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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Protest in the Heart of Damascus

Women march in Hodeidah on Monday, calling for the immediate departure of President Saleh

See also The Real Net Effect: Egypt, Dissent, and the #FreeMona Perfect Storm
Egypt LiveBlog: A Big Turnout and Some Glitches in the Elections
Monday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Sanctions on Damascus

2039 GMT: But for all the reports of violence, we've received 10 reports of protests. This video shows a cute little girl leading an evening protest in the Qarabis district of Homs:

This crowd chants anti-regime protests in Jiza, Daraa:

2024 GMT: It's after 10 pm in Syria, but reports continue to come in that the crackdown continues. The LCCS reports that is Kiswah, outside of Damascus, police have conducted house-to-house raids, arresting many, in response to a student protest earlier in the day. A large explosion rocked the Daraa alBalad neighborhood of Daraa, followed by heavy gunfire. And in Latminah, Hama, a 47-year-old father of 4 was reportedly tortured to death after being arrested.

Just another sad, violent night in Syria's Arab Spring.

1925 GMT: No city has paid a steeper price for protesting than Homs, Syria, the cite of almost daily shelling and attacks from the Syrian military. Within Homs, only a few other neighborhoods have been as hard hit as the Baba Amr district, in the west of the city (Map of Homs). Despite this, we see nearly nightly protests in the district.

Tonight, the people of Baba Amr have hosted another rally, chanting anti-regime protest slogans and praising the doctors who are brave enough to treat the wounded, despite dangers of retribution from the regime or its supporters:

1915 GMT: Activist Edward E. Dark provides this video, reportedly taken in Kafar Noran, Al Atārib, Aleppo, west of the city (MAP):

1859 GMT: A group of activists, using data from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, has created a map detailing the amount of civilians who have been killed in the various regions of Syria. The map is general enough to be usable, but two things are important to note:

1. Many regions have paid a high price, not just a few.

2. Homs, Daraa, Hama, Idlib, and the area around Damascus have paid the highest price. Beyond a bloody siege of Lattakia over the summer, the coastal regions and the sparsely populated center of the country have paid the least.

1837 GMT: Several activists have reported that soldiers have begun looting Ma'arrat al Nouman, an area where the Syrian Free Army has periodically had a heavy presence. Now, the LCCS confirms these reports:

Idlib: Maaret Al-Nouman: Security and military forces are looting shops and then burning it, revenge of the its owners. The shops that are known so far are Al Adeeb bookstore, a mobile phones shop and an electronics shop

1827 GMT: An impressive anti-government rally this evening in Tal Ref'at, Aleppo. Aleppo governate has been host of some very large protests today, and as we reported earlier, (1634 GMT) the Syrian security forces have begun to move more resources into the area:

1824 GMT: Saudi Arabia has become the latest country to warn its citizens to avoid traveling to Syria:

Saudi Arabia urged its citizens on Tuesday to quickly leave Syria to avoid getting caught in a military crackdown on months of popular protests, the Saudi state news agency reported.

"The foreign ministry renewed its warning to citizens currently in Syria to leave swiftly and asked those planning trips there not to travel now due to the unrest witnessed by the Syrian arena," the agency said.

Meanwhile, protests continue across the country. We're now receiving videos from evening protests, but this video was striking to us, an anti-government protest in Derbisiyeh, Hasaka governate, Syria:

1634 GMT: The LCCS is reporting new troop movements near Aleppo, perhaps signaling yet another shift in the military response to protests:

Aleppo: Dar Ezza: Arrival of heavy security reinforcements along with placement of check points in attempt to prevent demonstrations against the regime from starting

On the other side of Aleppo, women take to the streets in Al Bab:

1620 GMT: Protesters in Qadam, Damascus, chant anti regime slogans and hold signs that read, "Do you understand us? We want a no-fly-zone!"

1615 GMT: Activist Alexander Page shares this video, tanks attacking the streets of Talbiseh, Homs. This, sadly, is the "new normal" for the Homs governate:

1602 GMT: Earlier, we posted a claim by the Kuwaiti opposition group that 90,000 attended yesterday's protest rally. An activist, @draddee, sends us a message, saying that she was there and this is not accurate:

"I was there yesterday, the most I saw was maybe ~ 15-20,000. 90,000 is gross exaggeration. No way Erada can hold that number"

She also sends us a picture she took, women at the rally, one of whom holds a sign that says "Kuwait deserves better."

