A woman paints her message on a street in Deir Ez Zor in northeast Syria: "Down with Bashar"
See also Syria Special: Observing the Observers --- Evidence of The Abuses in Homs br>
Egypt Video: Alaa Abd-El Fattah Speaks Out After Release from Prison br>
Egypt Feature: "The One Citizen" --- Political Prisoner Maikel Nabil's Powerful Critique br>
Egypt Special: Are Writing and Walking Really Such a Threat to the Regime? br>
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Will Arab League Observers Make a Difference?
1815 GMT: Egypt. With reports that the march swelled to 1000 demonstrators, protesters on the Free Maikel Nabil are now rallying outside the Supreme Court. On twitter, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi relays some of the chants:
Bring Maikal from the cell!' "Maikal Maikal you hero, your imprisonment sets the nation free.
O freedom where are you? Scaf is standing between us.
Continuing a strategy increasingly being seen in Egypt, activists are projecting footage of crimes and beatings committed by SCAF onto the Supreme Court walls:
1800 GMT: Syria video update:
Footage from a protest tonight in Baba Amro, Homs shows a spirited crowd singing chants and waving flags:
Footage from Duma captures regime forces firing on protesters:
Similar scenes were also witnessed today in Homs:
In Aleppo today, students at the University again again staged an anti-regime protest, culminating in a stand-in occupation in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering:
1730 GMT: In Bahrain today a peaceful protest in Malkya was attacked by police with tear gas, in what is becoming an increasingly familiar scenario. More worryingly, there are reports that a child who was protesting was stabbed by police with a knife. This graphic picture purports to show that injury.
1640 GMT: John Horne takes over the liveblog.
Egypt. An estimated 200-300 protesters have just begun a march in Cairo, demanding the immediate release of Maikel Nabil, a writer jailed in March for the crime of criticising the military regime. Nabil has been sentenced to two years imprisonment and is currently in solitary confinement. He has been on hunger strike for over 130 days and there are grave fears about his health. See our feature for more on Nabil.
Activists reported high spirits as they gathered in Tahrir, with a feeling that the case of Maikel Nabil's detention might now receive the attention it warrants.
Meanwhile, in a move likely to further the rising antagonism felt towards the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egyptian police today raided the offices of 17 NGO and other organisations. Police claim this is part of an investigation into "illicit foreign funding". AFP reports:
The state prosecutor's office said in a statement that a team of investigators from the prosecution service was searching "17 headquarters of branches of Egyptian and foreign civil society groups."
They were carrying out an order from judges the justice ministry had tasked with investigating the groups' foreign funding, after obtaining "serious evidence of their engaging in illegal activities," the statement said.
The groups allegedly did not obtain licences to operate or permission from the foreign and social solidarity ministries, the statement added.
Civil society groups condemned the unprecedented raids.
"Mubarak's regime did not dare to undertake such practices prior to the uprising," said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in a statement.
It accused authorities of "aiming to intimidate activists and rights advocates, gag their mouths and freeze their activities in support of human rights and against repression and torture."
1330 GMT: Former senior intelligence officer Adel Flaifil, accused of involvement in the abuses of Bahraini detainees, is one of the main organisers of a rally to support security forces and their families tomorrow.
The rally has been called by a new group, The National Youth Gathering. Flaifil said, "We have wanted to hold such a gathering to support families of policemen, who lost their lives during the unrest. There are around 16 policemen we know who have been suspended from the Interior Ministry. They were only doing their job and defending the kingdom."
1320 GMT: Activists have posted a series of reports claiming that security forces have fired on demonstrations across Syria today. They claim people have been killed, including three in Kisweh near Damascus.
Meanwhile, footage of the protests streams in, especially from gathering in the northwest --- Idlib in front of the Palace of Justice:
Sermin in Idlib Province:
Latamneh in Hama Province:
1200 GMT: An airstrike by four planes in southeast Turkey killed at least 31 Kurdish villagers crossing into the country from Iraq on Wednesday night, according to a local official from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party.
