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Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Emergency Meetings

See also Morocco Feature: Has the Arab Spring Come and Gone?
Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 1
Syria Video: The "Tell Bashar to Go" Protests --- Set 2
Syria Feature: Anderson Cooper Smacks Down Assad's Ambassador
Syria Special: Torture, Intimidation Used to Deter Protests
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Pressure Outside, More Pressure Within

01:48 GMT: We're closing the live blog for a bit, but will be up and running in (gulp) a few short hours.

James was about to sign off with a report that it is quiet in Tripoli now. However, Matthew Price, a correspondent in Tripoli, sent this tweet about 10 minutes ago:

It did go quiet for a bit but appears it was a lull. Sounds of heavy fire now and explosions

It's going to be a long night in Tripoli, and a long couple of days for the EA crew. But it's going to be a much longer few days for the Gaddafi regime, so stay tuned...

01:03 GMT: The Head of Political affairs for the National Transitional Council, Fathi Baja, gave a statement to Reuters:

"There is certain information tells that forces loyal to Gaddafi withdrew and left their weapons behind in areas outside Tripoli. And I think everything is in order in Tripoli, rebels are approaching al-Sareem Street nearby Babal-Azizia complex. Gaddafi may be coerced to flee if he managed to co-ordinate it with some countries, but I hopeto arrest him to be tried with his sons and his assistants in Libya"

00:56 GMT: This video, shared by Human Rights Watch's Nabeel Rajab, shows Bahraini soldiers firing tear gas, and possible rubber or live bullets, at protesters. We are unsure when this was taken, but it was posted to Youtube tonight. Also shared by Rajab, and posted by the same youtube account as the first, is a video that shows Bahraini security forces breaking into cars.

00:03 GMT: Associate Press Reported Hadeel Al-Shalchi is reporting that the lights are now out in the Rixos hotel neighborhood in Tripoli.

DATELINE: August 21, 2011 above, 08/20 Below

2358 GMT: According to Al Jazeera Arabic, Tajoura is under attack by mortars from a nearby military base.

2355 GMT: Gaddafi has ended his speech, and Matthew Prince gives this report from Tripoli:

Applause here in #Rixos hotel among Gvnt staff as #Gadaffi winds up his speech. Heavy gunfire outside

2344 GMT: Gaddafi is speaking on Libyan State TV, via "phone." He is blaming French President Sarkozy for these events, and he has claimed that the Libyan Youth are hugging pictures of him. We'll try to find video and a transcript when he is done.

2334 GMT: It's hard to tell what is going on in Libya right now, but callers to Al Jazeera Arabic and activists report widespread, armed, insurrection. There are reports that the rebels may have seized the airport in Libya (unconfirmed, and unlikely) but now there are man yreports that the rebels have taken the Suq al Jumaa district of Tripoli, where there is also a report that Gaddafi tanks are headed. Other reports suggest that Tajoura is free of Gaddafi troops. Yet another report claims that there is an uprising in Al Khums.

A representative for the NTC has reportedly told Al Jazeera that there are clashes in Janzour and Al Hadhba, Al Khadra, southeast Tripoli.

2311 GMT: Activists post this picture, allegedly a picture and translation of a text message that many residents of Tripoli received tonight at the height of the violence:

2207 GMT: Whether the developments in Tripoli turn out to be significant or not, a massive rally has started in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, in eastern Libya:

2328 GMT: Is the writing on the wall for Gaddafi? The Tunisian government believes so, because they have just told CNN that they are officially recognizing the National Transitional Council.

2203 GMT: Despite claims that fighting is continuing, Reuters is now reporting that the fighting in Tripoli has slowed to a trickle, with very sporadic gunfire heard.

2158 GMT: A woman calling into Al Jazeera from Tajoura, Tripoli, said that 133 people were killed in the Souq al Jumah and Arada areas of the city. She also said that the Aradah area is still under opposition control, and the Aradah bridge was struck by a rocket, though she doesn't know who fired it.

