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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Control or Retreat?

"Friday of Departure" in Syria: Protesters carry a massive flag through Assi Square, Hama.

See Also our Video Entry: Syria - Watching the Friday Protests - Set 1 and Set 2

1900 GMT: The New York Times reports that the Gaddafi regime lost hundreds of millions of dollars in investment funds managed by western banks.

Western companies were only allowed to deal with Libya between 2004 and 2011. This raises two, probably academic, questions: why did Western companies have such a bad track record with Libyan money, and if the rebels win can we thank them?

1816 GMT: Friday prayers on 60th Street in Sana'a, Yemen, once again turned into protests, as clerics leading the prayers called on Vice President Hadi to make more concessions to the demands of the opposition.

The UN fact-finding mission in Yemen is reporting that they have been granted access to protesters, and the government is cooperating with the mission. The team is expected to be finished with their investigation on July 6th.

1800 GMT: The LA times is reporting that the rebels are now within 50 miles from the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The rebels now occupy Bir Ghanam, halfway between Zintan and the large city of Aziziya. Rebels are concerned about potential civilian casualties in Aziziya, as they expect Gaddafi to use the civilians as human shields.

1742 GMT: Andy Carvin has uploaded a video to go with his report (below), showing a man injured in the violence in Tahrir Square.

1730 GMT: Though we're still updating and adding to the videos, our second set from today's protests in Syria is up and running. So far, we have video from Basr al Harir (south), Qamishli (northeast), Mayadin (east), Zabadani (southwest), Idlib in the northeast, and a massive demonstration in Assi Square in Hama.

1717 GMT: More from Andy Carvin, where violence has erupted in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt:

The situation was very strange; most people were shouting Peaceful, Peaceful, but the rocks kept flying. Someone started throwing them back. There was a gate in front of the ministry. As some people threw rocks and sticks over it, people on the other side hurled them back.

Then there was a bang - possibly a noise grenade - and people bolted down the street. I bolted with them, almost tripped over a speed bump. We ran about half a block and turned around. Immediately I saw a group of 5-6 men walking quickly towards us.

I got closer to where the rock throwing had started and saw what had happened. A few boys in the crowd had started it, not protesters. A soldier came out of the ministry complex and grabbed one boy to arrest him. He was around 12, and he was sobbing. (See audio below) It suddenly became a tug-of-war. The soldier had a good grip on the boy, but so did some protesters, who tried to talk the soldier out of it. This lasted for maybe a minute or so, until the soldier let the boy go.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the protester were now facing the alley leading into the interior ministry. You could see soldiers & other security. A group of men grabbed hands and formed a cordon between the protesters and the entrance. Don't know which side they were on. Several soldiers and plainclothes officers approached the cordon. They tried to get the crowd to simmer down. The crowd chanted, Are we thugs? We're peaceful. They also chanted a litany of promises by the military that haven't happened.

One plainclothes officer was chatting and smiling. I thought that was a good sign. @mosaaberizing warned this is how it sometimes starts. Meanwhile, an APC was parked right next to us, with two or three soldiers on board, armed with machine guns. They remained calm. The officer picked up a little girl, put her on his shoulders. I couldn't tell if it meant things were cool or she was a human shield. A few moments later, the protesters started moving again. The situation had been diffused, and they all headed back to Tahrir w/o incident.

1705 GMT: Andy Cravin has this dramatic audio report from Egypt, supplemented by his Tweets (below):

Rock throwing, minor injuries. (mp3)

The march reached one govt building and paused briefly. I thought I saw a few rocks hurled at it. Nothing happened; march kept moving.

We then reached the law ministry and the interior ministry. Soldiers in APCs guarded them, watched us, didn't respond.

A group of protesters formed a cordon to prevent people from getting too close to the law ministry; everyone moved towards interior min.

People were chanting loudly, shaking their fists at the building, when all of a sudden rocks started to fly. Then bricks, then sticks.

1650 GMT: Robert Rowley supplies us with this information - Today, rebels near Misurata managed to capture a heavy vehicle from Gaddafi's forces without incurring any injuries. Though there were clashes in the Kikla area, Gaddafi counterattacks there failed to capture territory. Rebels did withdraw from forward positions near Bir al Ghanam after coming under attack by Grad rockets.

