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Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Army Moves In

1859 GMT: At least three people have died and fourteen have been wounded in shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces of the port of Misurata today. Large fires raged, and the shelling has also interrupted humanitarian aid efforts. A UN ship was supposed to dock there, unload food and medical supplies, and evacuate the most vulnerable refugees, but the ship has been unable to dock because of what many reporters are describing as "indiscriminate fire." 

1842 GMT: In Bahrain, Al Jazeera is reporting that more medical facilities, and perhaps several schools, have been raided by government security forces. More details when we have them...

1835 GMT: Protesters gathered in Banias, Syria today, and chanted anti-regime slogans. Sheikh Anas Airout, a local preacher, told the crowd, "Our demands are peaceful. If they kill us, our souls will rise from our graves and demand freedom." 

This video was reportedly taken there today.

1830 GMT: British Defence Minister Liam Fox: Fox explained that the goal is to protect civilians, but then he added that NATO will pursue that goal as long as the "wicked" regime continues to threaten the lives of civilians. In other words, this statement could be interpreted in a way that would suggest an open-ended mission in Libya, as long as the Gaddafi regime exists (because the assumption, backed up by plenty of fact, is that the regime is not going to change its tune anytime soon).

1823 GMT: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and British Defence Minister Liam Fox are giving a live press conference at the Pentagon. They discussed Afghanistan, described by Fox as "their main effort," and they also discussed Libya. 

"The regime is on the back foot." He also discussed the presence of mercenary forces being forced to deploy in Misurata. Fox condemned the violence in Syria.

When asked why the two nations have engaged in Libya, but not Syria or elsewhere, Fox replied that a long diplomatic process was used before a no-fly zone was instituted, and he reiterated his condemnation of the violence in Syria. "We can't do everything, all the time," was the closing line of his statement.

Gates replied that "our values and principals apply to all countries... but our response will have to be tailored to each country." He also cited the international call for intervention in Libya, which presumably is not at the same level yet in regards to Syria. 

1818 GMT: A source in Syria has been watching pro-Bashar crowds that have been bussed into Aleppo for a pro-regime rally. According to the source, some of the pro-Bashar protesters were armed with clubs, but people there were being protected by security forces.  

1810 GMT: Reuters is reporting that more than 2000 security police have been deployed to Douma, a Damascus suburb, supported by special forces and vehicles equiped with heavy machine guns. 

1758 GMT: Yemen - a murder in Taiz. Reuters is reporting that rooftop snipers fired into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing one (Mazen Abdullah) and wounding 10 others. Also, 8 protesters were wounded by live ammunition in the city of Beit al-Faqih in the Red Sea province of Hudaida, after crowds started to chant anti-regime slogans. 

1725 GMT: Witnesses tells Reuters that Syrian security forces are in the Damascus suburb of Douma patrolling the streets.

1602 GMT: Yemen's government and representatives of the opposition are to meet at Riyadh tomorrow to sign an accord, brokered by the GCC, that will lead to a three-month transition period and the stepping down of President Saleh.

1558 GMT: This video shows protests in Mauritania on Monday. Tear gas is fired at about 3:25.


1548 GMT: While most of the coverage of Libya has focused on Misurata, pro-Gaddafi forces are reinforcing their positions near the eastern oil town of Brega. They have also dug tunnels to hide Grad rocket batteries from NATO air strikes. For now, rebel forces seem no longer interested in engaging in the back and forth attacks along the road from Brega to Ajdabiya. According to Reuters:

"We are focussed on getting our house in order and we are trying to protect the gains we have achieved," rebel spokesman Jalal el-Galal said in Benghazi.

1542 GMT: Pro-Gaddafi forces have launched long-range artillery and grad roclet attacks against the port in Misurata, setting a large fire there. Also, there are reports that the pro-Gaddafi forces placed landmines in the main streets of the city before they withdrew.

1536 GMT: The opposition website Libya al-Youm is reporting that 300 pro-Gaddafi forces have been killed in the last two days in the city is Misurata. 20 soldiers have also been captured by the rebels.

1530 GMT: Protests in Qena, Egypt, have ended with the announcement that the appointment of the governor there has been suspended.  Protesters there have hosted a sit-in in front of the governor's office to protest the appointment of Emad Mikhail, a Coptic Christian with close ties to former president Hosni Mubarak. Some Muslims were protesting the appointment of a Christian, while others were protesting the appointment of someone with ties to the former regime. In recent days, some Coptic Christians joined the protests gainst the appointed governor.

1514 GMT: I really thought that nobody would buy the Syrian regime's statements. I was wrong.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has expressed his support for Bashar al-Assad's government, and he has condemned western plans for sanctions or regime change there.

1506 GMT: Looks like the UN isn't buying Syria's explanation of the situation either. European nations are pressuring the security council to condemn the violent crackdown against protesters. France's Sarkozy said that a security council resolution would be required before an military intervention would be possible (which strikes James Miller as an extremely hawkish statement).

Britain and the United States are also working to draft economic sanctions against Syria, or individuals associated with al-Assad.

1454 GMT: I apologize to the Syrian government, and our readers, for the terrible mistakes I've made in the coverage we've provided of the Syrian army's actions in Daraa. While I've been saying video, and posting information, that suggest that the Syrian army is attempting to kill their dissenting opinions with live bullets, I was wrong.

The Syrian government is doing what they are doing to "restore security and normal life in Daraa," which is apparently what the people of Daraa want.

Syrian state news is reporting that the military is simply reacting to the calls for help from the people of Daraa, and they admit that terrible things have happened there. Apparently, many martyrs have been made in Daraa, soldiers killed by terrorists.

