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Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Finding the Dead

Candle-lit demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Saqba last night

2045 GMT: Activists says Lebanon has detained at least two Syrian soldiers who crossed the border to escape clashes between security forces and protesters.

The soldiers reportedly fled after opening fire on regime troops attacking civilians near a border checkpoint that they were manning. One soldier is said to have been killed.

2040 GMT: Libyan officials said they have been trying unsuccessfully to contact Minister of Oil, Shukri Ghanem, who has reportedly defected (see 1030 GMT), for the past 24 hours.

Ghanem was said to have crossed the border into Tunisia on Monday.

"He is in Tunisia, but we don't know what he is doing there," said government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim. Another official said Ghanem was on a "diplomatic mission" to bring about a ceasefire.

2030 GMT: Bahrain State television is claiming that a protester drove his car into a group of policemen today. Nine officers were injured, four seriously.

A police official was quoted, "As security men were carrying out their duty...and confronting a group attempting acts of tumult and sabotage, one of those involved was injured in the head, and his brother immediately started driving at full speed and running over officers."

Footage showed a police vehicle and a saloon car, both damaged, and injured men being treated at a hospital.

1955 GMT: Three senior US officials --- Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Jeffrey Feltman, the Department's top Middle East official, and a senior official from the National Security Council --- have been in Bahrain for talks.

The State Department's official line is that "Deputy Secretary Steinberg affirmed the long-standing commitment of the U.S. to a strong partnership with both the people and the government of Bahrain and stressed the importance of full respect for universal human rights. He urged all parties to pursue a path of reconciliation and comprehensive political dialogue."

1915 GMT: Seven people were killed in Misurata as pro-Qaddafi forces renewed their clashes with rebel forces on the eastern and western edges of the city.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports:

Libya's rebel-held Western Mountains came under intense bombardment on Tuesday from Muammar Gaddafi's army, forcing rebels to briefly pull back from the border with Tunisia as rockets slammed into the desert.

Although they managed to retain control of the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing, rebels said it was the most sustained bombardment for at least a week, killing three of their men and wounding several others.

1732 GMT: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has alleged that pro-Qaddafi forces are routinely gang-raping women at various police checkpoints in Libya. Moreno-Ocampo even claimed that Qaddafi was distributing Viagra to soldiers so that they would use rape as a weapon.

1724 GMT: Labour Front. The Syrian opposition has called for a nationwide strike on Wednesday, the newest tactic by the opposition to force reform or the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.  

A statement on an opposition Facebook page read:

It will be a day of punishment for the regime from the free revolutionaries....Massive protests, no schools, no universities, no stores or restaurants and even no taxis. Nothing.

This news comes as the US and the European Union prepare new sanctions against senior members of the regime (though, it seems the new sanctions will stop short of naming al-Assad himself). 

1632 GMT: This video, which we cannot verify, supposedly shows plain-clothed police beating and arresting people in the streets of an unknown Syrian city on Saturday, 14 May. We post this cautiously, and will keep an eye out for similar videos.

1611 GMT: This video shows women protesting peacefully in Darraya, Syria, earlier today:

1600 GMT: In Bahrain, only 22 members of the pariliament remain. Almost half of the MPs, including almost all of the Shia members, have resigned over the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. With the resignation of seven more MPs who were members of the primary opposition political party, Al Wefaq, the opposition has lost its token voice in parliament, despite the fact that more than 70% of the population of Bahrain is Shia.

1537 GMT: This update frmo Scott Lucas over at the Iran LiveBlog:

Journalist Watch. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said this morning that Al Jazeera reporter Dorothy Parvaz, allegedly moved from Syrian detention to Iran two weeks ago, had committed several violations, but he stopped short of saying she was in Iranian custody.

Mehmanparast said Parvaz, who hold American Canadian, and Iranian citizenship, "traveled to Syria with expired Iranian passport, planned to work without a press permit and had several passports on her".

Parvaz disappeared on arrival in Damascus on 29 April. Syrian authorities later said she was in detention but then altered the story to say she had gone to Tehran with the Iranian Consul to Damascus.

1532 GMT: Two more videos from protests last night. The first shows protesters in Hama, chanting for the overthrow of the regime:

The second shows a sit in at Deir Al-Zour, where protesters vow to demonstrate "until the system falls".

1454 GMT: Half of the 50 members of Kuwait's parliament pressed their government to sever ties with Syria and expel the Syrian ambassador over the "massacre" of "peaceful demonstrators". The MPs also vowed to take more formal action to respond to Syria's brutal crackdown against protesters. 

1449 GMT: On May 15, Hassan Hijazi, a Syrian of Palestinian dissent, managed to hitchhike more than 130 km into Israel after he entered through the Golan Heights. Hassan was attempting to reach his home in Jaffa, his home before his family was displaced during the Israeli War for Independence.

He finally turned himself into authorities on Monday night. Hijazi will be deported back to Syria, but is being held for security reasons, potentially until Thursday.

1424 GMT: The Syrian Free Press has posted a video of sit-in protest in Deir Al Zour.

1419 GMT: Another video showing last night's funeral procession for a protester in the Damascus suburb of Saqba.

1410 GMT: NATO has begun dropping leaflets in Libya, warning soldiers to go home and to move away from military equipment. This comes as the rebels are attempting to advance, and the NATO air campaign seems increasingly focused on Tripoli, and hitting Gaddafi.

