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Syria, Egypt, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: From Mohamed Bouazizi to the Tear-Gassing of Protests

See also Tear Gas in Bahrain: Suppression and Suffering Through "Lethality Reduction"
Tunisia and Beyond Feature: Remembering Mohamed Bouazizi
Bahrain Video: For the Regime --- Shame on You!
Bahrain Interview Special: 17 December 2011 --- A Day in the Life of a Protester
Sunday's Egypt, Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Attacking the Protesters

2124 GMT: Earlier we reported that cell phone communication was shut down in the Salahaddine district, near the center of Aleppo (Map). Now we may know why.

This video is impossible for us to verify, but activists claim that it was taken from a protest on the Salahaddine district:

2105 GMT: The LCCS has once again raised the death toll:

48 martyrs including two children and a woman. 9 martyrs from Idlib "Kansafra", three martyrs in Damascus, 14 martyrs from Daraa, 12 martyrs from Homs, three martyrs in Qoriya in Deir Ezzor, three martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Saraqeb, and a martyr in both Damascus Suburbs and Hassakeh.

The biggest spikes in the total appear to be in Daraa and Homs, two cities where the bodies are rapidly piling up.

Once again, this tally makes not note of defectors who were killed in Idlib, suggesting that between 110 and 120 people may have been killed today by security forces in Syria.

2038 GMT: An activist reports that he has spoken with a defector who was at Jebel El Zawiya, Idlib Province, where 72 defecting soldiers were reportedly gunned down by Syrian security forces:

72 Defectors in Jabal Zawiya were killed RIP

Every defector has made the decision to risk his life rather than kill another- what honorable men

They chose to be martyrs, not murderers

Defector in Jabal Zawiya says for God's sake save us, the corpses are in the streets, the army has occupied the only hospital in area

He says the wounded are being killed and the homes and buildings are being shelled

Then, the activist makes an emotional call for help:

Where is the world? All you people and nations who claim to care about human rights, where are you? Why are you mute?

They're killing our heroes. Our young men who defected are being executed- you have forsaken them. Our blood is met with apathy

You keep giving them deadlines as if to make a mockery of our situation- you know they don't give a damn about deadlines....

After emotionally describing the horrors he/she has seen, Seekers adds,

We go out in the hundreds, in the thousands, & chant w/ all we've got day & night. How come noone hears us? Or do you just ignore us?

I don't care about politics.Put politics aside and do something. Please.They're lining up our young men & shooting them dead in Idlib

1952 GMT: The LCCS reports that cell phone communications have been cut to the Salahaddine district, near the center of Aleppo (Map).

1933 GMT: Until the reports of the 70+ defectors who may have been killed today, the big news was the protest that was attacked in the Midan District of Damascus. This video has surfaced, confirming a report we received earlier. Some protesters, fleeing the gunfire, burned tires and trash in the streets in order to stop security forces. Gunfire can be heard in the background:

1920 GMT: We're struggling to keep up with the casualty reports from Syria today. The LCCS is now reporting that 39 civilians have been killed, "9 martyrs in Idlib "Kansafra", three martyrs in Damascus, 10 martyrs in Daraa, 8 martyrs in Homs, three martyrs in Qoriya in Deir Ezzor,three martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Saraqeb, and martyr in Damascus Subrubs".

What's important to note is how high the casualty count is in Idlib and Daraa. Beyond that, the LCCS is once again reporting deaths in Deir Ez Zor, Saraqeb, and of course Damascus and its suburbs.

In other words, this conflict today is much wider than the traditional flash points of Homs, Hama, and Daraa.

In Ghabaghib, Daraa, the LCCS is also reporting that at least 50 have been injured, some severely, when heavy machine guns opened fire on a protest.

Adding this to the number of defectors that the SRGC is reporting were killed, and this would make today one of the bloodiest days in many months.

