A march last night in the Al Bab section of Aleppo in Syria
Bahrain Feature: Today's Revival of Mass Protests br>
Syria Opinion: Beyond the "Sectarian" Spectre --- Everyone in Homs is a Victim
Bahrain Opinion: The US and "The Wrong Side of History"
Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: As Dozens Die in a Kidnapping, Damascus Responds to Arab League
2110 GMT: Another video complementing our special feature on today's renewal of protests and clashes in Bahrain --- security forces mobilise in Aldaih in front of the house of the Vice President of Al Wefaq, the largest opposition group:
Meanwhile, Bahrain authorities, having initially said that a package detonated at the national airport contained explosives, now say that it had "tools used to make explosives".
The Ministry of Interior initially claimed that a group had sent explosives from Britain via Dubai, but it now asserts that the package was a "dummy" to test Bahrain's defences.
2010 GMT: More protest video from Syria tonight --- a rally in Bousr Al Harer in Daraa Province:
Kafar Nuran section of Aleppo:
Ma'arat al-Numan in Idlib Province:
Inkhel in Daraa Province:
Homs: protesters in Bab Dreib continue their demonstration tonight while gunfire can be heard
"We will place a 30% tax on all goods coming from Syria," NTV quoted customs and trade minister Hayati Yazici as saying. It gave no further details and the ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.
"December 12 is an important moment. All citizens must take part in the municipal elections and vote for the candidates they consider best capable of defending the public interest," wrote Al-Baath, the newspaper of the ruling party which has been in power since 1963.
Monday "is a crucial date and a very important step in the road to decentralization and democracy," it added, stressing that these elections are a means for Syrians to "participate in decision-making and building the nation."
It will be interesting to see how many people vote, who votes, and how those votes are counted, but it's hard to imagine that Syria will be able to successfully conduct elections while protesters are shot at in the streets.
Protesters in Ibb walked all the way to Taiz today reaching Freedom Square of Taiz to support the people of the city that has been getting shelled since the revolution started. They chanted for them, marched towards Sheikh Hamoud Al-Mikhlafi and sang the national anthem.
1656 GMT: An EA correspondent in Bahrain shares with us an amazing video:
Police beating brutally a protester who's holding the Bahrain flag. Despite the beating he didn't throw the flag!!
Meanwhile, this video reportedly shows that the security forces threw tear gas into the home of Sheikh Hussein Aldeha, An AlWefaq member who is the son of one of the martyrs:
1619 GMT: A hard video to watch. These two children were reportedly injured by an exploding shell in Homs, and are being treated in what appears to be an extremely rudimentary field hospital:
1610 GMT: Activists share this video, reportedly a protest today on the campus of Aleppo University. We'll see if we can confirm this against eyewitness reports:
The elaborate plan to bring al-Saadi Gadhafi to Mexico allegedly involved two Mexicans, a Canadian and a Danish suspect, Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said.
The plot was uncovered in early September as al-Saadi was fleeing Libya shortly after his father's ouster. He never made it to Mexico, but did reach the Western African country of Niger, where he has been living.
The plotters allegedly jetted into Mexico, opened bank accounts and bought properties meant to be used as safe houses in several parts of the country, including one at the resort of Bahia de las Banderas on Mexico's Pacific coast.
1548 GMT: According to the LCCS, "9 have been killed so far by security forces fire. 3 of them have died under torture, 7 martyrs in Homs; among them 2 female and 2 martyrs in Idlib one in Saraqeb the other in Jarjana."
They have also added video of a protest in Jarjanaz, Idlib, "mourning the martyrs":
An interesting, though poor quality, video posted by the LCCS this morning reportedly shows yesterday's scene at Aleppo University, at the Electrical Engineering building, where "Assad thugs" reportedly attacked the students. One student was reportedly killed in the melee.
1539 GMT: So far this morning we've spent a lot of time watching Syrian President Bashar al Assad explain to Barbara Walters that he is not the government, and he is not the military, he is just the President.
Al Arabaya disagrees. The Syrian government has made changes to the Constitution that will help cement Assad's place in the government. Among the changes - making Assad the head of the military:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was promoted to a “team” military rank and is now the commander in chief of the Syrian military and the armed forces, according to a report published Tuesday.
This promotion allowed Bashar al-Assad to skip four military ranks, and to jump from one eagle and two stars placed on his shoulder to a “team” rank, in which he is eligible for one eagle, two crossed swords and three stars.
The ranking is given only to the president of the republic, who is also the chief commander of the army and the armed forces.
