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Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) Liveblog: A United Front

A protest in Harasta in Syria last night

See Also, Bahrain Feature : How The Regime Is Restoring Peace, The American Way

Syria Opinion: Why There Should --- And Will --- Be a No-Fly Zone

2111 GMT: The latest news from Yemen is that 3 soldiers and 5 civilians have died in Taiz, as the government shelled the city for yet another day. Earlier, before some of this violence, Mohammed Basindwa, appointed by the opposition to lead the transitional government, said that if the violence continues it could threaten the GCC deal. Well, the violence did continue throughout the day, and the death toll did rise, so we'll soon see whether Basindwa withdraws from the negotiated deal.

2015 GMT: Activists share this video, which reportedly shows anti-Assad protesters chanting in the clear presence of tanks and snipers in Taftanaz, Idlib province, reportedly today. We have no way of verifying the details:

2011 GMT: The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, responds via Twitter to the news that the UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning rights violations in Syria:

"The #UN #HumanRights Council has condemned #Syria by a record margin, w/a record # of co-sponsors, at its 3rd special session since April.

"It is becoming increasingly clear, particularly to his neighbors, that President Asad is tearing his country apart."

1941 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria have once again raised today's death toll, as they are now reporting that 12 have been killed, "including two children and a woman. Two of the martyrs died under torture. Four of the martyrs were from Idlib, three martyrs in Homs, two martyrs in both Lattakia and Daraa, and a martyr in Hama."

The LCCS also provides some details on one of the cases of alleged torture:

Baniyas: Ahmed Yassin Taha was found today, dumped on the side of the road, with evidence of torture on it. The military security had kidnapped the young man, Ahmad, the previous day and after torturing him they took pictures of him and claimed he was a victim of the armed gangs.

1907 GMT: The big news, so far, in Egypt is the high turnout for parliamentary elections, 62% of eligible voters cast votes.

"This is the highest turnout in Egypt's history since pharaonic times until now," Abdel Moez Ibrahim, the head of Egypt's Elections High Comission, said on Friday.

The results that are being announced today will be individual seats where a candidate has achieved a majority of the votes. The party results will not be announced today. In fact, according to Al Jazeera Live, very few results have been announced thus far.

Jadalliya explains, "After each initial vote, run-off elections are held a week later between front-runners in single-winner races where none of the candidates got 50%+ of the total vote. Run-offs for the first stage are scheduled for December 5-6."

1859 GMT: EA's Turkey correspondent, Ali Yenidunya, forwards us this news via Hurriyet:

"Syria has been the only country that opened three consulates in Turkey. It has closed down its consulate in Gaziantep. Two consulates in Istanbul and Ankara are still operating."

On the door of the closed embassy, "General Consulate of Syrian Arab Republic is closed until further notice" is written in Arabic and Turkish on the front.

1831 GMT: Many protests have been reported in the Aleppo governate today. This video is reportedly from Tal Refat:

Much closer to Aleppo, a large demonstration in Anadan:

Beyond these videos, the LCCS also reports a large demonstration in Retan.

1812 GMT: At least 9 people have died today at the hands of the Syrian regime, according to the LCCS, including "a child and a woman, three martyrs in Homs, two martyrs in both Lattakia and Daraa, and a martyr in both Hama and Idlib."

1803 GMT: While Sweden has tried to block sanctions against selling spy tech to Syria, the EU has passed new sanctions against Syria's oil industries, several media organizations, and a group of Syrian officials:

The European Union expanded its sanctions list against Syria to include the finance and economy ministers, state-owned oil companies and two media organisations.

Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati and Economy Minister Mohammad Nidal al-Shaar were among 12 regime officials added to a blacklist of Syrians hit by asset freezes and bans on traveling to the 27-nation EU.

General Fahid al-Jassim, the head of the military, led a list of nine military officials punished on charges of involvement in violence against protesters in the Homs region.

The EU now has sanctions on around 120 Syrian individuals and companies and is already enforcing an arms embargo and a ban on imports of Syrian crude oil.

Also, the UN Human Rights Council has passed a condemnation of "gross violations" of human rights committed by the Assad regime:

Members in Geneva passed a resolution "strongly condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities" while referring a report on the abuses to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Thirty-seven voted in favour of the resolution, six abstained while four countries - Russia, Cuba, Ecuador and China - voted against.