1402 GMT: Fellow EA readers, this is James Miller reporting for duty...

In Yemen, there is a report that police in civilian clothes fired into the air in an attempt to disrupt a protest camp in the southern port city of Aden. Several were injured during the exchange. Opposition leaders there have vowed to march on government buildings, in a move similar to the rallies in Taiz last week that led to violent clashes.

This news comes as the national opposition is working with the Qatar-less Gulf Cooperation Council and several other international organizations to resurrect a deal that would put a transitional government in place. In light of Qatar's departure from this process, President Saleh's defiance that he displayed last week, and an opposition that is frustrated with the pace of progress, the prospects of a peaceful transition are potentially as slim as they have ever been.

1305 GMT: Judicial sources in Libya say the trial of three detained foreign journalists has been delayed indefinitely.

The two Americans and a Spaniard were scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

The sources did not name the journalists. However, those detained include two Americans and a Spaniard captured on 5 April: James Foley, a GlobalPost photojournalist, Clare Morgana Gillis, who was working for The Atlantic and USA Today, and Manu Brabo, a Spanish photojournalist.

1215 GMT: An Egyptian judicial source has said prosecutors will end the detention of former First Lady Suzanne Mubarak as soon as she pays bail and returns some assets to the state.

On Monday, Ms Mubarak gave authorities the power of attorney to withdraw up to LE 20 million ($3.37 million) from two bank accounts. She was admitted to hospital on Friday, just after begin questioned, with symptoms of a heart attack.

1130 GMT: A Tunisian official has confirmed reports that the Libyan Minister of Oil, Shukri Ghanem, has defected.

The offical said Ghanem crossed into Tunisia by road on Monday.

Libyan regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied Monday night that Ghanem had defected, saying, "He is working in his office."

Abdel Moneim al-Houni, a Libya's former representative to the Arab League, confirmed the defection, saying he spoke to the Minister after he reached Tunisia. Al-Houni said no official announcement has been made out of concern for the safety of some of Ghanem's family members who are still in Tripoli.

1030 GMT: Al-Watan, published by businessman and President Assad's ally Rami Makhlouf, has acknowledged that five bodies were found in a grave near Daraa in southern Syria (see 0505 and 0925 GMT). The newspaper said Syria's attorney general was investigating the incident.

The Syrian State news agency SANA, quoting regime officials, had denied the report of a mass grave.

0955 GMT: A Syrian rights activist says security forces chased students who were protesting against the Assad regime at the University of Aleppo on Tuesday, beating them with batons and injuring dozens.

The activist also claimed that forces dispersed a rally of about 3,000 people in the central city of Homs.

Claimed footage of a demonstration in Aleppo on Monday:

0925 GMT: The Syrian regime has said claims of a mass grave found near Daraa (see 0505 GMT) are part of a "campaign of incitement".

The Syrian state news agency SANA has also asserted that 8,881 people "have turned themselves in to the authorities", admitting involvement in rioting and vandalism.

An "official source at the Interior Ministry" said that "they were all released after pledging not to repeat any act that may harm the security of the homeland and citizens"

0915 GMT: Bahraini authorities have accepted the resignations of the seven remaining MPs from the opposition Wafaq Party.

Most of Wafaq's Parliamentary representatives left in March, soon after the start of the uprising against the Bahraini regime.

0810 GMT: In Bahrain, seven defendants have received sentences of one to three years for "assembling in a public area, rioting, holding political leaflets, and calling openly for hatred of the ruling system".

0745 GMT: The Associated Press updates that at least 16 people, including eight members of the same family, have been killed by regime forces in recent days in Tal Kalakh, the Syrian town near the Lebanese border.

0725 GMT: AFP reported overnight that a security services building and the headquarters of Libya's anti-corruption agency had been set on fire in Tripoli after apparent NATO airstrikes.

The two buildings are close to the compound of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

0710 GMT: On Monday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced that he was pursuing Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, and Qaddafi's brother-in-law and Libyan head of intelligence Abdullah Senussi for "crimes against humanity".

The Guardian profiles Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the "dictator's son who mingled with British high society", and Senussi, the regime's "executioner".

0515 GMT: Kirsten Chick of The Christian Science Monitor reports on claims from Bahrain that detained activists have been blocked from informing a court about their abuse in prison.

Abdulhad al-Khawaja was forcefully taken from the courtroom when he tried to tell the judge about sexual assaults and threats of rape. Witnesses say Mohammed Hassan Mohammed Jawad also tried to show the judge signs of abuse on his body but was silenced.

Al-Khawaja and Jawad are among 21 activists, clerics, and political leaders who are charged with attempted overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy of links to a “terrorist organisation".


0510 GMT: Thousands of people reportedly marched last night in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, the largest demonstration so far.

0505 GMT: On a quieter Monday --- at least compared to the rush of protest this weekend, both against regimes and for Palestinians on Nakba Day --- the striking news was the discovery of a mass grave outside the Syrian town of Daraa, the initial flashpoint of protests in the 15 March uprising. Video footage has been posted.

Activists claimed 40 bodies, including women and children, were found; Al Jazeera puts the figure at 13

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