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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: "The Day of National Legitimacy"

Mass pro-reform rally in Taiz in Yemen today

See also Syria Video: Today's "Day of National Legitimacy" Protests Set 1 AND Set 2

2025 GMT: Claimed footage of security forces firing tear gas on a protest in Daih in northern Bahrain:

1940 GMT: Thanks to James Miller for taking the LiveBlog through the afternoon.

Yemeni forces, backed by tanks, have fired on a funeral procession of tens of thousands of people for a young man beaten to death in police custody. One person was killed, according to a medical official.

The burial of 25-year-old Ahmed Darwish in Aden turned into an anti-regime protest calling for the removal of President Saleh.

Darwish was arrested in a mass round-up last year, just before rise of protest against Saleh.

In a separate incident, three soldiers were killed when a car bomb exploded at an army post. No culprits have been identified.

Video of the procession:

1924 GMT: Large rallies in Taiz chant for freedom of the revolution, both freedom from Saleh's rule and freedom from Saudi intervention.

1913 GMT: The Libyan rebels have taken Sffet hill, a location that allowed Gaddafi forces to fire rockets and artillery strikes at Qalaa and Yefren. The battle took 11 hours, but the rebels were successful (slideshow).

1833 GMT: Status Quo alert - The US Congress has rejected two measures concerning Libya. The first would have secured funding for the NATO operation in Libya for the next year. The second would have cut all funding, except certain, extremely limited, provisions.

1808 GMT: A leading Syrian activist has posted three videos of the dead and wounded in Barzeh today (Graphic).

1800 GMT: In this video, indistinctive chanting can be heard on the streets of Aleppo. What's more significant, however, is that all of the men in the foreground, Assad supporters, are carrying clubs.

1748 GMT: The port city of Aden, Yemen, was a very busy, and dangerous, place today. Thousands of anti-Saleh protesters marched in a funeral procession and chanted anti-regime slogans. Security forces fired on the crowd, killing at least one and wounding six others. 

According to Al Jazeera:

The funeral was being held for a man identified as Ahmed Darwish, a 25-year-old who local rights groups say died in custody last June after being arrested in connection with a suspected al-Qaeda attack on an intelligence office in Aden in which 11 people were killed.

Darwish's family had refused to bury him since his death, demanding an investigation, and his body had been stored at a government hospital in the port city until Friday


Elsewhere in Aden, in the free-trade area, a large explosion blew out windows and killed 3 security personnel. It is unclear what caused the explosion.

1701 GMT: Al Jazeera confirms some of our last report, that 8 people injured in al-Qusayr have been transfered to a hospital in Lebanon:

"Eight Syrians with gunshot wounds were evacuated from their country via the unofficial crossing of Al-Qusair in the region of Akkar" at Lebanon's northern border with Syria, the official said on condition of anonymity. They were immediately hospitalised in the northern town of Halba, he said, adding that at least seven more Syrians were waiting to cross the border.

1658 GMT: More details from Hammam Farouk on our previous update:

#Kseer: one protester have martyred and several injured, five of which have been transferred to #Lebanon. Security forces are heavily shooting on houses and protesters gathered in bystreets. They are also using heavy machine guns. #Homs #Syria

1649 GMT: We have this unconfirmed, but disturbing report from Syria, from a source who has been reliable today, Hammam Farouk (note, Al Kseer is Al-Qusayr, part of the Homs governate on the coast):

heavy machine guns are being used to shoot on protesters in bystreets and on houses in the city of   

1641 GMT: Back from a break to find this picture of protesters on 60th street, Sana'a, Yemen.

1545 GMT: Revising the estimates: Our last report, that 12 were killed in Homs, was a mistake. 12 are already being reported across Syria. An opposition Facebook page has posted the names of 12 martyrs

1539 GMT: An activist in Syria reports of violence in Homs today:

"Assad thugs ve killed 12 ppl today among them 2 kids,Hassan Sheb frm Alkeswa,13 years old & Rateb Alorabi from homs,12 years old boy #syria"

 1530 GMT: A massive crowd marches down 60th Street in Sana'a, Yemen Sana'a Street, in Taiz. They are chanting anti-regime slogans while condemning foreign (Saudi) interference in the revolution.

1519 GMT: Al Arabiya is reporting that 7 people have been killed in Keshwah, Syria. Activists are reporting that people are returning to the streets there, and as many as 3000 are protesting again after the crowds were dispersed earlier.

1505 GMT: Protesters in Homs hold up a sign that says, ""Iran, China, Russia, thanks for contributing in murdering our women & children."

1457 GMT: How large-scale are today's protests? Massive, and far reaching:

In Syria Video: Today's "Day of National Legitimacy" Protests Set 1 we have videos:

Several neighborhoods in Damascus, and the suburbs of Madan, Daraa (in the south), Sanamein (southern Syria), Zabadani (southwest), Latakia (on the coast), Homs, Deir Ezzor (northeast), Hama, Kafranbel (northwest), Amuda (northeast), Qamishli (northeast), and Idlib (northwest).