1748 GMT:Many activists and internet freedom experts have called the Swedish attempts at blocking EU's push to ban spy tech exports to Syria grossly inappropriate. In a short interview with EA's Josh Shahryar, Marcin de Kaminski, an expert in Internet politics at The Julia Group, had this to say:

Ericsson is nearly a national symbol when it comes to enterprise and is both powerful and influential so I totally understand the speculations. Because of that, while I strongly promote sanctions regarding this kind of telecom tech at this point, what you call pressure could actually be enterprise - governmental relations as usual. For better or worse, of course.

Asked what he thought could be done to reverse Sweden's course in this regard, de Kaminski, who helped arrange the Net4Change conference in Sweden in October, sounded optimistic:

Governments tend to change positions when under pressure, and this is of course what needs to be done. It is troubling that Sweden, which is considered to be a country of openness, freedom and human rights, acted in this way. I most strongly suggest other governments along with civil society organizations concerned with these kinds of matters to speak up now. But, not only directed to the Swedish government and the case of Ericsson, but directed to all companies who are making business on models with the sole purpose of surveillance, tracking techniques, intrusive software and other kinds of questionable strategies.

This latest news has to seen as a small part of a bigger flood of reports regarding intrusive tech export to less democratic states. What needs to be done is to use the momentum that is building up now to make bad companies end their destructive businesses and companies overall to understand that business can be done with ethical concerns. Good companies, acting along ethical principles, will be the overall winners. Of that I'm totally convinced.

1702 GMT: An important video, where reportedly a large group of defectors in Jabal Zawya take an oath to continue the revolution:

Protesters in Sanamien, Daraa today, hold a sign that reads "Russia is the Dictator's advocate."

1638 GMT: In my Syria feature, I argue that a no-fly zone is on the way, and that the international community will realize that the fall of the Syrian regime would be an effective threat to the Iranian regime. Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the Syrian National Council, seems to be making the same argument:

A Syrian government run by the country's main opposition group would cut Damascus's military relationship to Iran and end arms supplies to Middle East militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, the group's leader said, raising the prospect of a dramatic realignment of powers at the region's core.

Burhan Ghalioun, the president of the Syrian National Council, said such moves would be part of a broader Syrian reorientation back into an alliance with the region's major Arab powers. Mr. Ghalioun's comments came Wednesday, in his first major media interview since he was made SNC leader in October.

1617 GMT: UPDATE: AN EA correspondent in Bahrain has reported in. The first video was taken today, but the video of the arrests that we have posted below is an old video that was re-uploaded today. Our apologies, as usually we do a better job screening for these things:

Opposition rallies are reported across Bahrain today, and arrests are also reported.

A small rally in Sitra, demanding the fall of the regime:

Nearby, police make arrests:

1558 GMT: We've seen thousands of protest videos since the start of Arab Spring, but few are ever as impressive as the average Friday in Yemen. This video shows a massive crowd in Sana'a chanting for the fall of the regime after Friday prayers:

1554 GMT: Earlier, EA sources suggested that a campaign of mass arrests was underway in Barzeh, Damascus. Now, activist Alexander Page posts this video, clearly showing the heavy security presence in the neighborhood:

1545 GMT: Earlier we noted that the European Union moved to block the sale of surveillance technology to the Syrian government. However, it appears that Sweden is moving to block the ban. According to the report, the Swedish company Ericsson wishes to continue to do business with Syria, sparking the move.

1540 GMT: We've already posted a feature on John Timoney, an American that the Bahraini government has hired to train police. EA Correspondent notes that we forgot an important detail of his troubling resume --- Timoney also helped the US government evaluate prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

1534 GMT: The Lede Blog has conducted an interview with Bahraini activist Zainab Alkhawaja (@AngryArabiya on Twitter), who stood up to the Bahraini police last Saturday and was nearly arrested, but was spared because of her high profile and the presence of so many protesters with video cameras.

1518 GMT: The LCCS posts a video gallery of protests across the country today. Earlier, they reported 4 deaths at the hands of the Syrian security forces, but that number is, according to their Facebook page, now outdated, as they are reporting a death in Lattakia, on the coast:

Lattakia: martyrdom of Subhi Shamout (27 years old) as a consequence of the explosion that occurred in Owaynah neighborhood

1506 GMT: An activist who has been reliable in the past posts reports that Taiz, Yemen, is once again being shelled:

#Breaking #Taiz Freedom Sq., under heavy shelling from Thawrah hosp. garrison

Incredible, #Taiz People. They spent whole afternoon in freedom sq despite of heavy shelling, fierce clashes,blocked roads,lack of transport

huge armored car & tank convoy, left presidential complex, split into two. One to Qaherah Castle, the other to Rawdah area

Castle shells North, toward city houses and South towards mount Saber

#Breaking #Taiz Shootings, right NOW, so close. Could be only in the Republican Palace Vicinity #Yemen

These are unconfirmed reports, though there is press in the country and the reports generally match patterns that we've seen in recent days.

