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Thursday
May052011

Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: What to Do With the Opposition?

2000 GMT: The head of the United Nation's World Food Programme has warned that Libya's food supplies could be exhausted soon unless plans are put in place.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said Supply concerns are particularly acute in the oppsoition-held east: "The challenge in Libya is that this is a centrally controlled food system that was run by the government, and it's not being restocked now. That whole system could run out of food in six to eight weeks."

"If we do not address the larger gaps in the food system in Libya -- particularly eastern Libya -- we'll have to envision a fairly massive humanitarian operation."

1940 GMT: Video of destruction in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, recorded after the withdrawal of military forces earlier today:

1850 GMT: Claimed footage of a demonstration in the Syrian coastal city of Baniyas today:

1815 GMT: US authorities have imposed financial sanctions on three companies owned by the Libyan regime.

London-based Dalia Advisory Ltd, Libya's state broadcasting company, and an Algeria-based subsidiary of the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company have been added to the US sanctions blacklist.

1540 GMT:A Bahraini court on Thursday has handed out a seven-year sentence to one protester, Abdullah Mohammad Habib for “starting to kill a number of security men with a terrorist intent” and “squandering public funds", but it has acquitted another, Sulaiman Yahya Hamza, of “starting to kill a number of security men with a terrorist intent”.

1340 GMT: Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian reports from the Libyan capital:

Police officers in riot gear and armed with wooden staves have been manning fuel pumps at a petrol station in Tripoli as long queues of cars caused traffic chaos in western Libya, amid fears that the Gaddafi regime is running out of its most precious commodity.

Queues of vehicles, sometimes five or six deep, stretched up to half a kilometre from some petrol stations last week, most of which are shut behind makeshift barriers. Two men in a queue near the city of Zuwara said they had been waiting for five days in the hope of a fresh delivery.

At the few stations around the capital, where cars were inching forward, armed soldiers and police attempted to keep order as motorists and pedestrians carrying containers jostled to get served. Fights sometimes break out, according to locals.

1325 GMT: Claimed footage of Syrian troops on the streets of Damascus suburb of Saqba:

1305 GMT: Claimed footage of Syrian tanks moving to coastal town of Baniyas:

1300 GMT: An activist just outside Deraa, tells Al Jazeera English that the town is still under the army's control, despite the depature of 40 tanks and 350 soldiers. He says there are snipers on rooftops and a "horrible crisis" with shortages of bread, medicine and gas.

1245 GMT: Back from an academic break to find that, as the Syrian military moves into suburbs of Damascus (see 0600 GMT), it is pulling some units from the south.

AFP reports 350 soldiers in approximately 20 armoured personnel carriers and a similar number of trucks left Daraa this morning.

General Riad Haddad, the director of the military's Political Department, told State news agency SANA, "The army will have pulled out of Deraa completely by the end of the day."

Daraa has been occupied since 25 April.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English's Zeina Khodr, drawing from military experts, may have the even bigger story with the Syrian occupation of Rastan (see 0600 GMT):

This is what the Syrian authorities have been trying to do, to prevent unrest in the two major cities Damascus and Aleppo. So far it [has not reached those cities]. We can't say whether people there are just to scared to take to the streets or whether the Syrian government actually has support.

0945 GMT: Judicial sources say Egypt's former Minister of Interior Habib El Adly, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and profiteering.

El Adly is also facing separate charges of ordering the killing of pro-democracy protesters during the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak and of squandering public funds.

0600 GMT: Residents and activists say hundreds of Syrian soldiers have moved into the Damascus suburb of Saqba to make arrests.

"They cut off communications before they came in," a resident said. "There is no resistance....Scores of people have been arrested."

A resident of another Damascus suburb, Douma, said there have been more detentions in house-to-house round-ups. Children as young as 14 have allegedly been arrested.

Tanks and armoured vehicles have deployed around Rastan, a town near Homs, Syria's third-largest city. 

Army units have also set up more checkpoints in the coastal city of Baniyas.

0520 GMT: As the Syrian regime clamps down on the opposition, information from the country is slowing. There were scattered videos of demonstrations on Wedneday, but the dominant news was the detention of hundreds of people since the weekend.

0510 GMT: The Libya Contact Group, made up of ministers from the coalition backing the Libyan opposition, meets today to consider how to fund insurgents.

The opposition's National Transitional Council has asked for loans of up to $3 billion, amidst obstacles to unfreeze Libyan assets abroad or to sell oil on international markets. Spokesman Mahmoud Shammam said $1.5 billion was urgently required: "We need this for medical supplies, for food supplies, to keep the minimum functions of normal life -- electricity, running hospitals etc." 

The insurgents will also press their case for better weapons and equipment.

On Wednesday, An aid ship was attacked by regime forces while rescuing African and Asian migrant workers from the besieged port of Misurata, leaving behind hundreds of Libyans who wanted to evacuate.

Five people were reportedly killed in the bombardment of the port.

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