At the end of the day, NATO and the rebels continue to eat away at Gaddafi's technical vehicles and tanks, while Gaddafi's counterattacks have not been able to push back the rebels. Without oil, without allies, without military successes, and without popular support, the Gaddafi regime is eroding away. The fear, however, is that he'll run out of oil before the rebels reach Tripoli, and a massive humanitarian crisis could ensue.

1642 GMT: News from the front lines in Libya - The main supply of oil to Tripoli has been cut off by rebel fighters. Without it, there is no way for Gaddafi to power his vehicles or his generators. According to this report, Gaddafi may only have 1 month supply of oil.

1627 GMT: The AP is now reporting that 12 have been killed today in Syria.

1615 GMT: Yesterday, and in our first update today, we noted a story run by the Guardian, that the United States State Department was pushing a "roadmap" for a transition in Syria that would keep Assad in place. Today we find out that the plan was not authored by the US, but rather by certain members of the opposition:

The roadmap is signed by Louay Hussein and Maan Abdelsalam, leading secular intellectuals in a group called the National Action Committee. Both men met the vice-president, Farouk al-Sharaa, before Assad's most recent speech, diplomats said. On Monday they chaired the Damascus conference, which had official permission, was attended by 150 people – and was publicly welcomed by the US.

Hussein has now said that the US did not have anything to do with the report, and the US is not publicaly backing the roadmap.

One possibility for the backpedaling, that the US pushed the roadmap in Monday's meeting, but nobody was supposed to actually say that publicly.

1537 GMT: The focus may be on the violence and protests, but important news is coming out of Morocco today. Scott Lucas has this report:

Al Jazeera English features a debate,as Moroccans vote today in a referendum, on constitutional reforms put forward by King Mohammed VI.

Among the proposed changes unveiled earlier this month is that the role of parliament would be strengthened with the task of providing oversight in matters relating to nationality, drafting, and proposing laws as well as the ability to appoint representatives of the Ministry of Interior.

A president, chosen from the largest party elected to Parliament, would head the government and would be granted authority to dissolve the lower house of parliament, a right formerly hled by the King.

Gender equality, increased personal freedom, an independent judiciary, and investigations of corrupt officials have also been included in the draft constitution.

Several of the largest political parties --- including the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), the conservative Istiqlal Party and the Islamist Justice and Development Party --- have urged their supporters to support the reforms, but the youth-based February 20 movement, three leftist groups, the banned Islamic Justice and Charity Party and the Unified Socialist Party are boycotting the vote as undemocratic.

Critics also claim that, despite the reforms, the king retains most of the power in the Moroccan system, including the right to grant amnesties, to appoint judges and approve Cabinet members, the command of the security apparatus, and the ability to overrule or dissolve Parliament.

1530 GMT: Anti-government demonstrators in Hodeidah, Yemen:

1514 GMT: Libya - Russia is now saying that if the report that France has dropped weapons to the rebels in Libya it would be a clear violation of the arms embargo. There are two problems with this story. The first is that yesterday we reported that the Libyan rebels claim they have not received these weapons. The final problem? Russia has supplied Gaddafi with many of the weapons he currently has.

1459 GMT: There is a report of live ammunition and teargas being fired at protesters in the Khaldieh neighborhood of Homs.

The LCCS has released names of 9 people killed in Syria so far today.

1453 GMT: So far we have posted video from Amuda (norheast Syria), Deir Ez Zor (northeast), the Midan section of Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, the Barzeh section of Damascus, the Deir Baal Ba neighborhood in Homs (where there are sonfirmed casualties), Latakia, Idlib in the northwest, Qamishili (northeaste), Ibtaa (south), and huge protests in Hama.

1445 GMT: An activist has posted 9 names of martyrs killed today in Syria, 3 in Homs, 1 in Latakia, 2 in Damascus, and 3 in Idlib.

1438 GMT: Syrian activists have begun plotting today's protests and videos on a map (thanks to Interzone Uprisings).

View Syria - Friday 01/07/2011 in a larger map

1418 GMT: Journalist Barbara Slavin brought to our attention that some of the slogans printed on signs in our Damascus videos were written in Russian (Thanks, our Russian is a little rusty). One of them reads: "There can be no dialogue with people who kill children." Russia has close historical ties to the Syrian government.

Slavin adds this assessment: "Food prices are up 35% in May, and there is a delay in new cash payments: this is getting serious."

1412 GMT: The LCCS has sent the Guardian this video, showing Syrian military shooting at protesters in Darayya.

1404 GMT: Andy Carvin reports from Egypt:


Several dozen people holding a large Syrian flag. Tahrir is an equal-opportunity soapbox.


