Claimed video of Syrian troops joining demonstrators in Al-Bukamal on Saturday (see 0440 GMT)
1929 GMT: Activists are reporting that security forces have used live gunfire against protesters in Daraa, Barza (southwest of Jisr al-Shughour), and in the LCCS is reporting that armed cars, driven by secret police (Shabiha) have opened fire in Homs:
"Cars belonging to armed shabiha roam the besieged neighborhoods and open arbitrary gunfire especially in Bayada & Khaldieh districts, gunfire from checkpoint present at Zenoubia School in Khaldieh"
1922 GMT: An activist has posted these graphic pictures, claiming to show casualties in Sana'a today.
1913 GMT: An in Sana'a, violence has broken out. There are reports of deaths, including a family of five. According to Reuters:
Fighting between government forces and opposition supporters erupted in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Monday, killing six people, opposition sources said. The fighting was the first to break out in Sanaa since President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment after sustaining severe burn wounds when an attempt to assassinate him was made in June....
One clash began when demonstrators seeking to increase pressure on Saleh to quit marched outside a square where they have been camped for months, said the sources, who declined to be identified.
'Hundreds of youths marched out of the sit-in area, but were confronted by security forces and gunmen in civilian clothes who fired on them. They killed one protester and wounded eight others,' said one source.
In northern Sanaa, a family of five was killed by shelling during clashes between Republican Guard forces and pro-opposition tribesmen, opposition and tribal sources said.
1905 GMT: We've often spoken of the 3 fronts in Yemen, protesters v. Saleh, tribes v. Saleh, and the Yemeni government v. radical muslim insurgents, including members of Al Qaeda. As if the situation there could get any more complicated...
Today, Yemeni security forces, with the help of hundreds of armed tribesmen, launched an assault on Zinjibar, a major city in southern Yemen that had been overrun by militant insurgents:
Security officials said Sunday that several militants have been killed in what they described as the fiercest fighting in the provincial capital since late May, when Zinjibar fell to Ansar al-Sharia, or Supporters of Sharia (Islamic law).
After weeks of pleas from the military's 25th brigade, which had been under siege for weeks, the government sent its first reinforcements to Zinjibar on Saturday. Local tribes agreed to join forces with the Yemeni military in its attempt to drive out Ansar al-Sharia, which the government says has links to al-Qaida.
Meanwhile, Yemen is marking the 33rd anniversary of Ali Abdullah Saleh's presidency with major protests in both the capital, Sana'a, and the second largest city, Taiz.
1719 GMT: AJE's James Bays reports from Zinten, Libya, where he assesses his interactions with members of the National Transitional Council:
1709 GMT: Though the US State Department, and over 30 other governments, have recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council as the official representatives of the Libyan people, Russia has refused to follow suit and recognize the rebels:
“We do not share this position for one simple reason −this again means that those who declare this recognition stand wholly on the side of one political power in a civil war,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.
“This again means that those who support this decision support a policy of isolation -- in this case, isolation of the forces represented in Tripoli,” Mr. Lavrow said.
“We traditionally reject isolation as a method for resolving political problems in any conflict.”
1705 GMT: Back from a quick break.
Egypt's military council has announced the formation of the High Elections Commission, a board that will oversee the elections. Cairo's appellate court Judge Ahmed Abdel Moez will head the commission.
1628 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria (LCCS) have posted a statement from the Youth of Latakia, saying that the regime is trying to drag the opposition into civil war (see update at 1548), and sectarian violence should be avoided at all costs:
The regime’s last desperate attempts in the last few days to push the Syrian people who is aspiring for freedom towards sectarian tension is clear evidence of the failure of the regime, which already threw all his cards and kept the sedition card, that scarecrow that helped the regime to intimidate the Syrian street. The regime started waving this card since the beginning of the uprising, but faced a popular awareness which was strongest than all these attempts.
The history of co-existence, common struggle and unity of causes, fate and blood... alongside relations and mutual brotherhood among all sects, creeds and races, which formed the core of Syrian community throughout its long history, is not a legacy created by the regime or an exception related to its existence. This regime tried, like all other authoritarian regimes, to use the natural diversity composing the Syrian people as a guarantee of survival and continuation of the reigning autocracy, by trying clearly to sow discord and spread the spirit of discrimination and intimidation from the other.