In our second set of videos, we have already posted scenes from villages near Daraa (south), Harasta (near Damascus), Hama, and the Arbeen area of Damascus.

1443 GMT: Thousands have taken to the streets in three major cities that surround the Syrian capital; Zamalka, Harrasta and Arbin.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinators’Union (SRCU) is reporting that security forces have opened fire in Homs, killing many, including 20-year-old student Tamer Bakri Zaqreet, and injuring many others.

1432 GMT: In Dhamar, Yemen, a chant echoes above a vast crowd, "The people want to build a new Yemen."

1426 GMT: Libya - The French news group, Le Figaro, is reporting that the rebel NAtional Transitional Council is holding indirect talks with Gaddafi's government. The rebels are even willing to allow Colonely Gaddafi and his family to live in a remote part of Libya, if he is willing to step down from power.

Meanwhile, the rebels are reporting that their oil fields and infrastructure have not been badly damaged, but they have not focused on oil production because they are concerned that Gaddafi forces would respond by hitting their oil fields and production facilities, damage that would have long-term implications for Libya's economy.

The Guardian has been told by NATO sources that the alliance has been tracking Colonel Gaddafi's position, but they have not targetted him with air strikes, directly, because it would supercede the authority of the UN resolution.

NATO has also begun bombarding Gaddafi's forces with off-shore warships. They have warned the rebels that it is too early to deploy tanks that they have captured, as they may be mistaken for pro-Gaddafi forces and risk being destroyed by NATO strikes.

1410 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting that one protester has been killed, and many wounded, as 4000 protesters gathered in Barzeh, Syria. Ahmad Mando is reportedly the first martyr of the city today, but as many as 25 have been shot.

1404 GMT: A grim report from northern Syria:

A father and his 5 year old son shot dead on the Syria-Turkey border by security forces.

1348 GMT: While the focus today may be on Homs, the suburbs of Damascus, and Keshwah, there are perhaps significant developments in Hama. Much of the news has reported fears of sectarian violence, largely because the government crackdown in northern Syria has focused on Sunni towns, leaving alone Alawite towns (Assad is an Alawite). However, in Hama, protesting has often bridged the Alawite-Sunni divide, and it has consisted of both Muslims and Christians. Over 6000 protesters have gathered today in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious neighborhood in Hama.

"If they could open up for international media they'll see we stand side by side against the regime. The regime is hurting Alewites as much as Sunnis."

Al Jazeera is also carrying an eyewitness report from Latakia, site of more protests today, where the city is divided by the pro-Assad demonstrators who have the support of the security forces, and the protesters who have been shot at:

"Because of the dangers we arrange "flying demonstrations"– which last no longer than 30 – 45 min. if they last more than that you get yourself killed by the army or by snipers."

Citing examples of the army occupying flats and office spaces, he said that the security forces act with impunity in that part of town freely seizing private property. 

 "The Mashru'a Al Sira'a and Mashru'a Al Awqaf areas in the other part of town are mainly pro regime," he said. "They too have a security presence but the difference is that the security is there to protect the people.

 "At the last pro regime demonstration arranged by regime many busses and other public transport was used to ferry people from outside Latakia to the demonstration,” he said.

 "They are spending a lot of our money printing t-shirts with Bashar's picture on them saying "We love you" and printing giant posters for buildings, while we can not even hold a single home made banner to express our views."


1339 GMT: Sky's Jeremy Thompson has been allowed into the Syria capital, Damascus, to report on the situation. Despite the fact that Damascus is surrounded by protests, Thompson says that there are few signs of conflict inside the capital.

Still, he suggests that his very presence there suggests that the Assad administration is afraid.

Inside Syria: From Damascus, Sky"s Jeremy Thompson Looks At the Pressure On The President - And The Protesters (mp3)

1333 GMT: There are almost too many reports of protests in Syria to keep up with, but so far Homs and Keshwah have been the biggest sites of clashes and violence.

However, multiple accounts are now reporting clashes in Barzeh, a northern suburb of Damascus, where a hospital may be besieged by security forces:

Security and army are besieging #Tishreen hospital in #Barzeh and reports about martyr Ali Mandour was killed. #Damascus #Syria

1326 GMT: The Sham News Network (SNN) is reporting that 17 tanks have entered the Khalidiya and Bayyada neighborhoods of Homs.

1322 GMT: An eyewitness in Kishwah has told the AFP, via phone, that at least 5 people have been killed in the city, south of Damascus:

"Demonstrators left the mosque after Friday prayers and marched for a few minutes until security forces opened fire to disperse them, killing five people and wounding six others," Mohammad Enad Suleiman, a rights activist, said.

1318 GMT: James Miller takes the liveblog... It's going to be very busy.

The Guardian is running an unconfirmed report that 1 person has been killed in Keshwah, Syria, Ahmed Saleem al-Hariri. We have a second source for that report, though the account may have simply translated the Guardian's source.