1500 GMT: Some reports require no commentary. A group of religious scholars have issued a report on the possible effects of lifting the ban on women drivers. Think Progress reports:

The group said women drivers would lead to a “surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce,” and complained that, after ten years of women driving, there would be “no more virgins” in the kingdom.

1453 GMT: The Yemen military has again shelled Taiz, the second largest city in Yemen, killing at least 3 today and at least 12 yesterday:

Residents blamed the deaths on government troops, saying tanks had shelled Taiz from the surrounding mountains on Friday for a fourth straight day.

Twelve people were killed in the city during violent clashes between forces loyal to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and dissident tribesmen on Thursday, officials said.

Mohammed Basindwa, a former foreign minister designated by opposition parties to lead a government to be split between them and the outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh's party, said his side would rethink its commitment to that deal if the killing in Taiz did not cease.

In a statement, Basindwa said the killing was "an intentional act to wreck the agreement".

1446 GMT: The UN has already updated their report on human rights abuses in Syria, as scores of children have died in November:

Syrian state forces killed 56 children in November in the "deadliest month" since the start of the March crackdown on dissidents, a UN-appointed investigator said Friday.

"According to reliable sources, to date, 307 children were killed by state forces. November was the deadliest month so far with 56 children killed," the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Guardian points out that this tally seems to be relying on reports from activists, which makes sense as journalists and UN investigators are not allowed to operate freely inside Syria.

1442 GMT: Earlier in the week, a crowd of peaceful protesters in Idlib was fired upon by the Syrian army as it stood chanting in the street. At least 8 people were killed. Today, the crowd of protesters is extremely large:

1434 GMT: Before we can even document all the protests around Damascus on this busy morning, we're already receiving reports that the security forces are cracking down on the outskirts of the city. Now Lebanon reports that gunfire is reported in Zamalka and multiple sources are reporting that security has stormed Barzeh and a campaign of mass-arrests is ongoing.

1429 GMT: EA Correspondent Josh Shahryar will be helping with the liveblog, particularly the Egypt updates.

Even as people are camped out at Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood is has won the most seats of any party in the election, former President Hosni Mubarak's party, the NDP, might still manage to find some seats. The Washington Post has an on-the-ground report on how some former NDP members - a party that has been dissolved - might actually end up in the first parliament elected by a free and fair election.

1420 GMT: The protests continue in Syria. Once again, video of large crowds of anti-government protests is flooding in. The LCCS posts this video from Qadam, Damascus:

Activists post this video, a large protest in Homs province. The date on the sign is today's:

1415 GMT: The AP provides details of the fighting on the border of Lebanon:

It said dozens were wounded including a 11-year-old girl who was struck by stray bullets inside Lebanon.

Witnesses reported more than six hours of explosions and gunfire starting at 3am.

"We were hearing strong explosions and the crack of heavy mechinegun fire," Ahmad al-Fahel, who lives on the Lebanese side of the border, told The Associated Press by telephone. "It sounded as if they were destroying the city."

1402 GMT: The Wall Street Journal has interviewed Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council. When asked about the accelerating pace of international action against regime, the the efforts to protect civilians, we clearly confirmed that France and Turkey are working to establish "humanitarian corridors," code word, as we predicted this morning, for a no-fly zone:

"We asked them to send a message to the regime with warnings that there is no way out. We asked to apply pressure on Russia and China and to make use of all civilian protection measures. This is why foreign minister Juppe called for a humanitarian corridor.

"Yes, there is a great acceleration. We are in contact with our friends; we will meet with the foreign minister of Turkey who is thinking of this with the Europeans to discuss the developments in what he mentioned as a no-fly zone. We don't still have sufficient information on these quick and many discussions between parties that are happening on the Syrian situation between the Arabs, Turkey, and the West."

1357 GMT: So far, things seem calm in Cairo. Paul Danahar tweets:

"#Tahrir square right now. No big demo at moment. Small crowd chanting against 'Thugs' Street sellers look disappointed"

1348 GMT: The Royal Dutch Shell oil company has announced that, due to sanctions and safety concerns, it is pulling out of Syria. This is another massive blow to the Syrian economy, as Shell was producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day in Syria.