The story only gets weirder. According to the report, the one who issued the Constitutional amendments was Abdalhalim Khadam, former vice president and now a defector from the regime.
The ministry's statement says the 27-year-old woman sustained head injuries during "rioting" last month in a Shiite village near the capital Manama. She died in a hospital early Wednesday.
Bahraini rights groups say she was fatally injured in the head by a metal rod during a November protest and that security forces are responsible for her death.
In November, we reported the incident, though the opposition has repeatedly reported that police threw the iron bar, not the protesters, and we've collected several videos over the months that show police throwing these bars.
1452 GMT: Our EA Correspondent in Bahrain reports:
People are heading to Martyrs Square this afternoon (the site of the Pearl Roundabout, before the government tore it down) after a big Ashura procession that started in AlDaih village.
After finishing the procession, people went running to Martyrs' Square.
There are clashed now in the villages Sanabis & AlDaih.
This photo reportedly shows the protesters marching towards Martyrs' Square:
Our correspondent reports shooting in the area. This photo clearly shows the presence of teargas in the air.
More details when we have them.
The Local Co-ordination Committees claim that six people have been killed so far in Syria today.
They have posted video footage they say is of shelling in Saqareb (SP?), in Idlib, where claims Hasan-al Naser, 17 [years old], has been killed by "random shelling" today and 25 injured.
There were clashes between the Syrian regular army and groups of army defectors near the radio broadcasting centre in the town of Saraqeb, in Idib district. An armoured personnel carrier (APC) for the regular army was destroyed during the clashes. Meanwhile, joint security and military forces raided the houses at the edges of Saraqeb and arrested 3 activists today, at dawn time.
1422 GMT: While the full video will not be available until this evening, here is a video excerpt of Barbara Walter's interview with Bashar al Assad. The video is striking, the calm, mild mannered, soft spoken Assad responds calmly to the allegations that he is guilty of extreme brutality.
Assad brushed off allegations of torture. He said that met with the father of Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13 year old boy who was allegedly tortured to death, and the father says that the boy was not tortured. He repeated claims that 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed by militants, and he said that videos and pictures of government abuses could not be verified and were false.
On the topic of the UN, Assad said that the UN had never sent him the documents that back their allegations, so he could not look into them, but they were false. He then questioned the legitimacy of the UN, and when Walters pushed him on the topic he said, "the UN is not a credible institution. Just because you participate in a game doesn't mean you believe in it."
In a separate video, below, Walters speaks with George Stephanapoulos about the interview:
1402 GMT: The New York Times has published an account of the mood on the streets of Damascus, where security forces watch over the city, severing it from the suburbs and keeping careful watch over its universities and mosques:
The seemingly routine flow of life in central Damascus could leave the impression that there is no crisis, or that the security approach is effective. Yet beneath the mundane, unease grips this capital as fear of civil war supplants hopes for a peaceful transition to democracy. Damascus residents describe the restive suburbs as severed from the city by government checkpoints, and while the security forces control those areas by day, the night belongs to the rebels. A request to visit the suburbs was denied “for your own safety” by a Syrian government official.
Protesters hold “flying demonstrations” inside the city, trying to subvert the control of security forces with a few people gathering briefly to be filmed shouting antigovernment slogans. Damascenes say that they have become so accustomed to hearing slogans chanted in the background, given the almost daily progovernment rallies organized by the government, that it takes a couple minutes to register that people are cursing President Assad. By the time they seek the source, the protesters have faded away.
As many of our readers know, we've documented several of these "flying demonstrations," and sources in Syria report being jealous of the protesters in Egypt, jealous of the ability to stand ground and protest for long lengths of time without being disrupted, arrested, or shot at.
As the Arab League continues to work to get international observers into thee country, the most striking conclusion of the article is that, even in Damascus, it appears that the government's pledged reforms are so far away from the protesters' demands that it is unlikely compromise can ever be reached.
This only raises to prospect of violence, making even Damascus a very scary place to live.
“We are scared it will be death by I.D. card, poverty and the Iraq scenario,” said a businessman interviewed amidst the bazaars of old Damascus. “We want change, we just don’t want blood.”
James Miller takes the liveblog.
The interim government has been press the militias to go home and leave the job of keeping order to the police and a new army.
Judges and lawyers, carrying placards reading "No to weapons; Yes to justice!", said they decided to protest after an armed militia raided the offices of the prosecutor general on Tuesday.
1205 GMT: Britain's Foreign Office announces:
Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt arrived in Tripoli on the first visit to Libya by a UK Minister since the formation of the new Libyan government.
