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Friday
Aug192011

Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Pressure Outside, More Pressure Within


View Syria protests reported by LCC 19 August 2011 in a larger map

Interactive map posted by The Guardian of protests today in Syria

See also, Syria Feature: Anderson Cooper Smacks Down Assad's Ambassador

Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests Set 1 AND Set 2

Syria Special: Torture, Intimidation Used to Deter Protests
World Leaders Condemn Syria Violence, Assad Regime
Syria: Crisis May Hurt Economies of the Region
Thursday's Syria, Libya (and Beyond) Liveblog: The Crackdown has Stopped?


1900 GMT: In a separate entry, we had posted 2 exclusive videos. One video showed what may be the remains of the now infamous bodies that were dumped in a Hama river.

But the video at the top of the entry shows something very interesting, soldiers beating protesters while they are detained in a bus, forcing them to shout pro-Assad chants. Al Jazeera now has an interesting piece of analysis, that the soldiers in the video have beards, and beards are not allowed in the regular army.

1814 GMT: The LCCS has released a statement entitled "Indications of Victory:"

This Friday was one of the most important during the course of the protest movement in Syria. For weeks, the security forces and the military, through their operations, have prevented mass demonstrations. However, in a remarkable step and due to increasing international support for the protest movement and the subsequent morale boost, many protesters have managed to overcome the security and military barriers and begin taking the steps necessary to de-legitimize the government. Despite the Syrian president’s promises to withdraw his troops and end military operations across the country, armored vehicles and tanks have continued to be stationed in city centers. In fact, security backups have been called to quell protests such as the one that occurred in Hirak and Ankhal in the Daraa Governorate, where they have resumed gunfire using both light and heavy machine guns. Today alone, security forces killed at least 22 protesters, including children who were not part of the demonstrations.

In the besieged city of Homs, all neighborhoods, including Khaldieh, Bab Sbaa, and Baba Amr demonstrated in thousands, despite gunfire yesterday and today, and despite the violent military operations in the city for the past week, which take lives on a daily basis. Deir Ezzor is in the same condition, but demonstrations approached large numbers before the military invasion.

The statement also said that there were renewed protests in the embattled regions of Idlib, its suburbs, and Hama, where security once again fired on demonstrators. In Lattakia and in Jableh, the most recent scenes of the military crackdown, protesters also began retaking the streets.

However, confrontations in the town of Daraa, where the first military operations were conducted at the start of the Revolution, have been the most severe. Security forces continue to fire at demonstrators in Ghabagheb and Al-Hirak, which are just a few kilometers away from the border of the Occupied Golan. Among the casualties were an elderly man, two children, and twelve protesters, not to mention dozens of wounded.

The LCCS admits that the security presence in Damascus, its suburbs, and Aleppo have not lessened, but they report huge rallies in Douma (tens of thousands), as well as protests in Harasta (where 1 person was killed) and Rahiba.

22 people were killed today, according to the report, which concludes with this statement:

The Syrian people will be victorious, due to the strong resolve of the protesters and the support of Syria’s friends abroad for its people and its Revolution.

1807 GMT: Alex Crawford, from Sky News, reports from the center of Zawiya, where opposition forces are now in complete control of the town (VIDEO).

1740 GMT: Today has already been a memorable day in Syria's unrest, which is saying a lot, because we've seen large protests every Friday since March, and dramatic protests and security clampdowns since the start of Ramadan. We've seen more protests, more brazen protests (protesters in close proximity to security that is shooting at them), and larger protests in key areas today and yesterday, areas like Damascus and Aleppo, not to mention a badly abused Homs, Hama, LAttakia, and Deir Ez Zor.

In short, it doesn't seem like Assad's strategy of ramping up the violence is working. I'm not alone in this assessment:

In the Damascus suburb of Kiswah, an eyewitness told Al Jazeera a protest of around 8,000 people took place despite snipers deployed on the roofs of government buildings and five tanks stationed around the entrances to the city.

Shadi, a 30-year-old protester, said: “What can the regime do more? The security forces arrested hundreds of us, killed us and wounded us. What more?

"We will keep protests going until we see Bashar in a cage like Egypt’s Mubarak. We will not accept to see Bashar run away without getting him inside court. We are Syrian citizens and we are calling to execute the president."

1732 GMT: Plain clothed Shabiha throw rocks at protesters who shout back, then police fire tear gas at the protesters.

1726 GMT: The opposition in Libya is reporting that 4 of their fighters have been killed in Zliten and 2 near Ajdabiya today.

