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Tuesday
May312011

Yemen, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Destroying the Protest Camp



Claimed footage of security forces firing on mass crowd in Taiz in Yemen today

1950 GMT: The Italian Foreign Ministry says it has temporarily shut the Embassy in Yemen and withdrawn all staff.

1940 GMT: Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has called for talks on reform involving all parties as the regime says it will lift a state of emergency on Wednesday.

Al-Khalifa said the discussions would begin on 1 July, according to the State news agency BNA: "The king called on everyone to take part...to push forward reform for development in all areas and to firmly anchor the bases of the reform process." Al-Khalifa had told journalists that the talks would be "comprehensive, serious, and without preconditions".

1927 GMT: This video, uploaded today, shows security forces calmly and deliberately firing at protesters in Hama.

1913 GMT: Unconfirmed, but important: al-Tagheer is reporting that the 1st Armored Division, under the command of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the important general who broke with Saleh in March, has clashed with the Republican Guard Corps today. There were also reports that the regime conducted air strikes against the 1st. These reports have been denied by the regime. 

1844 GMT: In Yemen, the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) is claiming that recent conflicts in Zinjibar, where Al Qaeda has reportedly overrun the town, are actually the fault of President Saleh. They claim that the radical militants are actually on Saleh's payroll, and that, "He uses these tactics to show the international community what risks Yemen would pass through if he leaves office. The Yemeni government is giving al-Qaeda a chance to strengthen itself while it is as weak as ever in Yemen."

The JMP also noted that in Abyan, near Zinjibar, Saleh's forces retreated from the city without any clashes.

The independent Yemen Post also notes that, while five people were killed in Abayn on Friday, their military analysts have noted that "the city is surrounded by many military posts and a person wonders how militants could take over it.

1826 GMT: Opposition groups have started to respond to the al-Assad's general amnesty (see updates below).

Abdel Razak Eid, a member of the "Damascus Declaration," a reform group founded in 2005, said that amnesty has been requested for years, and this reform is simply too late:

"We are united under the slogan: the people want the fall of the regime and all those who have committed crimes brought to account. Blood will not have been spilled in vain."

1701 GMT: News of a general declaration of amnesty in Syria corresponds to a statement released by the Baath party announced the establishment of a committee for national dialog. According to Baath official Mohammed Said Bkhetan,

"The committee for dialogue is composed of all political currents, and people from political and economic life and society in general will take part... The mechanisms of the dialogue will be announced within 48 hours."

Bkhetan also noted the extreme pressure the party is under after protests that have contonued almost around the clock for weeks.

1655 GMT: At least one person was killed in Homs today as the Syrian government continued its crackdown against protesters. Several Twitter sources inside Syria have expressed their skepticism over a declaration, made earlier, that would grant political amnesty to all organizations and movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood. 

With videos of protests almost every single night, and more videos almost every single day, James Miller notes that we'll have a better understanding of what this "amnesty" means by this time tomorrow.

1618 GMT: Breaking news via the BBC:

"Syria's President #Assad issues general amnesty covering all political movements - Reuters"

1527 GMT: Back from a break to find some disturbing news in Yemen. where there are two, or perhaps even three, simultaneously developing stories.

The first, and most worrisome, is that Islamic militants have "overrun" a southern town, Zinjibar, where at least 2 militants and 5 soldiers have been killed in fighting. 

Separate from this, we find the second story, the growing violence in Sana'a and Taiz, where a ceasefire agreement between anti-government tribesmen and the security forces has fallen apart. In Sana'a, there is a report that the home of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar is on fire, perhaps hit by rockets. Taiz was also the sight of violence, not between tribesmen and the government, but between protesters who were evicted from a camp last night.

Yet in other news, large crowds of peaceful protesters continued to gather to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

1427 GMT: Italy has pledged to supply the Libyan rebels with refined fuel and millions of dollars in loans backed by Gaddafi's frozen assets. This comes as welcome news to the National Transitional Council that has been complaining about a lack of funds. 

1413 GMT: The Guardian, citing an independant Yemen news site, is claiming that 11 have been killed in Taiz today. According to this source, 57 were killed last night and over 1000 injured as security forces dismantled a protest camp in the center of the city. 

1403 GMT: The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has released a list of more than 60 protesters who have been sentenced by Bahraini courts. Their President, Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati, released this statement:

"“Bahraini authorities want to teach the demonstrators a very harsh lesson and use the trials for that.”

