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Friday
Aug262011

Libya, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The State of the Uprisings

Protest last night in Zabadani section of Syrian capital Damascus


We're closing the blog for the day. Thank you for reading. We will be running the liveblog tomorrow, but it will not be updated as often, with Scott Lucas in the USA. James and Ali will be making updates approximately mid-day, so stay tuned.

2118 GMT: The LCCS is reporting that live ammunition and tear gas has been fired at protests in Douma, Damascus, in front of the Al Watani hospital. Also, a reliable activist in Syria who uses the pseudonym "Alexander Page" has an unconfirmed report that security forces are using ambulances to drive into protests in Qatana, Damascus, and they are shooting at the protesters from the back of the vehicles. Many activists are reporting that protesters are being arrested and harassed in and around Damascus tonight.

2110 GMT: Protests after Taraweeh prayers tonight, Zabadani, Damascus, Syria:

2103 GMT: Activists are reporting the presence of 30,000 protesters on the streets of Homs. We can't verify that number, but what we do know is that the amount of video coming from the city, like this one, from different sources and from different areas, suggests that in Homs, and around Damascus, the crowds tonight are very large:

2050 GMT: A very large anti-government demonstration in an important suburb of Damascus, Harasta, earlier today:

2041 GMT: A large protest in Midan, Damascus tonight, where the people are calling for the execution of President Bashar al Assad:

Before joining the large protests tonight, the people of Homs have a message, in many languages, for the outside world - They want freedom, they don't want Assad, and we should not trust the Syrian media:

2018 GMT: Protesters tonight inside the Omar Ghouta Mosque immediately after Taraweeh prayers:

And protesters tonight, after leaving the mosques, on the streets of Homs:

1938 GMT: A significant video, as the protest in Aleppo seems fairly large:

1930 GMT: There are reports of protests in Aleppo, and now we have a video of a small anti-Assad gathering there:

1917 GMT: A curious update from the Guardian, as Italy is accusing Qaddafi of deliberately sending African migrants to a small island in the Mediterranean in order to create "chaos:

Italy's foreign minister Franco Frattini has told the Sky Italia television station that the Italian government has "proof of orders" given by Gaddafi to send thousands of African migrants to the tiny island of Lampedusa.

The island is a gateway for migrants entering the EU through Italy, many attempting perilous sea crossings in overcrowded boats to get there. The Italian government had reported a sharp increase in the number of African migrants arriving on the island this month, believed to have been fleeing violence in Libya, but Frattini now says it has messages that show the mass departure of boats from Libya was co-ordinated and would make these public.

"We have proof of orders given by Gaddafi's government to transform Lampedusa into an inferno: 'Put thousands of desperate people on boats and throw the island into chaos.' We have proof and we cannot ignore it," he also told the Avvenire newspaper.

Hafed Gaddur, Libya's ambassador to Italy, and who defected in February, has also said orders to put migrants on boats were given by Gaddafi.

1832 GMT: In Libya, there is evidence of executions, mass graves, and at least 80 rotting bodies have been found inside a Tripoli hospital.AFP provides this update on prisoners of war apparently killed by pro-Qaddafi forces:

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi killed more than 150 prisoners in a "mass murder" as they fled the rebel takeover of Tripoli, a rebel military chief told AFP on Friday.

"There were instances of revenge in the last few hours before the fall of the regime," said Abdel Nagib Mlegta, head of operations for the takeover of the capital.

"In Bab al-Aziziya there was a mass murder. They killed more than 150 prisoners. The guards did it before running away. They threw hand grenades at them," he said, referring to Gaddafi's fortified headquarters.

1825 GMT: Back from a quick break and a not-so-quick anti-hurricane errand to find even more videos from Syria. This one is notable, a large anti-government protest in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka:

Far less jubilant, a disturbingly graphic video of a protester, shot dead by a sniper, in Qaboun, Damascus, where large protests have been reported.

1708 GMT: Opposition fighters are claiming that they are in full control of the Tripoli airport, site of major clashes in recent days. The fighters are also claiming that they have control of most of Abu Salim, the embattled neighborhood that has been occupied by Qaddafi forces and may still be occuipied by snipers.

