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Libya, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Opposition's Military Commander is Assassinated

Also see our latest video entry: Latest Syria Videos: Friday's Protests Across the Country - Set 1 AND Set 2

2026 GMT: An important update from an activist in Sana'a, Yemen. Loud explosions could be heard coming from north of the city, presumably fresh government airstrikes against a base that was captured by opposition tribesmen yesterday. (see update at 0920)

1959 GMT: A huge Conservative Islamist rally took place in Alexandria, Egypt, as well. Members of the 6th April Group, a liberal pro-democracy organization, were reportedly harassed and left the crowd:

1948 GMT: An important eyewitness account from a Kurdish neighborhood of Damascus:

In the Damascus neighbourhood of Rukin Aden, home to the capital’s largest Kurdish community, an eye-witness told Al Jazeera there were several hundred protesters gathered around the Saad Basha Mosque, calling for the toppling of the regime.

Anti-riot police and secret police blocked off the neighbourhood's main streets, arresting dozens of protesters and driving them off in large buses.

Protesters also reported land lines and internet had been cut since the morning.

“After four months, we are demonstrating every night despite the big security crackdown on us,” Ammar, a 28-year-old protestor told Al Jazeera.

“About 200 pro-democracy advocates and protesters were arrested but this will not stop our uprising. The regime is trying hard to finish the uprising before Ramadan. We are preparing ourselves for the Ramadan and we will organise big evening demonstrations every day, especially Rukin Adeen which has well-known religious figures and big mosques.”

Al Jazeera has published a series of eyewitness accounts from the Midan neighborhood, central Damascus, where as many as 3,000 took to the streets today in unprecedented protests, where there are reports that 3 people died and 200 were arrested (see updated 1821).

 Today there were only eight ranks of worshippers in the mosque whereas usually on Fridays there are dozens of ranks, so much that people pray on the street outside the mosque. Today, a security man got my ID and told me when I finished my prayer I can get it and go home without problems. The regime began a new strategy to block the mosques and I think they will do the same for Ramadan prayers.

1938 GMT: An eyewitness tells Al Jazeera that the situation in Deir Ez Zor is getting out of the government's hands:

Today there was about 200,000 protesters and no security men. They only protect their buildings. I heard that the regime is preparing a large number of soldiers to send them to finish our uprising. Today, I saw ten helicopters flying over us while we were demonstrating to frighten us. The regime is so angry because some soldiers have joined us and began shooting at the security men.

1931 GMT: A two part video from Bilal al Qadeem, Bahrain. In the first, a group of protesters march down the road, chanting and holding slogans. It's unspectacular, and easily taken for granted. In the second video, those protests have scattered as tear gas fills the streets and a police vehicle deploys down the alley.

Just another reminder that in places like Bahrain, every protest is a brave act.

1922 GMT: The Islamists have left the protest in Tahrir Square, but the other activists are really just starting their protests. Two pictures from Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt:

1916 GMT: In Bahrain, the opposition party (Wefaq) organized this major anti-government protest. Wefaq has refused to participate in the National Dialogue talks.

1853 GMT: Islamists gather in Tahrir Square, Egypt (see updates below):

ميدان التحرير يوم الجمعه ٢٩-٧-٢٠١١

1848 GMT: Women protest today in Bahrain:

1821 GMT: 200 people were reportedly arrested in central Damascus, an unprecedented event, where 3 people were reportedly killed (see updates below at 1456 and 1344 GMT). Freelance Writer Alexander Page describes the scene in Midan, Damascus, to CNN:


1738 GMT: Mourners gathered today in Benghazi for the funeral of defected General Abdel Fattah Younes.

1729 GMT: In Bahrain, attempts to establish a national dialog are faltering, with a major opposition political party refusing to join in negotiations. The summary of the current proposal, provided by Reuters' Andrew Hammond is below (see our separate feature, Bahrain Document: The Outcome of the National Dialogue):


The Bahrain National Dialogue document has been published in summary and a copy of it is below. They say the Arabic version is to be published on Friday. The king is to meet the Dialogue members today; Wefaq say they will not go, Waad said they would. Waad member Munira Fakhro says it’s not clear if the king will approve all, any or none of the dialogue document.