1910 GMT: The Syrian Revolution General Commission is reporting that at least 70 defectors were killed today, raising today's death toll to more than 100:

Activists reported up to 70 army defectors were killed by security forces who fired at them as they were deserting their military posts near the Turkish border. At least 30 other people died in other incidents across the country, the activists said.

1847 GMT: The LCCS has revised its death toll. According to its latest report, 31 people have been killed today in Syria:

Nine martyrs were in Idlib “Kansafra,” three martyrs in Damascus, six martyrs in Daraa, five martyrs in Homs, three martyrs in Qorieh (Deir Ezzor), two martyrs in Saraqeb, one martyr in Damascus Suburbs, and two martyrs in Hama.

While the death toll went up in most places, it appears to have been revised down in Damascus.

However, EA is currently chasing a rumor (and, at this point, it is only a rumor) that 75 defectors have been killed today in Idlib province. This would put today's death toll at over 100. However, the original source is unclear, our most reliable sources have made no mention of the report, and the EA newsroom finds it difficult to believe that the regime could kill 75 defectors without also incurring casualties.

Stay tuned.

1745 GMT: In Egypt, clear video has now surfaced showing molotov cocktails being thrown from top of cabinet building onto protesters during Friday's demonstrations:

Meanwhile in Syria, video emerges of a large protest by students at Aleppo University, chanting and holding up signs asserting: "[A] Secular constitution guarantees my human right[s]"

1715 GMT: While 4 people were reportedly killed today in Homs, a very large protest took place during a funeral procession in the Tadmor district of Homs:

And yet another video of the protest in Midan gives us an impression of how large, and how defiant, the crowd was before the gunfire broke out.

1700 GMT: The protests and violence in Egypt were sparked by a sit-in outside the cabinet building, but even as the smoke settles there are reports of a new sit-in - outside the Egyptian High-Court. Activists Amr Hamzawy and George Ishaq are reportedly among the crowd.

1651 GMT: Today, the fourth day of violence in Egypt, started as a bloody day. The police forcibly cleared Tahrir Square, attacking protesters in the early hours of the morning:

As the fierce fighting between protesters, the military and Central Security Forces entered its fourth day, at 3:50am Monday morning Egyptian security forces attacked Tahrir Square, leaving two protesters dead.

Army & police forcefully clear Tahrir, 19 December 2011 (Mosireen media collective)

1634 GMT: The LCCS has once again raised today's death toll. They are now reporting that 25 have been killed by security forces, "among them 2 children,6 in Damascus, 5 in Daraa,4 in each of Homs and Idlib, 3 in Deir Ezzor "Qorieh", 2 martyrs in Saraqeb and 1 martyr in Hama."

This video reportedly shows one man who was killed by security forces in Midan. The crowd, clearly, did not fully disperse after the incident:

1616 GMT: An interesting report from Syrian State TV:

SANA reported on Monday that an explosive device was detonated on a railway west of Talkalakh, disrupting its activities. Other facilities in Kossayr were vandalized, the state-run agency added.

Talkalakh is near the border with Lebanon, Homs governorate. As far as we know, the opposition has not yet claimed responsibility for any sort of attack.

What else is SANA reporting today? PRime Minister Dr. Abdel Safar has instructed all public bodies to reduce spending by 25%.

1604 GMT: Perhaps for obvious reasons, we've focused on the protests in Midan, and the other districts in Damascus. However, there are significant protests elsewhere.

Yesterday, a 49 year old man was reportedly killed in Ma'arrat an Nouman, Idlib, when security forces opened fire on his car. Today, large protests are reported, and this video has surfaced:

1559 GMT: Yet another video begins of the protest in Midan, Damascus. Alexander Page describes the scene:

this is a video of the demonstration in central Damascus in the Midan area as it began inside the Dakak mosque in a march of solidarity for young Hala Monajed who was shot dead by Syrian security forces.