On the basis of our belief in this truth and our full awareness and absolute confidence in the unity of the components of the Syrian people and their demands, we, the sons of Latakia Governorate, with our different sectarian, religious, intellectual and political affiliations, we stress that we will not be tempted by the regime’s practices and methods to destabilize the ranks of the Syrian people, and its attempts to create a climate of intolerance and rivalry among family members. We also refuse and reject anyone who tries to violate the sanctity of our historical coexistence regardless of his affiliation. We dissociate ourselves from all forms of violence that the regime is trying hard to accuse and drag us to it and we hold the regime fully responsible of it and will express that clearly in the coming days through banners and chants in our protest.
And once again, we stress that our uprising for freedom, dignity and democracy is totally peaceful. Long live Syria .. and glory to the martyrs
1619 GMT: The United Arab Emirates will renew the trial against five bloggers accused of "publicly insulting" public officials. Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser bin Ghaith are being accused of attempting to "conspire against the safety and security of the state in association with foreign powers." Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq and Hassan Ali al-Khamis are also accused of similar crimes.
1614 GMT: The UN will assist Egypt with the technical, non-political, aspects of the elections, but it will stop short of monitoring the process. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe said that the UN requires an official government request and an approval by the security council in order to officially monitor elections.
1608 GMT: The Muslim Brotherhood is denying reports that they are planning counter-demonstrations against the sit-ins at Tahrir Square on Friday, though they have called for the sit-ins to end and the country to return to work and a normal routine. A spokesman clarified today:
“Egypt today needs stability. What Tahrir Square is in dire need of right now is tranquility, and a concern for moving Egypt towards stability and development.”
1604 GMT: Syria continues to crack down against international media organizations that attempt to cover protests and unrest. Foreign Policy editor David Kenner has this assessment:
"Syria bans al-Akhbar and as-Safir for their coverage of the protests. That's amazing. Even their Lebanese allies aren't obsequious enough."
1556 GMT: For the first time, a journalist from Al Jazeera is reporting from the frontlines of Zliten. The report is in Arabic, but the images of the forward position is worth noting.
1548 GMT: Is Syria descending into sectarian violence? While there is a high degree of unity in places like Hama, activist Radwan Ziadeh tells the Guardian that in Homs and Latakia, violence is taking on a sectarian tone as tensions between Sunnis and Alawites is on the rise:
1538 GMT: More on the closing of the Qatar embassy in Syria - we missed it, but apparently regime supporters had even begun to attack Qatari embassy officials:
Last week, supporters of the Syrian government threw stones, eggs and tomatoes at the Qatari embassy in protest against the Doha-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera's coverage of the unrest in the country. No casualties were reported.
1524 GMT: Egypt is allowing the televising of a second trial of former-Mubarak officials, former information minister Ana El-Fiqi and Osama el-Sheikh, former director of state television and broadcasting.
1520 GMT: Qatar has withdrawn its ambassadors from Syria. Qatar has been criticized and accused of supporting the opposition, mainly because Al Jazeera is based there.
1451 GMT: Meanwhile, 30 people have been killed in Hodeida, on the western coast of Yemen, overnight:
Activist Badie al-Absi says soldiers and security men fired tear gas and live munition to disperse the protesters, who were demonstrating against President Ali Abdullah Saleh on the 33rd anniversary of his rule.
Meanwhile, tribal leaders in the northern Arhab and Naham mountains say 14 people were injured Monday after the army shelled villages in the area. They say the artillery fire was the military's response to a dawn raid by anti-government tribesmen on an army checkpoint that wounded five soldiers.
1447 GMT: According to the AFP, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for national dialog:
'We have never ceased to emphasise the necessity of a peaceful dialogue to find a solution to all these problems,' Saleh wrote in an editorial that was published in Al-Thawra and other official newspapers.
'I again invite all the political forces to return to reason and respond favourably to the call to dialogue from Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to end the crisis,' Saleh wrote in the editorial, which was published a day after the anniversary of his accession to power in 1978.
1403 GMT: Reports are surfacing of sexual assault against protesters in Iraq, where security is at best turning a blind eye and at worst joining the abuse:
1349 GMT: The Guardian's Christopher Stephen clarifies the rebel report that they have taken the town of Brega:
The situation is this: Brega City (or New Brega) is in fact a dormitory town 30km to east of the old town and oil terminal where the main government troop concentration is. So its capture is for the rebels a start but it does not mean Brega itself has fallen._
1337 GMT: The Libyan rebels have encircled the oil town of Brega, throwing Gaddafi's forces into full retreat. According to Al Jazeera:
"The main body [of Gaddafi's forces] retreated to Ras Lanuf" to the west, Shamsiddin Abdulmolah (spokesman for the Libyan Freedom Fighters) said by telephone. "I am told they have some four-wheel-drive trucks with machineguns spread out between Ras Lanuf and Bishr."