1352 GMT: There is a report that Yemen tribsemen has captured the interior ministry and a police station in Sana'a. According to the report, the situation is currently "calm." 

1348 GMT: The President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, has posted on Twitter that he has been called before the military court this evening. This is a troubling development, as the court has been a primary weapon of silencing dissenting voices in Bahraini society since the start of protests there.

1328 GMT: To our knowledge, last week EA Worldview beat the main-stream media to the news of a video depicting the tortured body of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb, killed in Syria. Today, Al Jazeera has a written account of the struggle Hamza's parents. According to the report, Hamza had severe burn marks, multiple gunshot wounds, and his penis was mutliated by the Syrian security forces.

1318 GMT: Iraq Vice President Adel Abdul Mehd has resigned over increased frustration at the lack of progress in the Iraqi government. The government has been expanding ministries, and even executives, as Iraq now had 3 vice presidents before this announcement. The government has been described as "bloated" by critics, and has often suffered fissures along Sunni/Shia lines.

Foreign Policy editor David Kenner summed up the news best on Twitter.

"One of Iraq's vice presidents quit. This would be news if VP's had any power, or the media cared about Iraq."

1309 GMT: The Egytpian public prosecutor has announced that former President Hosni Mubarak is unfit to be transfered from a hospital in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to a prison. According to the report, he is still suffering from accute circulatory issues after suffering a heart attack.

1300 GMT: In an answer to Libyan state-run media, the rebels have launched a satellite TV station based out of Benghazi. Libya Alhurra, or "Free Libya,"began broadcasting last night as thousands gathered in Benghazi to celebrate its first broadcast. 

1252 GMT: The UN is warning that areas of Libya under the control of Moammar Gaddafi are facing a large-scale shortage of food. The nation is not-yet facing a hunger crisis, but food supplies are dwindling rapidly, and without oil revenue, and with sanctions in place, it will become difficult for people in Gaddafi controlled regions to replentish their resources.

This news comes as South African President Jacob Zuma makes the assessment that Gaddafi is not likely to leave Libya.

1244 GMT: This footage was taken last night, where protesters marched through the streets of Homs, Syria.

1230 GMT: James Miller reporting for duty to find more crisis in Yemen...

Al Jazeera is reporting that six soldiers have been killed near the southern city of Zinjibar. A carbomb later went off in the same area, and at least 10 military vehicles have been destroyed.

In other news, there are reports that 7 have been killed in Taiz today, and at least 3 dead as many as 40 injured in Sanaa, where a ceasefire between Yemen's largest tribe and the security forces of President Saleh have broken down over Ahmar's Hashid tribesemen refused to evacuate government buildings that had been occupied previously. 

1000 GMT: Sources have told Al Jazeera Arabic that Yemeni regime warplanes are striking a factory in the city of Jaar in Abyan Province in the south.

The province has seen fighting since last weekend, with insurgents occupying key areas.

In the capital Sanaa, mediation efforts between President Saleh and opposition tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar were deadlocked last night because Saleh’s loyalists failed to remove “armed men in civilian clothes” from buildings near al- Ahmar’s house, according to the director of the Sheikh's office.

0930 GMT: Activists claims that another civilian has died in the central town of Rastan, as the Syrian military used heavy machine-guns and artillery in fresh attacks.

Regime forces surrounded the town over the weekend and reportedly occupied it on Monday.

0900 GMT: In Libya, residents of opposition-held Benghazi have celebrated the re-launch of Libya Al Hurra TV.

Crowds of people gathered in the de facto capital of the insurgency to watch large-screen broadcasts of the programme from the Internet.

Libya Al Hurra TV was started by Mohammed Nabbous during the uprising that began 17 February. Nabbous was killed in mid-March as he recorded a firefight in Benghazi.

0855 GMT: The US Government has withdrawn its human rights officer from Bahrain last week after he was targeted for two months by a campaign of ethnic slurs and thinly veiled threats on a pro-government website and in officially-sanctioned newspapers.

Ludovic Hood left the island nation Thursday. During his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador.

The State Department said, "It is unacceptable that elements within Bahrain would target an individual for carrying out his professional duties."

On 7 May, an anonymous posting on a pro-government website that included links to photographs of Hood and his wife on their wedding day and information on where his family lived. The posting claimed that the biggest single supporter of the uprising from 14 February was the political section of the US Embassy, working "in cooperation" with a cell of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant movement.