1615 GMT: Andrew Simmons reports on a grim situation and growing humanitarian crisis in the Abu Salim hospital, Tripoli, a neighborhood where Qaddafi forces have been fighting the opposition fighters for several days:

The Guardian has been speaking with Jonathan Whittal, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières in Tripoli, where the organization has been trying to help fix the situation:

Jonathan Whittal of MSF in Tripoli. Interview: Paul Owen (mp3)

1608 GMT: Activists are reporting that at least 16 people have been killed so far today in Syria:

* Deir Ezzour: Three protesters killed

* Nawa, near Deraa: One protester killed

* Mleeha, in Deraa province: One protester killed.

* Qaboun, in Damascus: One protester killed.

* Maraat al Naaman, in north-west: One protester killed.

* Bosra, in Deraa: One soldier killed.

1538 GMT: James is drowning in a flow of videos and information out of Syria. There are major protests in and around Damascus, in Hama, Homs, Daraa, and Idlib province. There are other reports of protests elsewhere, which we're still trying to confirm.

But the protesters aren't the only ones who are busy. This video clearly shows "heavily armed security forces storming the Damascus suburb of Hajr al Aswad."

And this video, perhaps even more concerning, shows tanks and soldiers surrounding the Omar Bin Khattab mosque in Jasim, Daraa:

1534 GMT: Protesters in Homs coming under fire today:

1530 GMT: Protests in Hama, Syria, despite heavy security presence:

1502 GMT: Only 20 countries in the African Union have recognized the National Transitional Council as the government of Libya, and as a result, the AU is not yet ready to do the same. South Africa's leader, Jacob Zuma, who has recognized the NTC, made this statement on the matter:

If there is fighting (within the AU), there is fighting. So we can't stand here and say this is the legitimate (government) now. The process is fluid. That's part of what we inform countries - whether there is an authority to recognise.

1432 GMT: The latest on Libya. Fighting has been raging in Ras Jdir, on the coastal border with Tunisia.

Also, the Guardian's Chris Stephen reports that opposition fighters are massing in Misurata, preparing for a final assault on Qaddafi's home town, Sirte, while trying to negotiate with the peaceful surrender of the city:

Tanks, heavy artillery and rocket launchers abandoned by fleeing government forces, are being assembled for the attack, and hurriedly painted black, a precaution against being hit in friendly fire incidents.

Rebels told the Guardian on Thursday that a British and French special forces team is helping co-ordinate the assault, in which Misratan units will push eastwards to link up with forces from Benghazi which are this morning fighting their way westwards.

Misratan rebels are also advancing in other directions: one unit has reached the outskirts of Beni Walid, 100 miles south west, and was attempting to negotiate the surrender its loyalist defenders.

1424 GMT: James Miller takes the blog, and Al Jazeera's Nisreen El Shamayleh gives her latest report on Syria from across the border in Jordan:

1410 GMT: In Khalidiya, Homs, the people want the execution of the president.

1405 GMT: Demonstrations in Aleppo and Homs respectively.

1400 GMT: A group of children in Sanaa, waering different flags, representing the "Arab Spring."

1355 GMT: According to Amnesty International, Gaddafi forces opened fire on and killed "numerous" detainees at two military prison camps in Tripoli.

1340 GMT: Rebels in Libya found Gaddafi's modified Fiat-500 which is bright green with gold trimmings. Its estimated cost is £175,000 (200,000 euros). 

A group of protesters in Qatana, Damascus,chant "now that Qaddafi has gone, its your turn you butcher."

Protestors in Homs holding signs in support of cartoonist Ali Ferzat.

It is reported that rebels and Gaddafi forces battle at Ras Ajdir on Libya's border with Tunisia.

Video from the anti government protest in Al-Hasan mosque in Midan.

Huge crowds in Sanaa, Radaa and Dhamar on Omens of Victory Friday on the International Day of Al-Quds.

Another video footage from Alrastin showing people chanting "people want to execute the president!"

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister said:

We believe it is very important that the new Libyan flag is recognised and flown in the United Nations as it is symbolically representing the sole authority of the Libyan people and of their sovereignty.

