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Syria, Yemen, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Bizarre Collapse of an Agreement

1806 GMT: A source in Syria provides us with these videos, both taken today. The first shows demonstrators gathering in Kafr Nabl, in the Idlib region of Northwestern Syria.

The second video has the title "Demonstration is always free to women in Syria."

1756 GMT: More from Sana'a....

Fire broke out in the headquarters of Yemenia Airways as security forces clashed with tribesmen:

"Witnesses said that gunmen attacked the family compound of Yemen's powerful Hashid tribe leader, Sheikh Sadeq Abdullah al-Ahmar. Dozens of gunmen had been shooting at the residence for hours, while guards of the al-Ahmar family were shooting back, the witnesses said."

1750 GMT: The United States has shut its embassy in Yemen due to the "fluid security situation in the city." 

1739 GMT: In Bahrain, there are reports that local journalists working for foreign news agencies are being arrested, and possibly tortured, by security forces. 

A reporter for the German press agency and Defense News, and a reporter for France24 and Radio Monte Carlo, are both reporting that they were detained, questioned, and abused.

1730 GMT: Mareb press is reporting that fighting has stopped in the al-Hasaba section of Sanaa, Yemen.

It is too early to draw conclusions about today's violence there. A source in Yemen warns that, so far, all we know is that there was a single conflict between tribesmen and security forces, and we are still a long ways from a declared conflict between tribal leaders and the government, and even further away from civil war. Still, today's violence is a disquieting reminder that as President Saleh becomes more ensconced, the possibility of outright rebellion looms. 

1653 GMT: Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan met with the head of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, today, and officially recognized the rebel organization as the official representatives of the people of Libya. Turkey has tried to stay more neutral with Libya, and has attempted to negotiate a trcue between the rebels and the Gaddafi regime. This is a clear signal that the strategy is changing in Ankara, and could be seen as yet another step towards regional elements adopting regime change in Libya as an official policy. 

NTC's Mustafa Abdul Jalil with PM Erdogan in Turkey

1533 GMT: The Guardian's Tom Finn has this report from Sana'a, Yemen:

"government official: 'today's actions show the ill intentions of the ahmars who have been bank rolling the opposition movement'"

1525 GMT: Children in Syria chant for the toppling of the regime.


1519 GMT: The latest from Yemen: Defected soldiers and tribesmen have stormed government buildings in the capital of Sana'a today.

"Ministry of Religious Endowment and Islamic Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Official Saba news agency and Yemen airways building were surrounded by the anti-government soldiers and militants after fierce clashes, some of them were being under attack."

According to the AFP, these clashes may have started after security forces started setting up roadblocks between these buildings and the home of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashemi, the largest tribe in Yemen. 

However, al-Ahmar is claiming that the security forces were attempting to attack the tribal buildings first. Either way, there are now reports of gunbattles in the street, and many are concerned that this sudden explosion of violence may be the first step in a civil war between the tribes and the opposition on one side and President Saleh's supporters on the other.

1452 GMT: More updates on the street battle near al-Ahmar's house in Yemen: The AFP is reporting that several people habe been injured, grenades have been thrown into the street and machine gun fire could be heard. 

Ahmar is the head of the Hashid tribal federation, a group that holds a great deal of power. In March, Ahmar pledged support for the demonstrators.

1330 GMT: Associated Press updates on today's gun battle between forces loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those supporting Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Yemen's most powerful tribe.

The fighting occurred near al-Ahmar's house in Sanaa.

The Shiekh leads Hashid, to which Saleh himself belongs. Al-Ahmar announced in March that he had joined the uprising.

Armed men from Hashid are reportedly heading towards Sanaa to support Al-Ahmar.

1220 GMT: Reports are coming in of clashes between the President's Republican Guard and supporters of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Yemen's most powerful tribe.


1100 GMT: Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the head of Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority, has said that 515 detainees have been released since the regime's crackdown on dissent in mid-March.

Sheikh Fawaz said those released were set free either "due to their health conditions or after considering their detention period to be enough".

However 46 medics were still in custody, 29 of them facing facing felony charges.

The official did not say how many detainees remained, although he said six women were still being held.

0940 GMT: The European Union is including President Assad on a list of Syrian figures to be punished by EU travel restrictions and asset freezes.

"Technically, the legal act has been accepted," one EU diplomat said, but he added that EU foreign ministers would discuss the move at a meeting on Monday.

0730 GMT: French media report that France is deploying attack helicopters in Libya, the first to be used by the coalition against regime forces.

Twelve helicopters were shipped out to Libya on the French battleship Tonnerre on 17 May 17, according to Le Figaro.

0720 GMT: Syrian activists claim that the regime is cracking down on protesters’ use of social media and the Internet --- demanding dissidents turn over Facebook passwords and switching off the 3G mobile network at times to prevent uploading of videos of dmeonstrations to YouTube.

“They are using these tactics to cut off communication for the people,” said Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. He said the Facebook pages of at least two close friends had been recently hacked and now featured conspicuously pro-government messages.

0710 GMT: Claimed footage of a demonstration last night in the Syrian capital Damascus:

0700 GMT: The US State Department has said it is "deeply disappointed by [Yemeni] President Saleh’s continued refusal to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative. He is turning his back on his commitments and disregarding the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people."

The statement urged Saleh "to immediately follow through on his repeated commitments to peacefully and orderly transfer power and ensure the legitimate will of the Yemeni people is addressed".

And, the Department continued, "We are also outraged to learn that...factions loyal to President Saleh encircled the UAE embassy in Sana’a....We condemn this action and call on President Saleh to meet his international obligations to ensure the safety and security of all foreign diplomats and their staffs working in Yemen."

0500 GMT: In Morocco, police dispersed Sunday protests, beating up marchers with batons and taking several into custody. (See video in Sunday's LiveBlog.)

The actions of the security forces in the capital Rabat, Casablanca, and Tangier pointed to a tougher regime response to protests that broke out in force on 20 February.

"Protest is a legal right, why is the Makhzen afraid?" crowds in Casablanca chanted, referring to the royal court. "Makhzen get out. Down with despotism."

Protesters wanted to camp in front of the parliament in Rabat, but both in the capital and in Casablanca, police armed with batons and shields moved people off the streets wherever they gathered. Protesters split into smaller groups, often with police chasing them.

0450 GMT: We begin in Yemen, where political manipulations on Sunday led to strange scenes and a collapse of the deal for a transition of power.

President Saleh, having promised to sign the agreement to hand over authority within 30 days to a Vice President, created a thin pretext to back away by insisting that the opposition coalition --- who had accepted the arrangement on Saturday night --- had to sign it again at the Presidential Palace. 

A more serious barrier was set up when armed men, supporting Saleh, surrounded the Embassy of the United Arab Embassy. Inside were the Ambassadors of the US, Britain, European countries, and nations of the Gulf Co-operation Council, who had brokered the plan for the transition of power.

The men laid siege while the deadline for Saleh's agreement passed, with the further unusual twist from the President that he was sending an "official" delegation to the Embassy for negotiations. That never happened, and the trapped ambassadors were eventually airlifted by helicopter out of the building. 

In the dark comedy of the breakdown, a casualty --- a woman, Ghania Ali al-Aaraj, was burned to death by the pro-Saleh gang.

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