1709 GMT: The LCCS is now claiming that 22 have been killed today across Syria.

1657 GMT: Another video that appears to have been taken by a member of security forces in Syria. This video claims to show plain-clothed men, Shabiha, working alongside police in Aleppo, Syria today.

Some have been debating about the level of support for Assad in Aleppo. Some have suggested that a "silent majority" supports the government there. With all of the security on the street, and with more and more videos of protests in Aleppo, perhaps the silent majority is really comprised of middle-class anti-Assad residents.

We have also posted the full interview between Anderson Cooper and the Syrian Ambassador to the UN.

1617 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria reported earlier that 12 have been killed in Syria so far today:

1 Harasta

1 Rahebah

4 Herak, Daraa

6 Ghabagheb, Daraa

However, that number is almost certain to rise. We have reports of casualties in Hama and Homs, and we have already posted videos of heavy gunfire in Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Deir Ez Zor. We're still trying to find more details from Lattakia, and elsewhere, but expect the total to rise.

1605 GMT: Anderson Cooper takes the Syria ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja'Afari, to task over the videos posted that show human rights abuses. Ja'Afari responded by calling for "objectivism," he said that there were some civilian casualties but most of the violence was at the hands of "armed terrorist groups," Salafists and Takfiris who are the "the outcome of the British and American invasion of Iraq."

The invasion of Iraq was over 7 years ago, so Cooper asks, why did these events happen now?

See the whole interview, Syria Feature: Anderson Cooper Smacks Down Assad's Ambassador

1551 GMT: The LA Times has posted their own video collage from Syria today entitled "Spirits (and Shoes) High Among Protesters." The title says it all. We now have 2 video entries, besides the video already posted below, and all of the video we've put in the Liveblogs in recent weeks. Despite the fierce gunfire, the protesters show no signs of bowing to Assad or going away anytime soon, and the day is not yet over.

See also, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests Set 1 AND Set 2

1546 GMT: A new video claims to show a young boy shot in Hama today. He is loaded onto a truck, his face a mixture of confusion, horror, and pain.

1537 GMT: This report via the Palestine Telegraph. It is unconfirmed:

Breaking News: Israeli air force raid on a group of civilians, 1 killed and 5 wounded in eastern Gaza city.

1528 GMT: Protesters on a side street run from gunfire today in Deir Ez Zor:

1521 GMT: Protesters take cover in a side street while gunfire rings out in Kisweh, Damascus:

1515 GMT: Dramatic video, gunfire lights up a street in Harasta, Syria (that isn't AK-47 fire, move like a heavy machine gun, possibly tank mounted, based on the size of the impact explosions on the back wall at the end of the video)

1506 GMT: Egypt has issued an official protest against an Israeli strike that killed 7 Egyptian soldiers on the Egypt-Israel border. They are also demanding an official probe into the incident.(see our separate feature: Israel-Gaza Latest: Airstrikes Kill 6+ Palestinians, 2 Egypt Soldiers after Border Attack Slays 8 Israelis

1458 GMT: We've posted a separate video entry today, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests, but this video is still of interest. It comes to us, from a trusted source, and claims to show people outside the Al-Hussein Mosque in Lattakia, Syria, today. It's not the greatest video taping, but we quickly see why. Security forces, in black outfits, can be seen patrolling the area. Security vehicles are also present, and about half way through the videographer move rapidly away from a plain-clothed man, wearing a white shirt, who appears to be carrying a baton. Despite this security presence, daring protesters still shout "Alah u Akbar" at the security apparatus:

1449 GMT: Egyptian activists have lowered the Israeli flag and raised a Palestinian flag over the Israeli embassy in Alexandria (see our separate feature: Israel-Gaza Latest: Airstrikes Kill 6+ Palestinians, 2 Egypt Soldiers after Border Attack Slays 8 Israelis

1431 GMT: Tunisia is withdrawing its ambassador from Damascus, and Saudi activists are calling on their government to do the same. Diplomatic pressure from Syria's neighbors, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, may have more impact than pressures from the US, but Tunisia's move is significant, as it symbolically links the struggle of the people of Syria to the Arab Spring movement that started in Tunis.

1428 GMT: The AFP has posted video of a protest in Tilbessa, Homs, last night. It is significant because of the new reports of casualties today there.

1421 GMT: Another graphic video, Haitham Al-Rifai, 18 years old, reportedly killed today in Homs, Syria.

1416 GMT: The International Organization for Migration (IOM)is launching a "rescue operation" to evacuate thousands of foreigners trapped in Tripoli. The opposition fighters have blocked off all exit points, and have effectively closed a wide (but closing) circle around Gaddafi's capital city. It is the assessment of the IOM, as well that of many other experts (including EA) that it is only a matter of time before the opposition fighters reach Tripoli, but Gaddafi is highly unlikely to give up his city without widespread bloodshed. The IOM is anticipating civilian casualties, sparking the move:

A spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Jemini Pandya, said an operation to evacuate thousands of Egyptians and other foreigners trapped in Tripoli by the latest fighting would begin within days.