1553 GMT: This video was shared with us, reportedly showing protests in the Al Kadam district of Damascus:

1549 GMT: Today's death toll has risen to 22, including 5 in Midan, according to LCCS: "Among them 2 children, 5 in each of Damascus "Medan" and Daraa,4 in Idlib, 3 in in Deir Ezzor "Qorieh", 2 martyrs in each of Homs and Saraqeb and 1 martyr in Hama."

1535 GMT: This video was reportedly just taken moments ago at the University in Deir Ez Zor.

In the last 4 days, security forces have once again returned in force to the city of Deir Ez Zor, making many arrests and killing several demonstrators. Activists have also reported that this explosion is an oil pipeline on the Hasaka highway, and it was destroyed by Syrian security forces to cut oil supplies to Deir Ez Zor:

The LCCS confirms many of these details:

The LCCs also said an oil pipeline was blown up by security forces in Deir Ezzor, and "large-scale incursion[s] amid intense gunfire" in Qalaa Madeek , Attweene village, Shareaa, Hawash and Ain Takka. A funeral procession for a "child martyr" was fired upon in Midan, wounding some mourners, according to the LCCs. They post videos of demonstrations in many places across the country, including this one in Madaya, near the border with Lebanon, and this all-female demonstration in Hama.

Madaya is north of Damascus, and Hama is located here.

1528 GMT: The Guardian posts this report from Al Jazeera's Rula Amina, where the Arab League is criticized by the Syrian opposition for being naive. In light of developments in the last hour, that assessment is even more striking:

Al-Jazeera correspondent Rula Amin tweets that the Arab League's mission to Syria will include about 100 observers, including representatives of Arab governments, NGOs, human rights groups, and technical experts.

Amin is also tweeting details of a meeting of the Syrian National Council, the opposition coalition. The leaders of the SNC have dismissed the Syrian government's acceptance of Arab monitors "as just a a manoeuvre for the regime to gain more time and kill more", she reports. She quotes the SNC's leader, Burhan Ghalyoun, as saying the Syrian regime is cornered and under pressure from inside and out. It has no future and will fall sooner or later, Ghalyoun said, according to Amin.

The SNC wants the Arab League to be firmer with Syria, she reports. Ghalyoun also defended the use of violence by the Free Syrian Army, saying it was there to protect civilians and its violence was not equal to the government's, according to Amin. She writes that Ghalyoun says Tunisia is to recognise the SNC and expel the official Syrian ambassador from Tunisia.

Al Jazeera has also posted reports of pro-government rallies, where the attendees praised the Assad government, Russia, China, Iran, and Hezbollah, but chanted against the Arab League's sanctions.

1518 GMT: According to activists, the situation in the Midan district of Damascus is far from over. One source, Alexander Page, reports that there are now heavily armed security units patrolling the district.

Page also shares this graphic video, reportedly showing an injured protester, and one of the men who was killed, both shot in the Midan district within the last 2 hours.

1506 GMT: Another impressive video of the protest in Midan, before the gunfire. The people of Midan chant in solidarity with the people of Homs.

So what happened? In recent days, the main-stream media has been focused on negotiations between Assad and the Arab League. The Syrian regime pledged to allow international observers, a move that could have led to the end of the violence.

But this is not the first time we've seen such a move. Syrian President Bashar al Assad has already pledged to remove his troops from his cities, but then immediately increased the troops in some cities. The regime then explained that they were now allowing peaceful protests, per the demands of the Arab League, but they were trying to restore security and put down insurgency and terrorism. In other words, the regime had no intention of ending its siege in places like Homs.

However, each time such an agreement has been made, the opposition has staged large rallies in order to test the words of the Assad regime.

This rally, this large, during the day, this close to Damascus, in arguably the most important neighborhood in the capital - this was the test. The security forces opened fire. The Assad regime has failed this test.

1454 GMT: Dramatic video from Syria - Reportedly taken today in the very important Midan district, a suburb just outside the center of the Capital. The video starts with a large protest, and some smoke. Tear gas grenades begin to pop, and eventually live fire turns the scene into chaos. At least one person was injured, according to the video's description.