The Libyan Youth Movement is even more optimistic about this rebel advance, despite the heavy presence of landmines in the area. This victory could potentially be another important turning point in the revolution against Colonel Gaddafi:
"Most of the troops (rebels) going in right now are anti-mine teams," said Abdulmolah. "We have found an extraordinary number of anti-personnel mines"
He added that the effort to clear the ordnance is being hampered by missile attacks from the village of Bishr around 20 kilometres away.
The Freedom Fighters hope a phalanx of rebel forces which swept past Brega from the south will soon take out those positions.
We hope to take Bishr today" said Abdulmolah, FF spokesman. (Bishr 20km west of Brega)
1330 GMT: James Miller takes over for Scott Lucas.
The Tunisian revolution has come full circle. Last night, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet in the city of Sidi Bouzid after police attempted to break up a protest. The police chief claims that the police only opened fire after protesters threw petrol bombs, but this has not been confirmed.
Sidi Bouzid is where the Arab Spring caught fire, after Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December after the police harassed him.
1145 GMT: The trial of former Egyptian Minister of Information Anas El Fiqqi has started in Cairo. It is being broadcast live on State TV.
1140 GMT: Claimed footage of the funeral procession on Saturday for Zainab Hasan Ahmed al-Jumaa, who allegedly was killed by inhalation of tear gas used by security forces on a demonstration in Sitra last Friday.
1125 GMT: Human Rights Watch has released a 54-page report on Bahrain, "Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities", documenting serious regime abuses, starting in mid-February, including attacks on health care providers; denial of medical access to protesters injured by security forces; the siege of hospitals and health centers, and the detention, ill-treatment, torture, and prosecution of medics and patients with protest-related injuries.
Human Rights Watch called on the regime to end its campaign of arrests of medical professionals and attacks on injured patients linked to protests, investigating the violations against medical personnel and patients who exercised their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
0925 GMT: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims at least 30 people were killed this weekend in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, in clashes between residents.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the human rights group, said the fights began Saturday afternoon after the dismembered bodies of three regime supporters, kidnapped last week, were returned to their relatives. He said, "These clashes are a dangerous development that undermines the revolution and serves the interests of its enemies who want to turn it into a civil war."
0830 GMT: The Bahraini regime has issued a statement responding to the withdrawal of the largest opposition party, Al-Wefaq, from the "national dialogue" (see 0630 GMT):
We regret the decision, by any participant, to withdraw from Bahrain’s Dialogue. The process provides an important platform for participants to promote the views and interests of the people they represent. “We strongly encourage all participants remain fully engaged in the Dialogue process. We call on delegates to set aside their differences, and make every effort to move forward.
We consider al Wefaq’s contribution to the dialogue as central to its success thus far. It is sometimes harder to stay and help shape the solution than to walk away. Now is the moment to heal divides and unite behind a shared vision of Bahrain’s future.
The statement emphasised, “Should any participant choose to exclude themselves from the process, the door will remain open for them to return to the talks”.
0815 GMT: In a detailed critique on Jadiliyya, "Early Observations on Post-Mubarak Egypt", Jason Brownlee and Joshua Stacher write:
This situation of “unequal civilian accommodation” bodes poorly for a rapid shift from persistent authoritarianism to fledgling democracy. Egypt’s military expresses a mix of the old (external security) and new (internal security) professionalisms...and gives little sign that it embraces “democratic professionalism". Coupled with the limited civilian push for military disengagement from politics, this posture may portend continued military dominance.
A major indicator of the country’s course will come with campaigning for the presidency. Should the SCAF [the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] field its own candidate, such as recent prime minister Ahmed Shafiq or Gulf War hero Muhammad Ali Bilal, the Egyptian electorate may end up swapping one civilian-garbed military ruler for another.
One hopeful sign of retrenching the military’s involvement in politics is the sense of civilian self-empowerment that accompanied the January 25th Revolution. Still, it remains to be seen how liberal forces will translate their courage and innovation into political power through parliamentary and presidential polls, and the constitutional revision process scheduled to follow them.
0800 GMT: As Bahrain's largest opposition party pulls out of the "national dialogue" (see 0630 GMT), a surreal summary of the talks from the regime's Gulf News, which never mentions the withdrawal:
Agreements on political issues among participants in Bahrain's national dialogue reached 69 per cent, officials overseeing the talks have said. However, the agreement on economic visions to boost competitiveness was 96 per cent while there was a 72 per cent accord on visions on the rights of women, children and people with special needs.