"We are looking at all options available, but it will probably have to be by sea," she told a Geneva news conference. More than 600,000 of an estimated 1.5 million to 2.5 million foreigners, most of whom are Asian and African migrant workers, have fled six months of fighting in Libya. However, many have remained in Tripoli, which until this week was far from fighting and a safe two-hour drive from the Tunisian border.

1406 GMT: Moving over to Libya, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) destroyed a boat off of the coast or Zawiya on Wednesday. Some have said that the boat was filled with Gaddafi troops who were fleeing the battle, but RAF and NATO officials maintain that the vessel still posed a threat.

1400 GMT: A Very Graphic video has been posted, claiming to show Emad al-Qawman, who was reportedly shot in the head today in Al Herak, Daraa. 15 people have already been reported killed in Daraa, according to AJA, though that number has not been confirmed.

1354 GMT: A new video has been posted (a bit chaotic to post here) showing protesters in Horan walking down the streets when they are fired upon (unclear whether the shots were warning shots or not). At the end of the video, the crowd has not dispersed.

1339 GMT: Al Jazeera Arabic is reporting that 20,000 protesters took the streets today in the Khalidiya district of Homs today.

AJA also says they have received an unconfirmed report that 15 people have been killed by security forces in Daraa.

1334 GMT: A massive protest demonstration in Ibb, Yemen:

1322 GMT: A post-Friday prayer protest in Kffersita, Hama, Syria:

1316 GMT: A large rally in Dhamar, Yemen, in support of a transitional council away and against President Saleh:

1306 GMT: James Miller takes the blog... and Al Jazeera has this latest news from Libya, where the opposition fighters have reportedly taken the center of Zliten:

1240 GMT: The rally in Taiz in Yemen today:

And chants in Radaa supporting the call for a National Transitional Council:

1230 GMT: Protest in Qarabis area of Homs:

1200 GMT: Claimed footage from Daraa in southern Syria today:

And from Hassan Mosque in the Midan district of Damascus:

1150 GMT: In his Friday Prayer sermon, a senior Shiite cleric in Bahrain, Sheik Isa Qassim, has said Gulf leaders have shown double standards by supporting Arab uprisings elsewhere while aiding Bahrain's crackdown on its pro-reform protests.

1145 GMT: A Turkish government official has said Ankara believes it is too soon to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down: "We are not there yet. First and foremost the people of Syria must tell Assad to go. This has not been heard in the streets of Syria. The Syrian opposition is not united and we haven't seen yet a collective call from Syrians to tell Assad to go, like in Egypt and Libya."

1140 GMT: Activists claim regime forces fired live ammunition to disperse protests in the northeastern city of Deir Ez Zor and in the south in and around Daraa.

Al Jazeera has been broadcasting the claim from activists that six people have been killed in Daraa.

1135 GMT: More video coming in from Syria --- Homs:

And Idlib in the northwest:

And Damascus:

1120 GMT: As usual about this time each Friday, we are getting a rush of unconfirmed reports and clashes across Syria. We will post information as confirmation comes through.

Meanwhile, our first clip --- from Deir Ez Zor in the northeast:

1020 GMT: More than 40 Syrian "revolution blocs" have issued a statement declaring the formation of a Syrian Revolution General Commission to meet "the dire need to unite the field, media, and political efforts" of the opposition.

Forty-four groups signed the statement "merging all visions of all revolutionaries from all coalitions and coordinators mutually focusing primarily on toppling the oppressive and abusive regime", with the long-term aim to build "a democratic and civil state of institutions that grants freedom, equality, dignity, and respect of human rights to all citizens".

1015 GMT: Luke Harding of The Guardian offers a profile of Zawiyah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Libyan capital Tripoli, in opposition hands:

The rebels have wasted little time in decking out Zawiyah in the anti-Gaddafi flag, a red, black and green tricolour. They have painted a crossed-out "69" on shop walls, referring to the year Gaddafi seized power in a bloodless coup. Next to it they have daubed "Free Libya" and "17", a reference to 17 February, when the Libyan revolution kicked off with street protests in Tripoli, and insurrections in Benghazi, Zawiyah and Misrata.

But the cost of this sometimes shambolically fought war has been high. Doctors at the opposition-controlled Beer Muammar field hospital, six miles from Zawiyah, said 83 people – fighters and civilians – had been killed in the city since the weekend.