Brian Witaker further clarifies THE TRUTH. Rafiq Nasrallah of the Beirut-based International Center for Media and Studies (sympathetic to Syria) released this statement:

"Nasrallah asserted that what is taking place today is not related to reforms and that the conspiracy against Syria started in 2003 when US Army occupied Iraq as Syria rejected to be part of that occupation.

"Nasrallah spoke of the ongoing disinformation and fabrications campaign against Syria and of huge amounts of money paid by US bodies and by others to some Syrian figures and sections under the pretext of supporting democracy as to destabilise Syria."

Boy, it's really hard to imagine how we could have gotten this story so wrong. I guess the rebels took video of unarmed men, women, and children, shouting pro-reform slogans, and being shot at by the army, just to wage a propaganda war against Bashar al-Assad. Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

1440 GMT: The latest from Daraa, Syria.

This video shows people chanting "the army is with us." Moments later, however, the army opens fire on the people who were chanting. 

1437 GMT: More from Egypt - Former President Hosni Mubarak will not be moved to a military hospital in Cairo because his health is too poor. Mubarak was scheduled to move to the Tora Prison Hospital, but the interior ministry has called off the move.

Mubarak is currently at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh.

1426 GMT: Al Jazeera's Sue Turton reports that the now iconic green gates that stood at the western edge of Ajdabiya have been removed, apparently by rebels who believe that Gaddafi forces were using the gates as a landmark to zero artillery fire. 

Perhaps more interesting, however, is the report that the rebels are claiming they have "new weapons," though they have wisely decided to not share what weapons they have obtained.

1420 GMT: More news from a revolution that is still not over. In Egypt, former interior minister and Mubarak ally, Habib el-Adly, is now on trial for the deaths of civilians during the 18-day protests preceding the fall of the government. 850 people were killed, and el-Adly and other officials are being investigated and tried for the alleged ordering of police to open fire on protesters.

If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

1416 GMT: There are reports that fighting is continuing in Daraa as we speak. An Al Jazeera correspondant at the Ramtha border crossing in Jordan has this report:

"Deraa is three to five kiliometres from the Ramtha crossing, and local residents on both sides ave close ties with each other," she said.

"Unconfirmed reports have emerged that the Syrian army is conducting raids inside people's houses in Deraa, and that many contiue to be killed."

James Miller takes the helm. 

1345 GMT: Human Rights Watch has criticsed the criminal investigation in the UAE of five detained activists for “opposing the government” and “insulting” top officials.

Attorney General Salim Saeed Kubaish said on April 25, 2011, that the five detainees, including Ahmed Mansour, were in “preventative custody” for “instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system, and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi".

Authorities arrested Mansour, a vocal proponent of a petition submitted in March to UAE authorities demanding democratic reform, on 8 April. Mansour is a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East advisory committee.

Two days later, security forces detained Nasser bin Ghaith, an economics lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris’ Sorbonne University, who has criticized UAE authorities for failing to undertake significant political reforms. Authorities have also arrested three other online activists: Fahad Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al-Khamis, and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.

The UAE authorities have also dissolved the elected board of directors of the Jurist Association, one of the country’s leading civil society groups, and replaced it with state appointees.

1330 GMT: Back from a break to find that, according to activists, Syrian authorities have arrested more than 40 people in raids Monday and Tuesday across the country.

Meanwhile, a prominent Syrian dissident, Mahmoud Issa, will be tried by a military court for owning a Thuraya satellite phone and a high-tech computer.

Issa was arrested last Tuesday after giving an interview to Al Jazeera on the situation in Syria. He previously was imprisoned in 1992 for eight years and in 2006 for three years.

Eleven other people arrested during the uprising have been freed.

0940 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports from the Nafusa mountains in western Libya where opposition fighters say that, with the help of NATO airstrikes, they have repelled a siege by regime forces:

0900 GMT: Another Syrian demonstration of support for the people of Daraa:

0840 GMT: Claimed footage of a demonstration in the Harasta suburb of Damascus last night:

0620 GMT: More on the US reaction to latest events in Syria....

The Syrian Ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, was summoned to the State Department by Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who "voiced U.S. concerns about the outrageous actions Syria had taken…and called for an end to the violence".

Meanwhile, we have posted a late-night video of the clashes in Daraa, with mosques calling for peace amidst gunfire.

0530 GMT: No big developments in Libya overnight, which can be read as a consolidation --- at least for the moment --- of regime and opposition positions. That in turn means the insurgents have been able to maintain positions outside their east Libyan bases, by holding Misurata, Libya's third-largest city, and other areas in the west.

A sign at Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's Tripoli compound, courtesy of Reuters, insists on a different story, however:


0515 GMT: In sharp contrast to the video from Daraa, footage of protest in Homs on Monday:

0500 GMT: No doubt about the most dramatic story on Monday, with the images of Syrian troops and tanks moving into Daraa (see videos in separate entry) to lock down the city.


Several dramatic videos testified to the show and use of force, as gunfire rang out. Reports circulated of up to 25 people killed.

There were claims that the crackdown went beyond Daraa, with the Syrian military occupying several other towns in the south and suburbs of Damascus. The human rights group Sawasiah claimed that security forces "arrested 500 pro-democracy sympathisers" across the country.

The move seemed to catch onlookers, not just in Daraa but far beyond, by surprise. The US Government issued a rhetorical warning about more sanctions, but without any indication as to what this might mean in practice.

(I'll be appearing on BBC national radio's Today programme at 0750 GMT to discuss Washington's difficulties in moving against the Assad regime, given internal issues in Syria and Damascus's importance in the American regional strategy.)

So today we will be looking for indications both of further regime moves and of reactions within and outside Syria.

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