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Syria, Libya (and Beyond) Liveblog: The Crackdown has Stopped?

See also Syria: Crisis may hurt economies of the Region (Saif)

World Leaders Condemn Syria Violence, Assad Regime

Syria Special: Diane Rehm - Escalating Violence in Syria

Syria Video Special: This is What Assad Calls "Withdrawing"

2015 GMT: A demonstration in Deir Ez Zor in northeast Syria tonight:

And in Douma outside Damascus:

And in Jarjanaz in the northwest:

1735 GMT: Reem Haddad, the information ministry's director of external relations spoke to AFP:

It is strange that instead of offering [Damascus] a helping hand to implement its programme of reforms, the West and Obama are seeking to stoke more violence in Syria.

1720 GMT: The UN report saying that torture of detained proetsters appears to have been widespread.

1700 GMT: These two video clips claim to show the security presence, including machine gun nests, in Assi square in Hama in Syria and a demonstration in the city:

1645 GMT: This video footage is reportedly showing Republican Guards joining the opposition side in Yemen.

1635 GMT:  Israel's Channel 2 TV is reporting that Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing between it and Gaza. 

In response to earlier attacks, Israeli jets hit the southern Gaza Strip and killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, a top lieutenant and three other members. The sixth person was a nine-year-old boy who had been in the same house as the militants.

Meanwhile, South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda denied that gunmen who killed seven people in attacks on buses had fired from Egypt. 

On the same day, it is stated by a senior Egyptian official that the third round of Israel-Hamas indirect talks over the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit have ceased with no results and without setting a date for renewing the negotiations.

1630 GMT: Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics and international relations at the London School of Economics, says the roles of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are crucial in terms of isolating the Assad regime with support of other Western powers.

He adds that Damascus will suffer heavily since tourism is no longer an option of income and the Western coalition will turn the tap off on Syrian oil export. However, he says that economic sanctions can tip the balance of power in Syria in the long term as the Assad regime will fight until the end.

1620 GMT: Reporters Without Borders asked the international community to increase the pressure on the Assad regime. The statement reads:

We are calling for the respect of international laws, for the respect of human dignity, freedom of speech and of the press.

Since the start of the demonstrations in Syria last February no journalist have been able to do its job, foreign correspondents were thrown out by the Syrian authorities, Syrian journalists can't report, they simply can't do their job and at the moment and for many weeks now, the only information coming out of Syria is being provided by the Syrian citizens themselves, by the demonstrators through new technologies.

1615 GMT: Canadian PM Stephen Harper joins the Obama Administration's demand for Assad's departure.

1605 GMT: A doctor in Latakia alleged that the regime was trying to divide and conquer the city by targeting only Sunni Muslim neighborhoods. Having given the number of dead in the last four days as 50, he said: "My hospital currently suffers from a shortage in medicines and emergency supplies. There are a lot of wounded on the floors in the hospital because we don't have enough beds and space."

1555 GMT: Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU.

1550 GMT: US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP that US President Barack Obama has "no plans" to recall the country's ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. He added: "We need to have him there."

1545 GMT: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on Syria.

1525 GMT: The full statement from David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merke calling for the Syrian president to stand down.

1515 GMT: Five loud explosions shook the center of Libya's capital, possibly NATO jets striking near Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli.

1510 GMT: The latest news from Zawiyah and Gharyan... 

1505 GMT: This video footage is reportedly showing the funeral procession of Jalal Blasem in Homs today.

1500 GMT: These three videos are reportedly showing the protest in Aleppo on Wednesday night. 

1455 GMT: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is speaking now. Here are some statements from her speech:

The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity, protects their rights... Assad is standing in their way.

We have placed dozens of sanctions against Assad and his cronies

US sanctions aimed at disrupting the ability of Syrian regime to finance its campaign of violence.

The transition to democracy has begun and its time for Assad to step aside.

The transition to democracy has begun and its time for Assad to step aside.

Syrian crackdown is brutal and unjust.

1440 GMT: Here is President Barack Obama's full statement on the situation in Syria. Obama asks Assad to step down now!

1355 GMT: Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said that his country is "angered" and "extremely worried" by the killings of civilians in Syria. 

1345 GMT: Rigths group Avaaz says it has the name of one person killed this morning after security forces opened fire on a protest in the Bab Amr neighbourhood of Homs. 

1325 GMT: After Hamas dispersed protestors condemning the Assad regime for opening fire on Palestinian refugees on Tuesday, the situation for Hamas is getting more serious. 

Political analyst Talal Okal said: "If they keep silent they will score points with the Syrian regime. The people will not accept it and will see it as a betrayal of the Palestinian refugees in Syria."