1359 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria (LCCS) have this report:

Damascus Suburbs: Al Saffa Mosque in Zakia is officially closed by the Directorate of Religious Endowments

It is hard to tell, based on the report, whether the mosques were closed before or after Friday prayers. The update was posted within the last hour.

1355 GMT: Al Jazeera is confirming our report that, earlier, at least three have been killed by security forces in Homs.

1347 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria are also reporting that the Assad military has begun shelling protesters in Homs:

Heavy gunfire, intermittent anti-aircraft rounds are heard now in the vicinity of Qal'at Homs that is adjacent to the districts of Bab Sbaa and Khedr

1342 GMT: In Homs, in the neighborhood of Bab al-Sibaa, there are reports of explosions (unknown origin) and casualties. A different source has a similar report:

Heavy shelling of Bab Sbaa, Al Khudr, Al Shami #Homs and reports of several martyrs/wounded

1335 GMT: The people of Dhamar, Yemen, protest against the Saleh government, shouting "revolution until victory."

1313 GMT: CNN journalists in Syria have been escorted by their security minders to an anti-government protest in Barzeh. Their description of the scene, several hundred protesters chanting, matches video we've posted in our separate video post.

reports of gunfire being used against protesters in the Al Asaly and Al Qadam districts of Damascus.


1309 GMT: A Syrian activist living in Britain, Amjad Baiazy, has been released from Syrian prison. He was detained while attempting to board a plane to London.

1303 GMT: James Miller takes over the liveblog...

An activist with family in Syria is reporting that 35 have been wounded by live fire in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus. There are also reports of protesters killed in Homs, including 17-year-old Deya'a Ramez Al Najjar,

1225 GMT: A protest is gathering in Alexandria in Egypt, making demands on "Retribution Friday" for punishment of officials from the Mubarak era and for political and legal reforms:

See also Syria Video Special: Watching the Friday Protests

1220 GMT: Claimed footage of protest in Ibb in southern Yemen today, calling for a transitional government:

1215 GMT: Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, has claimed in an interview with Russia Today that protesters died when they tried to storm military sites and guards fired on them. He called the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants against him, his father, and the Libyan head of intelligence, a "joke" and continued, "What [the international community] doesn't understand is that the fighting will not stop if my father goes. Libyans will continue fighting until one day the country will be back to the Libyans."

1210 GMT: The Los Angeles Times, following a story we reported earlier this week, notes the advance of Libyan insurgents from the western mountains to within 50 miles of the capital Tripoli:


[These] rebels say they are using fresh recruits, many from other parts of the country, and weapons they've captured to fight Kadafi's forces. They say they are attacking on three fronts: Bir Ghanam, which lies on flatlands at the northern edge of rebel territory; to the west beyond the town of Kikla toward Gharyan; and to the south toward the military base at Tawama.


They have transformed a long stretch of highway into a makeshift runway, with markings for airplanes, and have already landed one plane as a test.


1200 GMT: We're watching for reports from Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo where people have been gathering for “Retribution Friday”.‎

The 6th of April Youth Movement, the Revolution Youth Coalition, and the Muslim ‎Brotherhood are amongst those who have called for a demonstration, demanding the suspension of all officers who are ‎accused of killing demonstrators during the uprising against the Mubarak regime.

There are also demands for an end to military trials of civilians, an inclusive political process, and freedom of expression and media.

The scene at Friday Prayers in the square:

1155 GMT: A break from Syria to note that The Washington Post has joined the chorus of stories about the growing economic crisis in Yemen:


Over months of political turmoil, attacks on electricity plants and oil pipelines have left Yemen’s economy on the edge of collapse, with the most damaging strike carried out in retaliation for the U.S. role in fighting terrorism.


Against a backdrop of street protests and military clashes, the country is now grappling with electricity blackouts, rising food prices and fuel shortages so dire that ordinary Yemenis can spend days in gasoline lines.


1150 GMT: Protests of thousands of tens to thousands are reporting in cities, towns, and suburbs across Syria.

1145 GMT: Claim of a large protest in the Saqba section of Damascus, chanting, "Leave, leave!"

Activists also assert that more than 10,000 are gathered in Khan Sheikhoon in Idlib Province in the northwest, shouting, "Leave us, don't you understand?", and more than in Rastan in Homs Province are chanting, "Leave us, We don't love you."