There was a full consensus (100 per cent) on issues related to civil society institutions.
0745 GMT: The tensions in Egypt are captured in various articles this morning. The Associated Press reports, "Egyptians Fear Army Rulers Acting as New Mubaraks":
Protesters have returned to Tahrir Square, holding a sit-in since July 8, to complain that the military has hijacked the transition and has been reluctant to purge members of the old regime.
Reported abuses add a darker undertone to those complaints. There have been multiple reports of torture of detainees. To an unprecedented extent, the army has also been bringing civilians before military courts, notorious for their swift rulings with little chance for defense. In five months, more than 10,000 civilians have been put on military trial, including protesters, activists and at least one journalist who wrote an article critical of the army, according to rights groups tracking the detentions.
And this from former Minister of Finance Samir Radwan, who was replaced this weekend:
Radwan told Reuters the policy-making situation had become “confused” and he believed it best to “leave the way for somebody to handle it in a consistent and coherent manner".
“People don’t know what they want. Do they want increased expenditure and no borrowing from abroad? Everybody has suddenly become an expert on financial policy. That is not an atmosphere conducive to efficient work,” Radwan said.
Radwan had negotiated a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help cope with a spiraling budget deficit. But after reaching a deal, Egypt said in June it no longer needed the money.
0740 GMT: In Yemen, some pro-reform protesters have criticised this weekend's launch of a National Transitional Council, saying that the youth announcing it did not consult with demonstrators in all cities.
The council of 17 members includes a former President and former Minister of Defence.
A senior leader of Yemen's largest opposition bloc, Joint Meetings Parties, has said JMP will not accept the transitional council.
0705 GMT: More on the situation in Al-Bukamal in northeast Syria, surrounded this weekend by about 1000 troops and security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, following protests and clashes in which regime agents killed five protesters, including a 14-year-old boy....
The military intervention reportedly came after thousands of residents streamed into the streets, overwhelming soldiers and secret police. Residents said around 100 Air Force Intelligence personnel and the crew of at least four armoured vehicles joined the protesters (see video at top of entry).
An activist said tribal figures are working on a compromise with the army to return weapons and armoured vehicles seized by protesters in return for troops not entering the town of 150,000 people and surrounding villages. He added, "The protesters returned several army personnel carriers today as a sign of good will. The regime knows it will meet tough resistance if it attacks Al-Bukamal, and that Iraqi tribes on the other side of the border will rush to help their brethren.The official state news agency said "armed terrorist groups" killed three security personnel in the town on Saturday.
0630 GMT: The leading opposition party Al-Wefaq, has confirmed its withdrawal from the Bahraini regime's "national dialogue" after only 2 1/2 weeks.
In a statement on its website, Al-Wefaq said the talks are "not serious" and do not create a "political solution" for Bahrain's problems: "We feel that our participation is being taken advantage of in order to distort the meaning of national dialogue and national consensus. This will exacerbate the political impasse and our presence is being used to pass pre-planned results."
Al-Wefaq was only participating in two of the four working groups in the dialogue. Its representatives argued that while the party has the votes and support of 64% of Bahrainis, it was only 1.6% of the dialogue group: "It must be noted that the authorities designed the dialogue so that all opposing views are diluted....[The agenda] has been set so that it is directed towards a pre-determined outcome."
0620 GMT: The trial of five bloggers who called for democratic reforms in the United Arab Emirates is set to resume on Monday.
Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghaith, Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq and Hassan Ali al-Khamis, arrested in April, are accused of "publicly insulting" regime officials.
On Sunday, four international human rights groups --- Amnesty International, the Arabic Network on Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) ---- condemned the trial and called for the release of the five activists.
Ahmed Mansoor, an engineer and human rights advocate, and Nasser bin Ghaith, an economist and lecturer at Sorbonne University in the UAE, are being charged with using the site, UAE Hewar (Dialogue), to "conspire against the safety and security of the state in association with foreign powers", according to rights groups.
Mansoor also faces charges for inciting others and calling for demonstrations. In March, he supported a petition signed by more than 130 people demanding an elected parliament with legislative powers.
0440 GMT: A weekend of competing rallies in Syria, with the contrast of the regime-organised marches in cities such as Damascus, Aleppo, and Baniyas and the displays of opposition in funeral processions and night-time gatherings.
Amidst this, a snapshot of the tensions in the town of Al-Bukamal in northeast Syria. News came through that the Syrian military might occupy the town on the Iraqi border, with state media claiming the necessity to deal with "armed groups", but so did this video of troops apparently siding with the protesters (see top of entry).