1315 GMT: Seven people were killed and at least 26 people were wounded in a series of "terrorist" attacks in Israel. The exchange of fire included anti-tank missiles fired from the Egyptian side of the border, explosives and shootings at a bus which was carrying soldiers. The IDF Spokesman reported that two to four "terrorists" were killed during the clashes. 

1300 GMT: We reported on Wednesday evening with the beginning of Turkish F-16 strikes on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)'s camps in northern Iraq. 

The Turkish General Staff said today that the artillery hit 168 targets in the region overnight before warplanes pounded 60 positions in two waves. Besides, the statement read that the strikes had centered on Qandil Mountain, Hakurk, Avasin-Basyan, Zap and Metina regions. All planes had returned safely to their bases. It said operations would continue until the PKK was "rendered ineffective."

1250 GMT: The LA Times's Borzou Daragahi reports that the operations are still carried out in Latakia and the detainees held in Sports City stadium have not been released yet. 

1240 GMT: The Guardian's Luke Harding says that the oil refinery in Zawiyah is in rebels' hands now

1235 GMT: According to Syrian activists, unlike Assad's previous statements that the military operations halted, raids, arrests and killings are continuing. An activist in Homs said: "Nothing has changed yet. Last night was very violent, they shot at protesters and carried out raids just like any other previous day.”

1225 GMT: National Transitional Council (NTC) head Mustafa Abdel Jalil said that he feared a bloodbath in a battle for the capital that could come by the end of August since "Gadhafi will not go quietly and he will go amid a catastrophe that will touch him and his family."

1210 According to Reuters, Libyan opposition fighters have taken the full control of Gharyan, a town about 80km south of the capital Tripoli.

1200 GMT: Switzerland has recalled its ambassador to Syria. The statement of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The actions of the Syrian security forces are not acceptable. For this reason, the FDFA has recalled the Swiss Ambassador in Damascus to Berne for consultations."

1145 GMT: Samir al-Nashar, a Syrian opposition activist who headed the Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration said:

President Bashar al-Assad is no longer enjoying any support in the country, except the military and the presidency people in Syria. Assad is not enjoying any support from the Syrian people..

Syria now is on the verge of a historic change and Syria will move into a democratic regime during which the choice and the decision lies with the Syrian people..

Assad has to go away. Assad has to step down because he is not accepted any longer by the Syrian people. Syria is in need of a new regime, and the Syrian army needs to have a new president that enjoys their respect. And Syrian people have to be masters in their country and not slaves in their own country. So Bashar al-Assad and his regime are no longer accepted by the people.. He has lost legitimacy.

Aleppo is the economic capital of Syria and Syria and Aleppo witnessed yesterday huge demonstrations from the city, demonstrations that went through 3km with thousands of participants through the Abdullah Square, which is the main square in Aleppo. Thugs and mobs in the city were trying to occupy the square before the arrival of the protesters [to] succeed in making a rift between the demonstrators..

1110 GMT: A high-level UN human rights team has compiled a confidential list of 50 alleged perpetrators at "various levels'' of President Bashar Assad's government and it is said that they found "a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population" which "may amount to crimes against humanity."

1040 GMT: It was announced earlier this week that the United Nations Human Rights Council would hold a special meeting next week. Now, it is announced that it will be held on Monday, 22 August.

0830 GMT: US officials told the Associated Press that the Obama administration is ready to make an explicit call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to demand Assad's departure today.

0700 GMT: The people of Qalamoun, Damascus, Protest Last Night.


0630 GMT: The UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay is due to address the 15-nation Security Council where she is expected to suggest the Council to refer the current crackdown to the International Criminal Court

0540 GMT: James Miller sets the liveblog up with a quote from a UN statement concerning a phone call that occurred between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Syrian President Bashar al Assad:

"The Secretary-General emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately.

"President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped," the statement added.

These videos, however, claims to have been taken in Lattakia:

So we'll see. In a few hours, when Ali Yenidunya and James Miller start to blog, if today is a day free of violence. We're not holding our breath.

Meanwhile, this week has been a disappointing one for good videos of night protests. All of that has changed in the last 24 hours. Once again, James Miller's email inbox is filled with dozens of protests from a half dozen locations, on top of the videos that were posted yesterday.

One video is potentially very significant, as it claims shows a large crowd protesting in the center of Aleppo (see map), in Saadallah Al Jabri Square Square:

There is another development, one that James will be working on tomorrow. Several videos have surfaced, graphic and disturbing videos of activists who appear to have been tortured before their bodies were returned to their families. Also, it's too early to definitively say yet, but we may have discovered video that shows the remains recovered from the river in Hama. The mystery of the now infamous video of someone dropping bodies in a river, reportedly near Hama, may be one step closer to being solved.

Scott Lucas is still away, but Ali and James will work hard to get you the news. It's already looking like another fascinating, important, and dramatic day in the Arab Spring. Stay tuned...

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