According to Razan Saffour, Al Arabiya is reporting that seven people have been killed today in Keshwah, though this is also unconfirmed. He also reports that one person has been killed in Homs, in the Baba Amr district:

Tamer Zaqreet - died whilst being transferred to al-Bisan hospital in an ambulance from a demonstration.

Tamer was 24.

There are also reports of major protests and clashes in al-Quabon, Deir Ezzor, Damascus... almost every corner of Syria is currently reporting protests.

1025 GMT: The Turkish company Unifo has denied reports that it is supplying food rations to regime troops in Libya.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera English said it discovered the rations in western Libya, but Unifo has responded: Our company has not made any sales contract with Government of Libya . We manufacture millions of pouches of Ready Meals everyear. As one would agree, we have no chance to know nor to trace to whom and for what end use purpose our product are resold or distributed."

1020 GMT: Claimed footage of protest in Homs in Syria last night:

0945 GMT: CNN's Arwa Damon, who has been allowed into Syria to broadcast --- albeit under the watch of a regime minder --- reports from central Damascus and notes the situation elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, Damon sends the message, "Still waiting for answer to our request to film in Damascus neighborhoods that have seen anti-government demos on Fridays."

0930 GMT: Human rights organisations have questioned the claim of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, that "there was a policy", sanctioned by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, "to rape in Libya those who were against the government".

Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, has said, "We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped."

Rovera stressed this does not prove that mass rape did not occur but there is no evidence to show that it did. Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women's rights at Human Rights Watch, also said, "We have not been able to find evidence."

0650 GMT: Further information on the escalating "humanitarian crisis" in Yemen (see 0615 GMT)....

In Hodeida, 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of the capital Sana’a, more than 15 patients, most of them elderly people and children, have reportedly died in hospitals because of extended power cuts.

People say there is a shortage of diesel fuel to pump water from wells for drinking and irrigation. “A farmer who used to have four to five water-wells in Hodeida is now looking for water to drink because there is no diesel to run generators,” said Mahbob Hadi, an agricultural expert in Hodeida. “The situation has become unbearable."

Hadi said that around 90 percent of farms in his region have stopped producing due to the diesel shortage: “If the diesel problem continues, farms will be turned into playgrounds.”

Ali Heil, a farm owner, claimed most farm work has stopped for 20 days due to the shortage.

A Yemeni professor says that 75 to 80% of industrial plants have been shut down due to power cuts and fuel scarcity.

Yemen’s economy has lost around $5 billion during the last three months, according to Ministry of Industry and Trade, Hisham Sharaf. The extent of agricultural damage is still unknown.

0620 GMT: A member of the Libyan opposition National Transitional Council in Benghazi, Alamin Belhaj, has said they are in talks with an underground network in Tripoli to prepare for the regime's fall.

The NTC is judging the impact upon public morale from NATO airstrikes and shortages. It wants to include the Tripoli underground opposition in a general strategy for ousting Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, co-ordinating any uprising with insurgent military action.

Belhaj said, "We talk for about an hour every night. The network covers all sectors of society and they tell us what their friends are thinking, or what's being said in mosques and on the streets."

0615 GMT: Gian Carlo Cirri of the UN World Food Program has asserted, "Yemen is undergoing its worst humanitarian crisis ever....I cannot recall a time when hardship has been greater in recent Yemeni history."

WFP reports a 39% increase in the price of wheat in five months, with millions of Yemenis struggling to get bread, skipping meals or diverting money from health care.

0545 GMT: In Friday, today's protests have been declared "The Day of National Legitimacy".

The challenge to legitimacy has become far more than a once-a-week occasion, however. Video testified to more demonstrations on Thursday. Notable, that video included footage from Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city. The narrative at the start of the March uprising was that Aleppo would be one of the last places to show resistance to the Assad regime, and when initial protests occurred, they were around the University. Now the question arises as to whether there is a broader base to the demonstrations.

That question is heightened because the protests coincide with the crackdown by Syrian forces in the northwest of the country, near Aleppo. This week, the military occupied more towns and villages near the Turkish border. Refugees who had already left towns like Jisr al-Shughour fled makeshift camps, while Turkish forces gathered on the other side of the border to keep watch.

In Bahrain, the security environment is likely to prevent any public challenge to legitimacy today. However, the regime's call for a "national dialogue" has been eclipsed for many by the sentences imposed on 21 activists and opposition leaders. 

Supporters of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, one of eight defendants given a life term, have released a letter in which the activist details the effects of his abuse in prison:


Due to the severe beating I received upon my arrest by security forces on the 9th of April I had to undergo surgeries in the Military Hospital (BDF). In which I had to have stitches for two wounds above my left eye and I had to have surgery for four fractures in my cheek bone and jaw on the left side of my face.
And now, 2 months and 10 days after the surgeries: 1) The wounds above my eye that were stitched have not healed yet, they are swollen and painful; 2) I still cannot use my jaw and mouth in a normal manner; 3) The numbness in my face continues and the pain that resulted from my operation remains the same in the left side of my face (specifically in the cheek, mouth, lips & chin)


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