Earlier, activists posted this video, reportedly showing a very large protest in Midan. These reports may be the most significant, and most violent, events reported this close to the capital of Syria in many, many months:

The LCCS, in a separate report, says that 4 people were killed in Midan, and 17 nationwide:

The number of martyrs in Syria thus far today has reached 17, 5 in Dara,4 in Damascus "Medan" among them is a young man from Kesweh, 3 in in Deir Ezzor "Qorieh", 2 martyrs in each of Homs and Saraqeb and 1 martyr in Hama

James Miller takes the liveblog. A Major thank you to Scott Lucas and Josh Shahryar for taking us through the morning.

1430 GMT: The fire that burnt the Egyptian Scientific Institutae has destroyed manuscripts that were one of a kind. The collection included Description De L'Egypt. Ahram Online reports:

The “Description De L'Egypt” was initially drawn up by the team of French scientists who accompanied French empire-builder Napoleon on his invasion of Egypt (1798-1801). The 20-volume book was originally entitled “Description of Egypt, or the Collection of Notes and Research Done in Egypt during the French Campaign by Napoleon Bonaparte.”

1400 GMT: More videos today from near the Faculty of Literature in Aleppo (Halab) where protesters tried to gather:

1330 GMT: In a disturbing development, it seems the government of Bahrain may be using armed civilians to suppress protesters now. A video from Darul Kulaib village shows armed civilians along with police, patrolling the village's streets. In the background, you can hear nightly chants of "Down Down with [King] Hamad".

1320 GMT: The "Strike of Dignity" continues in many parts of Syria, including near the capital. Here's a video from Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, showing closed shops:

1255 GMT: In a press conference today in Cairo, General Adel Amara of the Security Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) tried to explain the position of SCAF regarding the recent violence. He said that SCAF wanted to hand over power, but that the country was facing dangers and the time for hand-over wasn't now. Sultan AlQassemi has translated parts of the presser in English which are quite telling. We are publishing simply his tweets:

One of the protesters entered the parliamentary building. That person was injured, I admit, I will say so, truthfully. This injured protester was then taken out. These soldiers were protecting the building then the hurling of stones started. The protesters were using the foulest language, they threw Molotov, no human can withstand this. Their [protesters] aim is to bring the nation down. Switch off your phones, I can't speak when phones are on.

All of this was to intimidate the soldiers, to have to soldiers assault the protesters. These are not the pure January 25 protesters, impossible, they seek to destroy. They destroyed the cameras not to record the events. They broke into the parliament, I want you to image this, I told the soldiers to protect the parliament, what does that mean?

Three hundred entered the parliament building, they started burning it, in a systematic manner. They brought children to use Molotov. The soldiers were restrained, imagine if they used guns against 300 protesters what would have happened? Why did they want to burn the Interior Ministry, the parliament, they want to burn Egypt. We detained 60 then released them.

Twenty who tried to burn the buildings were not released. The Molotov and stones kept coming. I told them don't use tear gas which is allowed internationally! I told them not to use it. They burned the radios and bridges authority. I was hurt as an Egyptian. There was a man holding up a victory sign, how is that? At the same age of the young protester was another, a soldier who was protecting the building & we hear about "excessive force".

They were looting the transport authority building while it was burning.

Later in the presser, Amara claimed that the protest was peaceful, then they brought in more protesters, burning the building.

Would a Muslim (pauses), an Egyptian agree to the burning? It is unacceptable to distort Egypt's image abroad. This is not how a country is run. These claims that violence was used. Stopping the PM from reaching his work? Burning government buildings? Is this how a country is run?

What should we do when all this happens? Should we bring someone from outside Egypt to help us sort out country out? Whoever breaks the law must suffer the consequences. Let me be clear, Egypt pre-January 25 will not be back. Is this acceptable to bring children and Baltagiya [thugs] to burn Egypt? Everything that some media has shown, including the [blue bra girl] this happened, we are investigating all this. Before you judge on the image (blue bra girl) why don't you investigate the circumstances.