He will meet Libyan Ministers and will discuss how to take forward a comprehensive new partnership between the two countries. The partnership will be a practical framework through which the UK and Libya can work together across a broad range of issues in order to consolidate the achievements of the last year, address the past and drive forward a rejuvenated bilateral relationship between the two countries, focused on practical cooperation.
Burt will also re-open the British Council offices in Tripoli.
1155 GMT: America's ABC News has released some take-away quotes from Syria's President Assad in an interview to be broadcast today.
Assad says mistakes have been made by security forces, but there has been "no command to kill or to be brutal". To the contrary, he claims, "I did my best to protect people. I feel sorry for lives lost. But you don't feel guilty when you don't kill people."
Assad attacked the United Nations as an organisation which is "not credible" after its claims of crimes against humanity by the regime.
1145 GMT: Hasan Tariq Alhasan proposes "the eventual introduction of taxation, increasingly...[to] pave the way for greater political accountability from the Bahraini government", but more immediate is his assessment of the political consequences of the regime's recent economic decisions:
In the wake of the recent unrest, conservative forces within government have successfully bargained for political support from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), suspending economic and labour market reforms. Very recently, the BCCI expressed its support for the King’s controversial amendments to the country’s 2002 trade unions law, hitherto seen as the most liberal in the Gulf region. The amendments aim to weaken the opposition’s iron fist control over trade unions and federations as well as to punish trade union representatives who were actively involved in organizing strikes directed against the government. The Crown Prince’s continued marginalization and the backpedalling on many of his reforms by conservative groups within the government and merchant class, certainly render the shift towards a more autonomous, oil-independent economic setting more challenging.
1115 GMT: Catching up after an academic break....
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party claims it has won 34 individual seats of the 45 it contested in Monday and Tuesday's run-off vote for the Lower House of Parliament.
Al Masry Al Youm is more conservative with its estimate, saying the FJP has won 22 of 52 seats contested in the run-offs --- votes are still being counted in six constituencies --- and the party's claimed total may include "independent candidates to whom it has lent support".
A total of 56 individual seats were contested by all parties in the first round of the election, with others assigned to party lists. The FJP won two individual seats outright in last week's first round of balloting.
Under a complex system, two-thirds of the 498 elected lower house seats go proportionately to party lists, with the rest going to individual candidates.
Meanwhile, the head of the Salafist Nour Party, Emad Abdel-Ghafour, has said that the group will not accept "living in the shadow" of the FJP after finishing second in the first round of Parliamentary elections>
The FJP received 3.5 million votes in the initial balloting, while the Nour Party, which espouses an ultra-conservative Islam, was second with 2.3 million votes.
There has been speculation Nour and FJP could form an alliance, but both parties --- which had candidates running against each other in a number of run-offs --- have talked down the possibility. Abdel-Ghafour said, “We hate to become followers because people always say that we are following in the footsteps of the Muslim Brotherhood in our decisions....We have nothing to do with the Brotherhood, we have our own view This was clear in the 19 November clashes [between police and protesters in Tahrir Square] when the Brotherhood decided not to join the demonstrations. We joined and our decision was very useful.
The Nour head continued, “We don’t rule out the possibility of the Brotherhood trying to marginalise us; we had already noticed that before. They might continue to portray us as the troublemakers.”
0550 GMT: We are still not clear how many people have died in Homs in the last 72 hours. Between reports of kidnapped and slain residents --- activists say at least 34 Sunnis were killed, but there are also claims of 27 Alawites who have been murdered --- and the Monday/Tuesday deaths at the hands of security forces, the figures soar beyond the dozens to several dozens.
What can be established is that something deadly is happening in Syria's third-largest city, a site of resistance to the Assad regime from the early days of the uprising this spring. The everyday was treacherous enough, as video from a British reporter revealed yesterday with Homs' people trying to avoid snipers. Now, however, the figures points to widespread assaults.
Meanwhile, international actors are trying to put together a diplomatic offensive. Both France and the US announced yesterday that they are returning their ambassadors, withdrawn this autumn for "security reasons", to Damascus. The move needs to be seen in conjunction with Syria's imminent acceptance of an agreement with the Arab League to allow observers into the country --- both Paris and Washington want top representatives on-site to watch the process and to warn if the Assad regime does not hold to the bargain.
This was accompanied on Tuesday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meeting with members of the Syrian opposition, including the head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun. Clinton put out the line of stability: "Obviously, a democratic transition is more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender."
EA's James Miller notes the equally important, unsaid message to President Assad: "Clinton is indicating they are serious and this is his last chance."