1135 GMT: Activists claim large protests in districts of Homs, Syria's third-largest city. Traffic police have closed roads leading to the centre of the city, and smoke bombs have allegedly been used.

Thousands are reportedly marching in Qamishli in the northeast, and a large protest is claimed in Deir ez Zor (see separate video).

1120 GMT: First videos are now coming through of today's protests in Syria. We will be featuring them in a separate entry.

1115 GMT: Claim of more than 10,000 protesters in Amuda in the northeast, while activists alleged that armed shabiha and security forces have attacked a protest of hundreds in Saif El-Dawleh in Aleppo.

1100 GMT: Back from an academic break to catch up with developments in Syria....

In the northwest, an anti-regime demonstration of more than 8000 people is claimed in Binnish and thousands are reportedly moving toward Ma'arret Al Nu'man.

In Daraa in the south, 3000 protesters are reportedly in the centre of the town chanting "Leave, Leave", while thousands of protesters have left after Friday Prayers from the mosques of Al Serjawy, Al Mannakh, and Al Shuhada.

Activists claim that security forces and shabiha (armed men) are deployed in the Damascus suburbs and arrested at least four young men before Friday Prayers. There is a claim, however, of protests in the Midan district from the Al Hasan, Al Daqaq, and Al Tharya Mosques.

0555 GMT: Effusive support yesterday from Amnesty International for Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's proposal of a commission to enquire into the events during the initial weeks of the 14 February uprising.

“The appointment of this international commission appears to represent nothing less than a sea change in Bahrain,” declared Malcolm Smart, the director of Amnesty's programme for the Middle East and North Africa. “Until now, the government has signally failed to rein in its security forces, investigate torture allegations and ensure accountability, while using special military courts to prosecute its critics. This now appears to be changing, and not a day too soon.”


The commission will be chaired by Professor Cherif Bassiouni, who has led UN investigations into alleged war crimes in Bosnia and Libya. The four other members are Sir Nigel Rodley, a former staff member of Amnesty International, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and currently a member of the UN Human Rights Committee; Justice Philippe Kirsch, a former judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC); Dr Mahnoush Arsanjani, a former UN legal advisor; and Dr Badria al ‘Awadhi, an expert on international and Sharia law at the Freedom House Foundation in Washington D.C.

Smart asserted, “This is certainly an impressive line-up of independent international experts. Moreover, the terms of the King’s decree make clear that they will have the authority to carry out a full investigation into the widespread human rights violations allegedly committed by government forces when they crushed the February and March protests and in their aftermath.”

Smart did add a caution, "[The commission] needs to lead to accountability, justice and reparations for all those whose rights have been violated. Whether or not the government delivers that will be the true test."

0545 GMT: Aisha Qaddafi, the daughter of the Libyan leader, has told French television that "direct negotiations are underway" for a political settlement: "We are ready for an alliance with the devil [of the opposition]."

0540 GMT: The New York Times notes this week's approval by the Kuwait National Assembly of a record $70 billion budget, with 90% dedicated to fuel subsidies and salary increases for public employees, including teachers and military personnel.

One Assembly member called the spending "crazy", but economist Amr al-Tameemi explained, “The regime is not threatened right now, but they want to avoid any kind of political headache. They want to make everybody happy by spending on luxury items.”

0515 GMT: Our initial focus on a Protest Friday will be on Syria, where significant developments appeared to have occurred over the last 48 hours. 

As James Miller documented yesterday, the military "lockdown" of areas of the northwest has been accompanied by a withdrawal from key locations such as the city of Hama. Activists, with some support from video, claimed yesterday that up to 100,000 people had gathered there to celebrate a victory over the Assad regime.

So is the military manoeuvre --- troops also reportedly areas from a town on the Iraqi border and from two Damascus suburbs --- a sign of control of retreat?

Meanwhile, the US appears to have revealed its position with an initiative for "reform" that would "still leave Assad in a powerful position". In a "transitional national assembly" of 100 members, 30 would be members of Assad's Ba'ath Party, and the other 70 would be appointed by the President in consultation with opposition factions.

While Syria will be our first port of call today, other potential contenders for news should not be overlooked. Yemen will undoubtedly see more mass rallies demanding a transitional government, and amidst the Bahraini monarchy's proclamation of "national dialogue", protests re-surfaced yesterday, notably a procession from Sanabis to Jidhafs. 

A video yesterday of an encounter between demonstrators and security forces:


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