This report is unconfirmed, and raises questions. How did she get such an exact count? Still, if the report is true, it would suggest that the scale of the violence in Tripoli is much larger than what Gaddafi's spokesman would confirm.

2153 GMT: Keeping our eyes on Libya, but turning briefly to Syria, we have two new videos of large protests tonight. The first comes out of Moadamiya, a Damascus suburb:

And this scene, protesters take to the streets after Taraweeh prayers in Khalidiya, Homs:

2145 GMT: And now an important detail. Though Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claims that the "armed gangs" in Tripoli have been taken care of, and Tripoli is safe, he still claimed that these rebels were in 4 neighborhoods in northern and eastern Tripoli, matching many of the most reliable reports we heard earlier.

2139 GMT: Zeina Khodr reports from Al Zawiya for Al Jazeera:

Battles are now are taking place in Az Zawiyah and in an area known as the 27 bridge. "In the last hour we saw hundreds of fighters drive down from the western mountains, down to Az Zawiyah. Yhey're sending reinforcements According to field commanders, there's going to be a major offensive early on Sunday - they're going to push towards Tripoli.

"Opposition forces have still not yet been able to reach the outskirts of Tripoli. They launched a major offensive last Saturday. They entered the city of Az Zawiyah ... but Gaddafi army put up stiff resistance...

"I can still hear the sound of grad rockets landing in this city but rebel fighters have pushed them [Gaddafi's forces] to the east. They've taken control of the city centre and of the main hospital ... now they're trying to take control of the area called 27 bridge. They call that bridge so because it's exactly 27 km from Tripoli."

2137 GMT: Now, Moussa Ibrahim, on State TV, has said that Algerians, Tunisians and Egyptians were arrested tonight, fighting among the rebels.

2134 GMT: Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim now says that "armed gangs" of rebels sneaked into Tripoli in "small groups of a few dozen" and they have been dealt with.

2130 GMT: Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has also taken to the media. First, he said that "All of Tripoli is safe and stable." Then, he said that French President Nicholas Sarkozy was trying to present himself as the prophet Mohammed.

2127 GMT: National Transitional Council leader Abdu Jalil has urged Gaddafi's solders to surrender and has stated, on Al Jazeera, that he understands that they were forced into fighting for Gaddafi.

2125 GMT: Al Jazeera Arabic is showing images of a reporter holding up a radio that is broadcasting the communications of Gaddafi's solders. It is unclear whether the forces are broadcasting via open radio channels, or whether a source for Al Jazeera has cracked the communication code.

2116 GMT: We didn't get a chance to report it (it's Saturday, we were on light duty until all hell broke loose in Tripoli), but there was a major defection earlier. Abdel-Salam Jalloud, former Revolutionary Guard Member, former Prime Minister, and long time ally, has apparently fled, a major symbolic blow to Gaddafi. Earlier today the Guardian ran a headline "Abdel-Salam Jalloud defection increases pressure on Gaddafi- Libyan rebels claim regime is crumbling following flight of third senior official." That headline, in light of developments in the last few hours, seems even more poignant.

2110 GMT: (Almost) All eyes are on Libya. In Syria, an activist who is highly reliable reports that there is gunfire in Al-Saha, Lattakia, in the Raml Al-Janobi neighborhood.

2103 GMT: Senior CNN Foreign Correspondent Matthew Chance reports, "Now NATO has started up pounding tripoli. More gunshots crackling outside..."

2058 GMT: Libya TV, the television station established by the opposition, is reporting that opposition forces have seized a weapon depot in el Hadba, Tripoli. This report should be treated with caution, as Libya TV reports via Benghazi.

2052 GMT: According to Al Jazeera Arabic, the leader of a Tripoli military battalion has asked civilians to take shelter and avoid military installations in the coming days. Regardless of the fact that the opposition army is still a long ways away, he clearly anticipates a stepped-up NATO campaign.

2048 GMT: This news from Reuters Flash account:

"Tripoli residents receive text messages urging them to "go out into streets to eliminate agents with weapons", says resident."