Others envy us for being so restrained. It is because we are very keen on this nation's interest.

1215 GMT: A 25 second video of the inside of the Egyptian Scientific Institute from Troy Carter:

1200 GMT: The US government is finally taking note of the violence in Egypt. Secretary of State gave a new statement on the state of affairs yesterday:

I am deeply concerned about the continuing reports of violence in Egypt. I urge Egyptian security forces to respect and protect the universal rights of all Egyptians, including the rights to peaceful free expression and assembly. We call upon the Egyptian authorities to hold accountable those, including security forces, who violate these standards. Those who are protesting should do so peacefully and refrain from acts of violence. Our thoughts are with the families of those who have been killed or injured.

1145 GMT: Damascus has finally signed an Arab League deal which will allow the organizations observers to enter Syria. The Associated Press reports:

Speaking to reporters in Damascus, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the agreement was signed in Cairo after the Arab League accepted amendments demanded by Syria. An Arab League official in Cairo confirmed that Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, had signed the deal in the presence of the 22-member bloc's secretary-general, Nabil Elaraby.

1125 GMT:The release of Syrian blogger and activist Razan Ghazawi has been fully confirmed. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information today released a statement about her release:

The Syrian authorities released the blogger Razan Ghazzawi on bail of 15 thousand SP (approx. 300$) after charging her of “weakening national awareness and stirring racial and sectarian strife “, and “founding Coordination of Damascus Suburbs”.

Ghazawi is a media coordinator at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression.

0808 GMT: Claimed footage of Bahraini police throwing iron rods at protesters in Sitra:

And a set of images from Maqaba of police charging in their vehicles and beating people, purportedly on Thursday:

0750 GMT: We open this morning with a series of features to framing a range of developments and responses --- anger, fear, hope, joy, disillusion --- over the past year in North Africa and the Middle East. We start with reflections on Mohammed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation was the symbol for the uprising in Tunisia and move to today's Bahrain, with an article from John Horne investigating the police's deadly use of tear gas and a foreign company that may be profiting from it and a video from journalist Lamees Dhaif putting out a blunt message to the regime, "Shame on You!"

In the rush of news on a very busy weekend --- from the violence in Cairo to the security forces' attempt to suppress protest in Bahrain to the the continuation of resistance and death in Syria --- I never had the chance to note a development in one country which has not often been associated with the rapid change of the past year:

Kuwait's riot police beat up some protesters and arrested 25 during a demonstration on Friday by stateless Arabs demanding Kuwaiti nationality rights, witnesses and an observer with a human rights group said.

A 14-year-old boy was among those beaten up and apprehended, the observer with the Kuwait Human Rights Society, who witnessed part of the protest, told Reuters.

Protests by the stateless Arabs, known as Bidoons, are usually on a small scale and in marginalised neighbourhoods outside the capital, Kuwait City.

On Friday, about 200 stateless Bidoons gathered outside their ramshackle houses in al-Jahra province, northwest of Kuwait City. Some held up Kuwait's national flag and placards calling for citizenship rights, witnesses said.

The police chased them down alleys in their poor neighbourhoods and into their homes, beating some of them, the witnesses reported.

Mona Kareem offers more on the "Arrests and Trials of Kuwait's Stateless Protesters":

There are at least 120,000 Bidun jinsiyya (without nationality) in Kuwait today suffering from the lack of human rights. They cannot legally obtain birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates. The same applies to driving licenses, identification cards, and passports. They do not have access to public education, health care, housing or employment. And while they face some of the state’s harshest discrimination policies, they have no recourse to the law and its courts. Simply stated, the Bidun, who are equal to about 10% of the Kuwaiti population, do not exist. They have been dehumanized and rendered invisible by government policies coupled with pervasive social stigmatization.

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