The official said the victims were from the border villages of Ortasu and Gulyazi, "These are people who go across the border all the time, for their daily needs like sugar or fuel. Only one person survived with injuries."
The Turkish military acknowledged that it conducted an airstrike in the area, saying that unmanned aerial vehicles showed a group was moving from Iraq toward the Turkish border. Vahdettin Ozkan, the governor of Turkey's southeastern province of Sirnak, said a full investigation is underway.
1125 GMT: Bahraini police raid a house in Markuban village in Sitra and arrest the youth hiding inside.
1035 GMT: The Yemeni Parliament unanimously endorsed Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basundwa’s government plan on Wednesday.
Thanking MPs, Basundwa emphasised economic reform, democracy, the rule of law, and the fight against corruption and terrorism: “We hope to accomplish all that is expected of us, although there are difficult tasks ahead; but we are up to the challenge."
1030 GMT: A freelance journalist reports from Homs on the regime snipers watching --- and killing --- residents:
State Department spokesman Mark Toner had said no decision has been made, but the official said that debate within the administration, which feared coming across as providing safe haven to a dictator responsible for a violent crackdown, had concluded.
0845 GMT: Two Obama Administration officials have told The Cable blog of Foreign Policy magazine that the National Security Council has begun an informal, quiet interagency process to create and collect options for aiding the Syrian opposition.
The process, led by NSC Senior Director Steve Simon, includes a few select officials from the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, and other relevant agencies. Options under consideration include establishing a humanitarian corridor or safe zone for civilians in Syria along the Turkish border, extending humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels, providing medical aid to Syrian clinics, engaging more with the external and internal opposition, forming an international contact group, and/or appointing a special coordinator for working with the Syrian opposition.
One official said, "The interagency is now looking at options for Syria, but it's still at the preliminary stage. There are many people in the administration that realize the status quo is unsustainable and there is an internal recognition that existing financial sanctions are not going to bring down the Syrian regime in the near future."
An official added, "Due to the incredible and far-reaching ramifications of the Syrian problem set, people are being very cautious....When you look at the possible ramifications, it's mindboggling."
0838 GMT: Bahraini police fire a tear gas canister at a youth filming the events, hitting him in the ribs:
The incident followed a march in Sitra, marking the 40th day of the death of Ali Alsatrawi, killed by a police jeep chasing youths.
A youth from Bani-Jamra village collected tear gas ammunition littering his village and split it with his neighbour. His share? 62 cylinders.
0828 GMT: In Bahrain, five leading opposition societies have called for a march tonight in Almugsha and a large rally tomorrow afternoon, "The People are the Base of L-Legitimacy":
The wave began last week when employees of the national airline, Yemenia Airways, demanded the dismissal of the director, Saleh’s son-in-law, charging him with plundering the company’s assets and driving it into bankruptcy. The regime gave in.
This week there have been stoppages at State TV, Sanaa police headquarters, and the Military Economic Institution, with strikers calling for the firing of the agency manager, Hafez Mayad.
0625 GMT: Wednesday opened with the near-surreal observation from Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League observers in Syria, that the situation in Homs was "reassuring so far": "There were some places where the situation was not good. But there wasn't anything frightening at least while we were there." He added that the atmosphere "was quiet and there were no clashes. We did not see tanks but we did see some armored vehicles."
Al-Dabi's statement was debatable, given that video had been posted on Tuesday of observers only a few hundred yards from a tank and that as the General spoke, gunfire could be heard in the background. By the end of Wednesday, it had collapsed --- not only in Homs but in Hama, the Arab League's monitors found themselves amidst gunfire and chaos, escorted by activists to cover. And Al-Dabi would find himself challenged by a citizen journalist who set out the reality, rather than the rhetoric, of the situation.
Those challenging the Assad regime might find some respite in a lower-than-normal death toll on Wednesday, as "only" 13 people were said to have been slain. And it appeared that the presence of the observers did open up some breathing space in some areas, away from Homs and Hama, for demonstrations.
We will post an analysis by James Miller within the hour.