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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: "Scare Tactics"

2040 GMT: Protest tonight in Homs in Syria:

2035 GMT: Notes of defiance in a New York Times summary of the regime's military incursion into Hama today (see 1030 GMT)....

“People here are ready with rocks,” said Omar Habbal, an activist....

In past weeks, Hama, a city of 800,000 on the corridor between Damascus and Aleppo, has emerged as a symbolic center of the nearly four-month uprising against 41 years of rule by the Assad family. Protests have gathered momentum, with a remarkable demonstration of tens of thousands on Friday, and youths have turned out nightly to taunt the government in Aasi Square, which they have renamed Freedom Square.

Though some have ambitiously described the city as liberated, the city’s administration still functions, and the military remains in force on Hama’s outskirts.

Residents said about 20 military vehicles and several buses carrying armed men in plain clothes, arrived in the early morning. As they entered, some of the security forces chanted in support of President Bashar al-Assad; some residents in the streets responded with, “God is great,” a religious invocation meant as defiance.

“The whole city woke up to defend against the raid,” Mr. Habbal said.

Some activists said residents threw rocks, and others tried to build roadblocks and barricades with whatever was available — burning tires, stones and trash dumpsters.

The plainclothesmen carried out dozens of arrests, mainly on the outskirts. One activist said 43, another put the number at 65, though the estimates seemed more guesswork. Residents reported gunfire, but the forces soon retreated.

“The security forces entered, then they left quickly,” said a 24-year-old student who gave his name as Abdel-Rahman. Like many, he insisted on partial anonymity. “People are waiting. They can’t control Hama unless they wipe out the people here.”

1850 GMT: Five workers have become the first Egyptians sentenced under the military regime's anti-protest law.

On Wednesday, the employees of the Egyptian oil company Petrojet were given suspended one-year sentences. It was the first enforcement of Law 34/2011, announced by the military in March, which criminalises protests and strikes that hinder production in any workplace.

The five were arrested by military police on 6 June and charged with carrying out a sit-in protest in front of the Ministry of Oil, along with about 200 colleagues, during a time of emergency.

The workers were protesting because Petrojet refused to rehire them, claiming their temporary contracts had ended, even though some had been employed for 10 years. The protesters accused the company of defying the Minister of Oil’s decision to put all temporary workers on permanent contracts.

1830 GMT: A coalition of Yemeni opposition groups have releaased a draft for a transitional ruling council.

The opposition declared, "Due to obstructions by [President] Saleh's aides and the lack of seriousness of the Gulf mediators to press Saleh's followers to implement the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] initiative and accelerate the power transition to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in accordance with the Yemeni constitution, it has been imperative for the opposition to form a transitional ruling council as soon as possible," the opposition said in a statement.

The opposition also said they were "in continuing meetings with their allies, including the protesters and political forces of separatist Southern Movement and Houthi-led Shi'ite rebels, in preparation to declare the establishment of post-Saleh transitional ruling council very soon".

Regime spokesman Tarik al-Shami replied, "What has been prepared by the opposition for unilaterally declaring a transitional ruling council is considered to be a coup against the Yemeni constitutional legitimacy and against the GCC-brokered peaceful power-transition initiative."

Al-Shami warned the opposition leaders, "Such [a] council will not be recognized by the Yemeni Government, nor by the international community, because President Saleh is still the legitimate leader of the country until 2013, and he will return within next few days to Sanaa to resume his duties as the president of Yemen."

The manoeuvres occurred as tens of thousands of people marched again in cities across Yemen (see 1405 GMT) in their demands for a transitional government.

1715 GMT: Reuters reports about 54,000 Yemenis have fled the southern Abyan Province amidst intense fighting, the takeover of the capital Zinjibar by insurgents, and food and water shortages.

Thousands rallied in the capital Sana'a today, demanding that the authorities do more to protect southern towns from being overrun by insurgents.

1700 GMT: Former Tunisian President Ben Ali, who was toppled in mid-January, has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison on drugs and gun-running charges (see 1230 GMT).