Meanwhile, the European Union has announced that it is adding the selling of surveillance equipment or software to the list of sanctions, effectively banning an Italian and a British company from selling the technology to Assad.

One wonders whether the United states will follow suit, as several American companies have also been accused of selling spy tech to the Syrian regime.

1339 GMT: There was little doubt in my mind when I started the liveblog very early this morning that the main story would be Syria. The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council have joined forces, the opposition is united, and the defecting soldiers have pledged restraint.

Yet already, just 24 hours after this meeting concluded, the FSA has killed 8 people in an attack on a Syrian Intelligence compound in the northern part of the country:

It said the attack took place on Thursday in Idlib province, between the towns of Jisr al-Shughour and the Mediterranean city of Latakia.

"A group of army defectors ... attacked the Air Force Intelligence centre," the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "A clash ensued for three hours which lead to the death of at least eight members of the Air Force Intelligence".

Meanwhile, heavy fighting is reported near the Lebanon border, both in Wadi Khaled and Talkhalakh.

1334 GMT: James Miller takes the blog, and is ready for a busy news day.

In Egypt, the election results may be announced as early as 8 PM tonight, but the government missed their opportunity to release the results before another Friday protest. Al Jazeera sets the scene:

It's Friday in Egypt and protesters have filled the streets once again with two competing rallies.

Several hundred people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Friday prayers to protest against the ruling military government as well as honour those killed in clashes with security forces near Tahrir Square late last month.

Just a short distance away, hundreds of others gathered in Cairo's Abbassiya neighbourhood to march in support of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF.

Numbers at both protests were smaller than they had been in previous weeks, Al Jazeera's correspondents on the ground reported.

1100 GMT: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that defectors have attacked a Syrian air force intelligence base in Idlib Province in the northwest, killing eight people. The Observatory said at least 13 were wounded in the three-hour gun battle on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime" target="_blank">has suspended its free trade agreement with Turkey, the official news agency SANA said on Thursday, in retaliation for Ankara's imposition of sanctions this week.

SANA said, "The Syrian government is exploring taking other measures", after Turkey froze commercial transactions and broke links with the Syrian Central Bank.

After long negotiations, Syria and Turkey signed a free trade agreement in December 2004. The deal was followed in September 2009 by the creation of a special council of senior officials tasked with preparing the ground for deeper economic integration between the two countries and the removal of visa requirements.

1059 GMT: Reports indicate that the Saleh regime has been shelling Taiz this morning, with several casualties.

1055 GMT: As we post a separate feature, "How The Regime is Restoring Peace, the American Way", Toby C. Jones offers an incisive commentary:

For now, Bahrain is stuck: the burden to act is clearly on the regime, which does not appear to possess the political will to move forward seriously. Their preference, it seems, is to turn the clock back to early March in the hope that they will convince the opposition to meet them half-way. Given their long-term track record, the consequences of their own brutal choices, and [the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s] findings, this is wishful thinking. The BICI report has inadvertently provided the opposition with renewed power, and the only path forward is for the government to get serious about fundamental political reform. In the short term, it can send a clear signal by releasing political prisoners, reducing the security presence on the streets, and taking immediate measures to hold all of those responsible for torture accountable. Anything short of real reform will only ensure that Bahrain’s crisis will go on.

0706 GMT: We start another Friday, with its protests across the Middle East, with a report from Al Jazeera about the members of the Syrian Free Army, whose ranks are growing daily:

In yesterday's liveblog, we reported that at least 23 people were killed in Syria, primarily in Hama and Homs, traditional hotbeds of dissent. The regime's military laid siege to Dael, in Daraa province in the south, for the second day in a row, and once again the Syrian opposition staged rallies at several universities, most notably in Daraa, Damascus, and Aleppo.

Protests were fewer yesterday, as the opposition staged a nationwide general strike. However, EA sources report large evening demonstrations.

However, the most significant development yesterday may have been outside Syria in Turkey, where the Syrian Free Army and the Syrian National Council have agreed to coordinate efforts. This development could be a game-changer --- see the separate opinion/analysis, "Why There Should --- And Will --- Be a No-Fly Zone."

Assad has likely missed his last window to avoid international retaliation. Today we'll watch as the opposition stages its first Friday protest under a united front.

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