1010 GMT: Britain's Ministry of Defence has given details of the last moments of the fight for Zawiyah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli.

The Ministry said regime forces had took to the sea in a commandeered tug after fighting a desperate rearguard battle for the refinery, the regime’s last source of fuel for the capital: "Although a challenging target, small and under way at sea, a direct hit was scored with a laser-guided Paveway bomb which sank the vessel.”

The Ministry claimed the Royal Air Force struck just as two senior officers boarded the ship from an inflatable.

0905 GMT: Video of the latest Turkish airstrikes on camps in northern Iraq of the Kurdish insurgents PKK (see 0710 GMT):

0715 GMT: Human Rights Watch, interviewing six residents including three witnesses, claims Libyan regime forces may have executed 10 protesters following an anti-government demonstration in the town of Bani Walid on 28 May 2011.

Earlier on the day, security forces had fired on apparently peaceful demonstrators, killing at least two and wounding 10, in the town about 170 kilometres (115 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli. After the protest, an insurgent apparently killed a regime paramilitary commander and two bodyguards.

The reprisal executions then allegedly took place. Three of those interviewed by HRW spoke on cell phones with the protesters who were killed as they sought shelter in a nearby building after the demonstration. One of the men watched regime forces storm the building and heard automatic weapon fire.

0710 GMT: Turkish warplanes have hit the bases of Kurdish insurgents PKK in Qandil in northern Iraq for the second consecutive night.

A PKK spokesman said there were no casualties from the raids.

On Wednesday, nine Turkish soldiers were killed and 14 injured in a PKK attack in Turkey's Hakkari Province province, close to the border. The Turkish military earlier said it would press ahead with strikes until the rebels were "rendered ineffective".

0707 GMT: NoonArabia, writing at "Notes by Noon", focuses on the continued fighting and bombing in Yemen:

Arhab is a district 20 kilometers north of Sanaa. It is near three camps of the elite Republican Guards, who benefited from significant American counterterrorism aid and are strategically located there guarding an entrance to Sanaa and the city's international airport. The Republican Guard forces, headed by [President] Saleh's son Ahmed, who also heads the special counterterrorism unit, have been brutally shelling and bombarding Arhab villages after they declared their support for the revolution, especially after some tribesmen prevented Republican Guards from heading to other provinces to crack down on anti-government protesters. Many tribal fighters, soldiers and civilans have been killed as a result and hundreds of families displaced yet the world rarely hears about them despite their daily suffering.

0645 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports on the claim by activists that Egypt's military rulers are still detaining almost 12,000 civilians, more than six months after the fall of President Mubarak.

0600 GMT: Sheik Abdullatif al-Mahmoud, the head of a Sunni political movement and supporter of the monarchy, says King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's uncle should step down as Prime Minister after the Government has deat with the demands of protesters who began their uprising in mid-February.

Al-Mahmoud said, “The crisis needs management, and [Prince Khalifa] is seen as a main party in managing the crisis. If the crisis is over, we might feel comfortable telling him, ‘Thank you, you have done what you needed to do, and we need a fresh face.’”

Al-Mahmoud continued, “We believe that the constitution gave a lot of room for the king to choose whatever prime minister he wants. It did not say the prime minister has to be from the ruling family. It did not even designate the sect of the prime minister.”

Now in his fifth decade in office, Prince Khalifa, 75, is the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

0555 GMT: It's useful to recall that Syria is not the only location of mass protest these days. Despite --- or because --- the lack of political progress, tens of thousands are turning out on the streets in Yemen. Taiz yesterday:

0545 GMT: International media are focused this morning on the call by US and European leaders for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down (see separate video entry). 

Fair enough, but it is arguably more important to be recording the calls inside the country for Assad's departure. After all, if it were not for those demonstrations, there would be no foothold for President Obama and his European counterparts to issue their statements.

After a dip earlier this week, as Syrian military forces suppressed dissent in another city --- this time, Lattakia on the coast --- the demonstrations are back.  On the eve of what is likely to be another Friday of protest and clashes, there was a rush of evening video (see Thursday LiveBlog), and more clips came in overnight:

Harasta outside Damascus

This video has moved to a separate entry, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2

Homs

This video has moved to a separate entry, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2

Idlib in the northwest

This video has moved to a separate entry, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2

Kafrenbel in the northwest

This video has moved to a separate entry, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2

And noise, if not image, from a loud rally in Midan in Damascus

This video has moved to a separate entry, Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2

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    Response: plumber melbourne
    EA WorldView - Home - Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Pressure Outside, More Pressure Within

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