2040 GMT: We have confirmed reports that people in some areas of Tripoli are taking up arms against the government as we speak. BBC's Mathew Price has these updates:

Very much quieter for now in Tripoli Libya. No more distant sounds of gunfire / explosions from where I am.

[Now] fluid situation. Gunfire now in distance. #Tripoli #Libya Sporadic. And now fallen silent again. No clear pattern to this.

Seems fighting in souk-el joumha, Hadba, Abou-Slim, and Zawia Dahmani and Tariq Al-Shat and Salaheddine areas of Tripoli

2032 GMT: James Miller takes the blog.

There is now a sustained buzz that Tripoli is under attack by NATO jets, and there are many reports of gunfire in and around the capital. People are calling into Al Jazeera Arabic and reporting injuries in Ben Ashour, Fashloom, other areas. Specifically, it appears as though people have taken to the streets in northern and eastern districts of the city, and now we get this message from AJA:

Qaddafi forces withdraw from Suq al-Juma, Tripoli; working class neighborhood in capital liberated.

We have to caution that this developments are happening rapidly, it is dark there, and it is very hard to confirm these reports, but we are on this.

2010 GMT: We are getting unconfirmed reports of fighting inside the Libyan capital Tripoli. Areas with claims of gunfire include Souq al Jumaa, Feshloum, Tajoura, and Zawit al-Dahmani.

1950 GMT: Video of a tank in the central square of Houla in Homs Province:

1945 GMT: Video of a demonstration after evening prayers in Kafranbel in northwest Syria tonight:

And in Kisweh outside Damascus:

Footage has also been posted of a protest in Abu Kamal in the southeast.

1900 GMT: A group of Yemeni politicians have left a newly-formed opposition council.

The 143-member National Council was formed Wednesday by two opposition groups, but 23 members announced today they were quitting: "We have been marginalised and our position and point of view have not been considered."

The 23 said they quit because of unequal representation between members from the south and the north of the country. North and South Yemen were united in 1990 but southerners often accuse the north of discrimination.

Despite the departures, the National Council elected Mohammed Basindwa, a key opposition leader and former Foreign Minister from the southern port city of Aden, as its President.

1825 GMT: The BBC summarises the military situation in Libya on three fronts....

Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Zawiya, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital Tripoli, says the insurgents appear to have established control. The bodies of sub-Saharan Africans could be seen on the streets, amid claims by the opposition that many of those fighting for the Qaddafi regime are foreign mercenaries.

Correspondent Orla Guerin, visiting Zlitan, said the insurgents appear to have a firm grip on the town, 60 km (37 miles) east of Tripoli, controlling the centre and manning checkpoints. However, small-arms and mortar fire could still be heard, and the opposition said there was still a risk of attack beyond a strategic bridge in the centre.

And an opposition military spokesman said fighters had been pushed back in the port of Brega in north-central Libya: "Yesterday, the industrial zone was under our complete control, but the truth is that today the situation has changed due to heavy artillery shelling. We withdrew to the eastern part of the industrial zone."

1635 GMT: Deborah Haynes of The Times of London sends a message from Zawiya, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli, "Wow. Serious long line of cars driving into Zawiya shouting Allah Akbar. Apparently they're moving bases."

1630 GMT: Activists claim that Syrian security forces have fired on protesters in the central province of Homs, killing two people and wounding at least eight.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces on Saturday shot dead two people in the town of Rastan, near Homs, including well-known activist Mahmoud Ayoub who organized anti-regime protests.

Eight people were reportedly injured in Homs, where a general strike protesting the military crackdown closed most of the city's markets.

Activists also claimed reported a wave of arrests in parts of the coastal city of Latakia, which had been occupied by the military this week, and a clean-up of the al-Ramel neighborhood before the arrival of a United Nations team. The UN observers arrive in Damascus on Saturday and visit Latakia on Sunday. A Western diplomat confirmed the report of the clean-up.