1550 GMT: 11 people have been killed today across Syria, including two girls.

The LCCS has posted a video gallery of protests across the country today. This very large rally was held in Enkhel, Daraa:

Young students in Sermin, Idlib:

1458 GMT: In Tunisia, a group of Islamists have taken siege of a university to demand stricter adherence to Islamic law:

"I am being held hostage in my office with some students and academic staff by certain students with beards," said Habib Kasdeli, head of the Humanities and Literature Faculty at the Manouba university near Tunis.

"They are Salafists who want to impose enrollment for girls wearing the niqab (full-face veil), a prayer room on the campus and no gender mixing in lessons," he told the Shems-FM private radio station.

"This group, which is made up more than 40 people, has forbidden us from leaving my office until we accept their demands," he added.

1452 GMT: Sanctions alert - Details are finally emerging of potential sanctions that Turkey is planning to impose on Syria. The sanctions appear to be less intense than those imposed by the Arab League, which are less intense than the ones passed by the EU, but leave room for Turkey to further negotiations with the Assad regime:

Today's Zaman has learned that some ministers had talks after the Arab League meeting in Cairo in order to discuss possible sanctions against Syria. Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan had talks with relevant ministers and bureaucrats. The talks on Sunday night agreed that Turkey will adjust Arab League sanctions to its own conditions and impose them gradually. The sanctions will be imposed in a way that will hurt neither the Turkish economy nor the Syrian people, officials told Today's Zaman.

The sanctions will be implemented after Prime Minister Erdoğan approves them. Cuts to water or electricity are not among the planned steps to be taken against Syria.

Land and air transportation from Turkey to Syria will continue for now; money transfers will be tightly monitored, but the Syrian Embassy's assets will not be frozen. Turkey is also planning to freeze financial assets of the Syrian regime in the Central Bank of Turkey without waiting for a relevant UN decision. Civilian flights will continue, but the number of flights might be reduced gradually. Turkey will ban trade with the Syrian state, and leading members of the Syrian regime will be banned from traveling to Turkey. But the Turkish government is still discussing who exactly will be banned from traveling, and it is expected that the ban will include only the Assad family.

1444 GMT: 61 Bahraini athletes who are facing trial for alleged connections with anti-government protests will have their trials postponed:

Defense attorney Mohsen al-Alawi says the hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 4 because most of the defendants did not appear at Tuesday’s proceedings. They include handball, basketball and volleyball players along with referees and administrators for several sports.

1435 GMT: The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Mouallem, will attend a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation in order to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria:

He also said that Ali Akbar Salehi, the foreign minister of Iran which is a key regional ally of Syria, will also attend the meeting in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.

A statement from the OIC said the world's largest body has called on Syria "to stop the violence against civilians" and implement reform "in order to spare the country the risk of internationalization of the crisis."

1418 GMT: Yesterday, we were receiving reports of a possible military campaign north of Damascus. We had video of a road being blocked by the opposition with a flaming barricade in Al Tall, and we had reports of a heavy attack on the town of Rankous. Some of the information that we said was suspect did not materialize, but the overall claim seems to have been spot-on.

This morning, the LCCS reports that "security forces using heavy weapons to shell farm areas and are concentrating specifically on the Ein Al-Shaara and Saanour farms," areas just outside Rankous. According to the report, a professor at the University of Damascus, and his son, were also arrested in Rankous, and three people have been killed in the town. One other was also reportedly killed in Homs.

Map: Rankous, north of Damascus.

1358 GMT: The LCCS has a significant update, a student protest in Damascus in response to an attack on their university:

Damascus: A group of shabbiha stormed the Faculty of Architecture at the university and assaulted students, warning of a repeat of last Thursday's actions- in which students had staged a sit-in to demand the release of student detainees and they, along with faculty and the dean, were arrested.

They have also posted video of the students holding a moment of silence:

1347 GMT: The Syrian regime has once again been caught fabricating video evidence in an attempt to paint the opposition as "Terrorists." The footage in question was allegedly a training video which showed members of the Syrian observation conducting training missions in order to more effectively kill Assad loyalists. However, 7 Lebanese men have come forward, claiming that the footage was actually theirs, taken in Lebanon years ago. They have been able to produce the original videos, according to AFP.

This is hardly the first time they have been caught fabricating evidence like this. As EA famously discovered, the Syrian government used SANA to spread a heavily edited video that reportedly shows "terrorists" dumping bodies of soldiers into the river near Hama. However, the original video clearly showed Assad loyalists dumping the bodies of civilians into the river.