The head of the Embassy's section, the blog claimed, was "a person of Jewish origin named Ludovic Hood": "He's the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army" and telling the opposition of the steps they should take "to inflame the situation".

The blogger called for "honest people to avenge" Hood's role.

Yesterday, even though Hood had left the country, he and the Embassy's current top diplomat, Stephanie Williams were attacked in another post.

0845 GMT: Yemeni security forces have reportedly fired on demonstrators in Taiz to prevent them re-assembling, a day after the protest camp was demolished with dozens of deaths.

Journalist Ghamdan Al-Yousfi says seven people have been slain. An earlier report from medics saide five were dead.

0735 GMT: There are general reports, without detail, of heavy shelling and clashes overnight in Yemen's capital Sana'a near the Ministry of Interior and the house of opposition tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar. Regime forces reported fired tens of shells and missiles from a mountain near the house, causing several casualties.

0725 GMT: Monday's talks between Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and South African President Jacob Zuma ended with no advance in the political situation, as Qaddafi renewed a ceasefire call but gave no sign he will step down.

Zuma said Qaddafi wants an immediate end to NATO bombing, which the coalition already rejected as a precondition after African Union talks led by Zuma last month.

Meanwhile, Libyan State TV reported that NATO aircraft had resumed attacks, striking sites in the desert settlement of Al Jufrah, 460 kilometres (285 miles) southeast of Tripoli, and in the capital's Tajura district.

0705 GMT: The detention for questioning of former President Hosni Mubarak's son Alaa and Gamal Mubarak has reportedly been extended another 15 days.

The younger Mubaraks are being interrogated over claims of corruption and illegal acquisition of wealth.

0615 GMT: Saudi authorities have decided to free on bail Manal al-Sharif, detained for 10 days for breaking the ban on women driving and videoing herself behind the wheel (see separate feature), her lawyer said.

"We were informed today of the decision to free Manal on bail. The procedural steps towards her release are under way," Adnan al-Saleh told AFP.

0540 GMT: Bahrain's Ministry of Interior has denied claims by female Shia doctors that they were abused and tortured while in detention over alleged backing for anti-regime protests.

"The claims and allegations made by female doctors in the AFP report are not only baseless but scurrilous," the ministry said in a statement to AFP. "The Bahrain authorities affirm that very high standards of human rights norms are being followed at all detention / interrogation centres in the country."

Several female doctors who were released told AFP that they were forced by severe beatings and verbal abuse to confess to backing protesters and abusing their positions. Some said they were made to testify against colleagues at Salmaniya Medical Centre, accused of lying and exaggerating on satellite channels about casualties to press the regime.

The ministry insisted, "No doctor arrested for violation of medical ethics at Salmaniya Medical Complex has been charged arbitrarily nor on trumped-up charges."

0530 GMT: A verdict in an Egyptian court has revealed that the cut-off of mobile, SMS, and internet services on 28 January, during the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, was tested by the regime and private companies almost three years earlier.

"The ministries of interior, telecommunications and mass communications in association with the three [Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat] telecommunications companies operating in Egypt and the internet providers performed a series of experiments on how to severe connections as early as April 2008," declared the Administrative Court.

 

The court cotninued, “The first experiment was back in April 2008 while the second one was on 10 October 2010, three months before the revolution; it sought to test cutting Egypt’s internet connection, blocking some websites and implementing procedures to prevent access to the internet in one or more governorates.”

The declaration came in a case by plaintiffs seeking compensation from the three telecommunications companies and current and former Egyptian officials for the damages suffered due to the shutdown of communications.

0515 GMT: Repeating the tactic used in Bahrain (successfully, with the storming of Pearl Roundabout in Manama) and Egypt (with mixed results, with the failure to clear out Tahrir Square during the Mubarak regime but effectively during the rule of the current military regime), Yemeni security forces demolished the protest camp in the central city of Taiz early on Monday.

The scale of casualties and destruction is yet to emerge. While initial reports in the Western media spoke of a handful of deaths, last night a Yemeni newspaper put the toll at 57, with many more wounded. Demonstrators have promised to regroup today in a mass rally. 

A brief video and photographs --- two of dozens in a Facebook album --- of the demolition:

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    EA WorldView - Home - Yemen, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Destroying the Protest Camp
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    Neat Website, Stick to the beneficial work. Thanks for your time.
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    EA WorldView - Home - Yemen, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Destroying the Protest Camp

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