1305 GMT: A mass funeral gathering in Douma, outside the Syrian capital Damascus, for two men killed on Friday by security forces:

Two clips from a funeral procession in Harasta, northeast of Damascus:

And four funerals of victims in Palmyra in central Syria:

1240 GMT: Deborah Haynes of The Times of London reports from Zawiya, the town 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli taken by the opposition on Friday:

Just been to Zawiyah hospital, can confirm it's under rebel control but Qaddafi troops fired a volley of mortars while we were there. Doctors told me Gaddafi troops effectively held them hostage since saturday before the soldiers were pushed out by rebels last night.

Mortars also fired at the main square, silencing celebrations marking the rebel victory overnight. Pretty frightening.

Frontline is now in an area called Jordaiyn (sp), a suburb of Zawiyah on the eastern side along the road to Tripoli.

1200 GMT: Demonstrators in the Midan section of Damascus rush about amidst the sound of gunfire from security forces on Friday:

1122 GMT: An opposition military spokesperson has said there was no sign this morning of a counter-attack by regime forces against Zlitan, the town 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Tripoli, taken by the insurgency on Friday. Fighters are reportedly clearing the town, building by building, looking for any regime fighters.

Meanwhile, the opposition is said to hold the centre of the town of Brega but has still not taken control of the oil facilities.

1120 GMT: The Turkish military says warplanes have bombed 85 suspected targets of the Kurdish insurgency PKK in northern Iraq in a third day of attacks.

1115 GMT: Activists say that Syrian tanks re-entered the centre of the city of Homs at dawn.

0630 GMT: The opposition is claiming that, after weeks of fighting outside the town, it has taken the oil port of Brega in north-central Libya.

0610 GMT: Low-quality footage has been posted of a demonstration in Aleppo after dawn prayers.

0515 GMT: Friday unfolded pretty much as we expected in Syria --- defiant rallies despite the military operations, occupations, and killings of recent weeks, including more than 30 people reportedly slain yesterday. Videos testified to a continued, and arguably growing, intensity in the demonstrations, despite numbers being down --- no hundreds of thousands in a city centre like Hama or Deir Ez Zor --- because of the security crackdown.

The interesting follow-up is the news, brought by analyst Josh Landis, that the Baath Party has called an emergency meeting today. He suggests that President Assad and his inner circle may propose the amendment of Article 8 of the Constitution, which establishes the Baath Party as the “leader of the state and society" through the ceremonial "election" of Assad every seven years. 

Landis is not optimistic, however, that the meeting will lead to a genuine transition and political resolution:

I find the notion that the Assad family will look for a soft landing hard to believe, largely because there is no soft landing for this regime. From the opening days of this uprising I have predicted that Assad and his loyalists would try to fight their way out. The arguments against Assad negotiating an end to his regime are many. Here are a few. Close to a million Syrians will lose a great deal when this regime goes down — their jobs, their privileges, and some, if not many, will lose their lives. Syria’s allies also stand to lose a lot. Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas and are deeply invested in the Assad regime. It is widely reported that Iran has begun to send substantial amounts of money to prop up the regime and soften the blow of Western sanctions. Had Bashar and his family been willing to cut their losses, they would have done so months ago, before the level of anger and the possibility of wide spread revenge among top regime figures had risen to the present levels. If they negotiate today, most top figures will be unable to avoid the hangman’s noose.

And, while we do not have confirmation, I suspect there may also be emergency meetings amongst the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi. Insurgents now control Zawiyah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital Tripoli. Fighting is fierce in and around Zlitan, the major town between Tripoli and opposition-held Misurata to the east, with the opposition claiming that its forces have reached the town centre. An Al Jazeera correspondent confirmed the claim of insurgent advance into Zlitan, 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of the capital:

The rebel fighters took heavy losses, they came under fire from artillery and rockets but they moved forward. After fighters from Misurata moved in, opposition fighters within Zlitan rose and took on, in small groupings, the Qaddafi forces. The Qaddafi troops pulled out leaving ammunition and a lot of equipment behind.

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