1235 GMT: Al Jazeera's Nisreen el Shamayleh reports the latest from Ramtha on the Jordan-Syria border.

Two video footages showing Syrians in Homs, gathering around some sports utility vehicles, presumably carrying UN delegation members, in the Clock Square. At that point, a red car carrying sodiers arrives on the left-hand side of the screen and soldiers fire over protestors. Activists claim that three killed and six injured. 

Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports that heavy gunfire was also heard in Al Qusour district from the Mousa Eben Nusseir mosque in Daraa.

It is reported that NATO is hitting Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte. It is said that NATO warplanes targeted 29 armed vehicles near the town, which is 400 km east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. 

According to AFP, Syrian security forces are searching people behind the attack on Cartoonist Ali Ferzat, 60, whose two fingers of his left hand and his right arm were broken and his left eye was damaged. Opposition activists have accused members of the security services and masked pro-regime militias of being behind the attack.

According to Reuters, forces loyal to President Basharal-Assad fired at protesters demanding his removal in the Damascus suburb of Douma after Friday prayers. Two are claimed to be killed but not confirmed. 

Reuters has posted pictures of civilians evacuating from Tripoli's city centre as rebels try to flush out forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. 

0955 GMT: Following the morning prayer on Friday, this video showing protestors in the city of Deraa, chanting "the people want to topple the regime!"

0935 GMT: An activist reports from Libya that people in Zawiyah are "picking up the debris from the ravaged square of ghost town, Zawiyah."

Activists says eight people were killed by Syrian security forces overnight.

Demonstrations with signs and slogans such as "Congratulations to the Libyan people" and "God is with us. The revolution is bringing together the free" took place acorss the country.

Andrew Simmons of Al Jazeera English from Tripoli this morning:

 

Abu Salim Trauma Hospital -- cut off from any outside help. Seven medics, only 2 docs trying to cope with 21 seriously ill....Say their mortuary is full and bodies have to lie in a side ward and outside. We counted 29. Docs say more than 100 in total....Eye witness, a restaurant owner says the killings were on Sunday....Horrific pictures in Trauma Hospital. Trail of dry blood leads to makeshift morgue. Stench all over hospital....Investigation needed re war crimes. And immediate action. Humanitarian emergency.

 

Now Libya....

The headline story on Thursday was the attempt by the insurgents to extend control across Tripoli. The hot rumour that Muammar Qaddafi was surrounded in central Tripoli never materialised into reality, but the fighters did move through the Abu Selim neighbourhood, one of the last areas with a significant presence of the former regime's troops. There was also intense fighting in the Gharghour area.

Insurgents moved into Abu Selim after a NATO airstrike hit a fire station and several other buildings.

And on a largely-forgotten front of the Arab Spring, expect more mass rallies in Yemen, where political stagnation and skirmishes are the daily state of play. Claimed, blurred footage of the regime's Republican Guards using gunfire and water cannon to disperse young protesters in Taiz last night:

On this Friday, most media attention is likely to be on the Great Qaddafi Hunt (more on that in a few minutes), but it's useful to remember that Libya is far from the only developing story. 

First to Syria. Protest and confrontation has not receded since the last Friday of demonstrations against President Assad, but we will start with a twist --- this clip is apparently of soldiers and people chanting together in support of the regime:

Now back to the standard footage of overnight protest calling for changes. The Zamalka section of Damascus:

And on the diplomatic front, an apparent ripple in the position of neighbouring Iraq toward the conflict. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken the cautious line of balancing a call for "needed reforms" and "guarantees for citizens to demand their rights" with a rejection of "the idea of armed action or sabotage and bringing down regimes in this way".

However, the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaida'ie, has now said that regime change is on the way:

 

The Assad regime is steadily losing its friends, its credibility and its grip. It only has Iran behind it, along with a shy neutrality from Russian and China. Other than that, it has lost. The coming change in Syria will alter the balance of power in the region and will eventually weaken Iran and reduce its capacity to project its power through Hezbollah, Hamas, and other instruments. And it will release Lebanon from the overbearing dominance of Syria.

 

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