The important thing is that it does not change the balance of power between the appointed upper house of parliament and the elected one. It only allows the elected one more powers to question cabinet ministers and some other powers of scrutiny a la Kuwait. But at least Kuwait’s parliament is entirely elected. Also, no limits on the terms of prime minister and other ministers.

How is national dialog process accepted in Bahrain? About this well:

1720 GMT: Our second set of videos is up and running. So far we have posted video from several neighborhoods in Aleppo, Homs, and in Qamashili (northeast Syria).

1522 GMT: Anti-regime protests in Al Bayda, Yemen:

1456 GMT: In our latest video entry, Latest Syria Videos: Friday's Protests Across the Country, we have already posted video of protest in Homs, multiple areas of Hama (massive protests), Midan in Damascus where 3 were killed (see updates below), Idlib (northwest Syria), Douma (Damascus suburb), Harasta (northeast of Damascus), and Deir Ez Zor (northeast Syria). Another Friday, and another sign that the protests show no sings of ending.

1429 GMT: Video today from a large demonstration in Taiz, Yemen, where dozens were injured and a soldier was killed in violence yesterday:

In Sana'a today, the opposition is the one deploying tanks and soldiers to Change Square in order to protect the protesters.

Yemen opposition forces deployed armoured vehicles across streets freshly lined with sandbags in the capital Sanaa as tens of thousands gathered for prayers and protests both for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule.

General Ali Mohsen, a top military commander who defected to the opposition in March, sent troops and armoured vehicles to guard "Change Square", where protesters have camped for months.

At the "Friday of Patience" rally, a cleric urged calm: "We will remain steadfast and preserve the peacefulness of our revolution until this regime falls."

1413 GMT: Amer al-Sadeq reports from the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, north of Damascus:

So far we have received reports of at least 8 people killed including a child who has been clinically announced dead. He is in the hospital in Latakia where all three people were killed by live ammunition. Also we have received reports that tanks were used in Deir al-Zour and helicopters are being sent there as we speak now only because of the reports yesterday that some army members have descended and they started attacking the military security branch only for giving them orders and forcing them to shoot innocent peaceful protesters.

Ramadan [the Muslim fasting month] is one of the best opportunities for the Syrian Revolution to gain a great momentum as of the momentum it has achieved so far. People are very excited here because in Ramadan we go to the prayers everyday. And in Syria, the prayers are the only way to get people together without having them killed, detained or tortured. In Ramadan we have that everyday, everybody is excited and ready because we know that the momentum of the protests will go higher and higher.

1400 GMT: We've confirmed that there are protests in Damascus, Aleppo, Deraa, Hama, and Deir Ezzor.

In Deraa, there are reports that the Syrian security forces have begun to use live ammunition against protesters:

"They are firing at demonstrators in alleyways and people are running for cover. Protesters have been trying to avoid heavy security in main streets,"

In Deir Ez Zor, there is a report that a protester has been killed. This is a GRAPHIC VIDEO of a protester, allegedly killed there today. We also reported that the State News Agency is claiming casualties within the security forces. There have also been reports of new fighting between defecting soldiers and the Assad military, where a fight is ongoing:

Army defections in Deir Ezzor #Syria confirmed, according to @wissamtarif from Insan (mp3)

1344 GMT: Activists are claiming that there are videos in at least two neighborhoods in Damascus. In Qudseya, the reports say that there are large crowds of protesters. In Midan, the report is more serious. According to these activists, 3 have been killed in Midan, a central neighborhood in Damascus.

