deaths came hours after Robert Fisk published an interview with Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior advisor to President Assad, in which she insisted, "Early in the crisis, our army and police and security services paid terrible sacrifices but they were told not to shoot at demonstrators."

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