James Miller takes the liveblog, and you can follow him on Twitter.

1154 GMT: After yesterday's latest court appearance by 20 Bahraini doctors and nurses who refuse to accept their prison sentences and after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry found cases of discrimination but no systematic attempt by medics to "take over" the Salmaniya Medical Centre during the protests of February and March, we note this item from the regime-linked Gulf Daily News:

A group of Bahraini medical professionals have formed a think tank to address the pressing issues facing country's health industry.

Physicians, surgeons, dentists and nurses have taken the step amid concerns about the "extreme politicisation" of the profession following anti-government protests in February and March.

The Independent Medical Coalition of Bahrain (IMCB) has called for healthcare providers and residents to submit e-testimonies about violations committed against the international code of medical ethics during the unrest.

It can be done via its website (

"We will scrutinise and investigate all testimonies and will continuously present our findings on the updated website in an attempt to shed light on these violations from an ethical and legal standpoint," said an IMCB spokesman.

"Based on these testimonies, the IMCB will submit its final findings to Bahrain's healthcare governing bodies to take appropriate action to safeguard patients and the future of healthcare in the country."

1104 GMT: As the Emir of Kuwait accepted the resignation of the government, asking the Prime Minister and other Cabinet members to run urgent affairs until a new administration is formed, the opposition claimed that it brought out 90,000 people in the biggest rally in Kuwaiti history.

Speakers demandied the dissolution of the National Assembly and the release of 24 activists detained for occupying the Parliament building earlier this month.

1054 GMT: According to an official of the Islamist Justice and Development Party,, the head of the party has been summoned by King Mohammed VI to form a new government.

The JDP won the largest number of Parliamentary seats in last Friday's elections.

1050 GMT: Lebanon's Foreign Minister has repeated that the country will not abide by Arab League sanctions on Syria.

However, the Turkish Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, says Ankara is considering using Iraq as a transit route for trade with the Middle East “if the situation with Syria worsens”.

And Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Ankara may consider setting up a buffer zone on its border in coordination with other countries: "We are preparing for every scenario. If hundreds of thousands of people flee to our border, this would of course create a different situation. Some steps could be taken then together with the international community."

1030 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, following the Arab League's approval of sanctions, has declared: "Right now, the most important thing is to stop acting by means of ultimatums and try to move toward political dialogue."

Lavrov said it was unlikely that Moscow would support an arms embargo against Damascus: "The periodic proposals that we hear on imposing a complete arms embargo on Syria—I would say that they are fairly disingenuous. We are going to view another embargo, this one against Syria, based on the [negative] experience that we gained from the Libyan example."

0930 GMT: A United Nations report says former Libyan rebels are still holding about 7,000 prisoners. They are held without access to legal process because the police and courts are not functioning, and some may have been tortured: "While the (National Transitional Council) has taken some steps toward transferring responsibility for the detainees from brigades to proper state authorities, much remains to be done to regularize detention, prevent abuse and bring about the release of those whose detention should not be prolonged,"

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reassured: "I believe that the leaders of the new Libya are indeed committed to building a society based on the respect for human rights," but he advised, "Achieving this requires the earliest possible action, however difficult the circumstances, to end arbitrary detention and prevent abuses and discrimination, against third country nationals as well as against any group of Libya's own citizens."

0735 GMT: In Bahrain, the high-profile court case of 20 doctors and nurses, appealing against 5- to 15-year sentences handed down by a military tribunal, was adjourned until 9 January, but only after prosecutors were greeted with laughter as they pulled out weapons from a box to claim the defendants were threatening national security.

CNN profiles Dr Fatima Haji, one of the medics on trial, and hears her account of events, including the torture of detainees:

The case of two men sentenced to death for the killing of two policemen was also postponed until 9 January.

A Sunday protest in Alma'ameer against the death penalties:


0625 GMT: While most of the world was watching the Egyptian elections yesterday, Syria --- suddenly put in the shadows --- was offering other significant stories for those who took a glance. On the day that a United Nations report declared the Syrian military guilty of atrocities, including the murder of 256 children, a stream of videos and reports pointed to an escalation of protest and violence in the suburbs ringing Damascus, and last night footage showed a demonstration in the Old City heart of the capital.

At least 18 people died in clashes on Monday, but beyond that number --- which is below-average for the toll in recent weeks --- is the "protest creep" that moves nearer the centre of the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, President Saleh's signature on an agreement to transfer power, with elections called for 21 February, has not halted demonstrations demanding an immediate change in rule:



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