1645 GMT: Funeral procession in Homs in Syria today for a 29-year-old mother of three, killed by a sniper:

1405 GMT: Two clips of a protest today in Taiz in Yemen, demanding a transitional government:

1230 GMT: The trial of Tunisia's former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for drugs and gun-running has opened in the capital Tunis.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January, was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison for embezzlement and misuse of state funds.

Ben Ali's lawyer said the drugs charges were "irrational" --- "How can we imagine that a president holding power can have two kilogrammes of cannabis resin of mediocre quality [with intentions] of selling it?" --- and claimed most of the weapons found at Ben Ali's palace were gifts from foreign leaders.

Members of the public in the courtroom heckled the lawyers: "Get out! You have betrayed Tunisia by defending Ben Ali!" and "You should have defended the young people killed by Ben Ali's weapons!"

The lawyers walked out of the courtroom after the judge refused their request to delay the case so that they had more time to prepare their defence.

1030 GMT: Residents say that Syrian troops stormed houses in Hama today, as thousands of peoples took to the streets shouting, "God is great".

A workshop owner said by phone, "At least 30 buses carrying soldiers and security police entered Hama this morning. They are firing randomly in residential neighbourhoods." Activists said more than 20 people were arrested.

The London-based director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, claiming witness accounts, said regime tanks also entered the northwestern village of Kfar Roumah and opened fire Monday, wounding at least six people.

A Syrian human rights group said security forces shot dead two anti-regime demonstrators and wounded eight in the Damascus suburb of Hajar Aswad late last night.

0800 GMT: A loud protest in Milan, Italy, on Sunday, expressing sympathy for the Syrian opposition:

0740 GMT: In a separate entry, we highlight a report by Britain's Sky News, "Trying to Get the Truth in Aleppo".

CNN has also been trying to break free from Syrian minders to get a range of opinion. Hala Gorani reports:

0720 GMT: Footage from last Friday's mass rally for the Qaddafi regime in the Libyan capital Tripoli, apparently with a cameraman telling the protesters that they are a shame to God and should go home:

0715 GMT: Al Masry Al Youm offers detail on last evening's clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square between street vendors and protesters, including the families of those killed in the uprising against the Mubarak regime.

Witnesses claim that some street vendors admitted to being paid to start trouble in the square. “I captured two vendors who admitted that they took 50 pounds today to stay in Tahrir and fake a fight,” said Islam Nour al-Din, a teacher at Ain Shams University who has been in Tahrir since last week to support the families.

Nour al-Din claimed that a low-ranking policeman entered the square in plainclothes on Saturday and watched the protesters as he stood with some of the vendors. Protesters recognised the police officer and chased him from the square.

On Sunday evening, vendors allegedly attacked the protesters with knives and rocks and set fire to some of the tents using gas cylinders. The clash apparently started when protesters, trying to keep the vendors away from the families, beat one of them.

0450 GMT: On Sunday, about 200 protesters remained in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo until tents for a sit-in were taken down last night. During the evening, some demonstrators reportedly skirmished with tea vendors.

0445 GMT: Saudi Arabian authorities arrested at least 20 people Sunday after a group protested outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital Riyadh, demanding the release of political detainees.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, the head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, claimed 16 of the detainees were women and children. About 50 people had gathered for the rally organised by "A Prisoner Until When?", a group seeking the release of relatives through a fair and transparent judicial system.

The protest was the first in Riyadh since March, when about 200 activists gathered outside the interior ministry seeking the release of political prisoners.

0435 GMT: We start in Syria at the critical point of Hama, the country's 4th-largest city, where the regime made a move on Sunday against the opposition's mass protests that had come close to a "takeover".

Syrian tanks deployed during the day at the entrances to the city but later headed north. However, dozens of people were reportedly arrested on the periphery of Hama, particularly around the football stadium and in Sabounia district, and secret police patrols and "shabiha", gunmen loyal to President Assad, were seen in the city, firing their rifles randomly.

A resident said, "The regime is using scare tactics, but the people of Hama are not bowing," adding that tens of thousands of people had assembled for a night rally at the main square, despite electricity cuts carried out to hamper protests.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has blocked Syrian assets worth 27 million Swiss francs ($32 million). Officials would not say if the assets of President Bashar al-Assad had been frozen. 

A demonstration last night in the coastal city of Latakia:

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