This video is claimed to have been taken in Midan today, right before the 3 protesters were killed:

1334 GMT: A protests by Islamists in Tahrir Square isn't going over well with some of the activists in Cairo. Activist and video journalist Mohamed Abdelfattah has this assessment of what's happening right now in Egypt's Tahrir Square:

All chants/banners and speeches r purely Islamic, radical, sectarian, and pro-army

Reports that alot of political movements have withdrawn from #Tahrir after Islamists "violated agreement on common demands"

The radical Islamist discourse in #Tahrir now is fundamentally anti-secular and neglecting any revolutionary demands

1330 GMT: The Syrian State News Agency is reporting that a member of the security force was killed in Abu Kamal, near Deir Ez Zor.

1322 GMT: James Bays posts this picture, victorious Libyan rebels in Ghazaia.

1312 GMT: James Miller takes over, and turns it over to Al Jazeera's James Bays. Bays reportes that the Libyan rebels have taken Takut and Ghazaia, two key cities that will give the rebels many strategic options to the West of Tripoli.

On way to Takhut (mp3)

1240 GMT: The body of Abdel Fattah Younes, the assassinated military commander of the Libyan opposition, is brought to Tahrir Square in Benghazi:

Abdul Hakim, Younes' cousin, said the General called his family around 10 a.m. on Thursday and said he was returning to Benghazi from the front line.

Hakim said the family subsequently received Younes' shot and burnt body.

1235 GMT: In Douma outside Damascus, protesters chant, "Your silence is killing us":

1230 GMT: The "Friday of Patience and Perseverance" in Yemen. Taiz:

And Ibb:

1225 GMT: Claimed footage of the rally in Assi Square in Hama in Syria today:

1205 GMT: Ahram Online updates from Tahrir Square in Cairo:


The protesters who have been staging a sit-in inside the square since 8 July have now become isolated in the small tent city on the big, grassy island inside of the square. The rest of the square is completely occupied by Islamists. According to our on-scene Ahram Online reporter, several scuffles broke out between Islamists and the protesters in the tent city because Islamists tried to forcibly enter, but were turned away by the protesters arguing that this has been their home for weeks.


Our Ahram Online reporter also says that the Islamists have begun blocking all entrances to the square by sitting and eating in dense groups so that people could not enter. They have also been sitting on the pavement of most of the downtown streets in Cairo. “It seems that they are purposefully creating an intimidating ambiance,” our reporter said.

Another Ahram Online reporter says that Islamists are sitting all over Talaat Harb Street, a major thoroughfare that leads to Tahrir Square, and are also occupying many of the cafés in the area.


1200 GMT: Video is starting to come in of demonstrations across Syria. This clip is from Harasta, northeast of Damascus:

And Midan in Damascus:

1145 GMT: Tunisia's former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his daughter, and son-in-law have been given jail terms and a collective $100 million fine in absentia over corrupt property deals.

The guilty verdict is the third against Ben Ali since he fled in January to Saudi Arabia, which has refused to extradite the former President.

Ben and his son-in-law, businessman Sakher El Materi, were sentenced to 16 years in prison. Be Ali's daughter and El Materi's wife Nesrine was given an eight-year jail term.

Ben Ali was sentenced in June, along with his wife Leila, to 35 years in prison for embezzlement and misuse of state funds. Earlier this month, he was convicted on charges of possessing illegal drugs and weapons and given 15 years in jail.

1140 GMT: Syrian state news agency SANA has claimed, "A subversive group targeted an oil pipeline near Homs at dawn with an improvised explosive device," leaving a crater 15 metres (50 feet) in diameter and oil gushing from the broken pipe.

Homs Governor Ghassan al-Adel said many residents reported hearing an explosion at around 4 a.m. (0100 GMT). Al-Adel added, "This terrorist operation, a subversive operation of the highest order, took place in a farming area, causing extensive damage."

On July 13, an explosion hit a gas pipeline near the town of Mayadin in the country's main oil- and gas-producing region of Deir Ez Zor Province in the northeast.

1130 GMT: Hundreds of thousands have people have congregated in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo on a "Friday of Popular Will and United Front". Ahram Online is providing rolling updates.

Tens of thousands of Islamists congregated in Alexandria to “stress the Islamic ‎identity of the country" and to call on Egyptian authorities to “respect the will of the people". Members of the 6 April Youth Movement have also shown up at the rally.

0955 GMT: David Kirkpatrick offers some intriguing details about the death of the Libyan opposition's military commander, General Abdel Fatteh Younes (see 0550 GMT):


During an interview in April, Colonel Qaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, suggested that General Younes was still loyal to her father. She said that at least one former member of the Qaddafi government on the rebels’ ruling council was still talking with the Qaddafis, and she pointedly declined to rule out General Younes.


For months, a public rivalry between General Younes and another rebel military leader, Khalifa Hifter, contributed to the pervasive sense of chaos in the ranks, as both men claimed to command the fighters in the field.

Rumors about General Younes and intertribal tensions started picking up here in the rebels’ de facto capital early Thursday evening with reports that a group of four judges working for the rebel council had summoned General Younes for questioning. The war effort he led has stalled out for months along immobile battle lines on the eastern front.

When the rebel leadership announced a news conference later at a Benghazi hotel, a few dozen members of his tribe gathered outside and began chanting. Some inside warned of possible violence if General Younes were removed from his position.

Instead, two hours after the press conference had been scheduled to begin, Mr. Abdul Jalil announced the death in a carefully worded speech that left many scratching their heads.

Mr. Abdul Jalil confirmed that General Younes had been summoned for questioning by the judges, though he declined to say why. He said only that General Younes had been “released on his own recognizance,” rather than either accused or exonerated of anything....

[Abdul Jalil] conveyed an unmistakable anxiety about the feelings of the Obeidi, General Younes’s tribe. Instead of appearing with other members of the rebel council, as expected, he sat at a table with men he said were elders of the Obeidi. He repeatedly said he wanted to “pay respects” to the tribe for its sacrifice and understanding, calling it “strong and deep.”

Moments later, a pickup truck full of angry armed Obeidi tribesmen arrived at the front of the hotel. Some fired their Kalashnikovs at hotel windows, shattering them, and others shot into the air. One man raced with his rifle through the front door of the hotel, and two witnesses said they heard gunshots inside. Security guards and hotel guests crouched behind concrete in front of the hotel for cover.

Other tribesmen chased down and tackled a journalist trying to leave the hotel. Shouting matches broke out between the men and the rebels guarding the hotel, and then between the rebel fighters themselves. Two more trucks raced by the hotel firing in the air, one pointing a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, before rebel authorities anxiously sealed the hotel and the block.


0920 GMT: A Yemeni military official has said at least 40 soldiers and 35 opposition tribesmen were killed in a battle north of Sana'a on Thursday when the insurgents took over part of a Republican Guards base.

The regime called in airstrikes to push the tribesmen out of the base. The Ministry of Defense said the insurgents were backed by the First Armored Division, led by the dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

0600 GMT: An opposition rally on Thursday in Kanaker, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Damascus, calling for the fall of the Syrian regime:

0550 GMT: No doubt we will soon be focusing on Friday protests, especially in Syria, but we begin with last night's dramatic development --- General Abdel Fattah Younes, the former Libyan Minister of Interior who defected and became the head of the opposition's military, was assassinated with two colleagues/

Younes was a target ever since he left the side of Muammar Qaddafi, with whom he had been allied for more than 40 years, in March. He had reportedly escaped kidnapping and assassination attempts soon afterwards. It was unclear where Younes was killed on Thursday --- the head of the National Transition Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, said efforts were being made to recover the bodies of the three victims.

The curiosity yesterday lay in timing --- hours before the news of his death, Younes had reportedly been detained by the opposition National Transitional Council for questioning over the ties of his family to the Qaddafi regime.

That mystery is still unresolved, and the news also overtakes what the insurgents hoped would be headlines of advance in their military offensive in the western mountains. They had been claiming victory in three towns, including the key point of Ghazaia, near the Tunisian border, as they try to isolate and advance on the Libyan capital Tripoli.

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