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Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Trying a President, Cutting Off Hama

2215 GMT: Mass rally in Homs in Syria tonight:

2100 GMT: Two clips of tonight's protest in Harasta, northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus, demanding the fall of the Assad regime:

See also Libya Interview: Qaddafi's Son Saif Al-Islam "We Will Ally with Radical Islamists"
Syria Document: The UN Security Council Resolution Condemning the Regime
Syria Video Essay (3 August): More Night Prayer and Protest
Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Sights and Sounds of Protest

1933 GMT: This video, reportedly taken today in Daraa, Nawa village, was uploaded not that long ago. Now there are credible reports of gunfire all around Daraa:

1745 GMT: A large convoy of tanks heads towards Hama today:

1741 GMT: Back from break...

Security personnel in the Zabadani neighborhood of Damascus, today:

1606 GMT: Another startling eyewitness account from Hama:

Arwa Damon of CNN has been speaking to a Hama resident by satellite phone. She says she had to "slink along walls [to] avoid snipers, saw corpses in street, wounded [are] dying" in hospital because the power has been cut off. She says people he knew tried to leave the city to get food and were shot by Syrian security forces.

If the math from the last report (below) is even close to accurate, then 130-160 people have died in the last two days in Hama. That would put the body count at well over 300 for the week, with high estimates ranging to 500. That does not count the missing, or the arrested, or the wounded. The numbers, even if exaggerated by 25 or 50 percent, are simply staggering:

1559 GMT: The report via the Guardian:

Activist group Avaaz has issued a statement saying 109 people have been killed today in Hama, Syria, as the crackdown continues there, citing a "medical source". The bodies that have come to al-Hourani hospital were shot at close range and mostly in the head, Avaaz says.

Avaaz also notes reports of screaming coming from the state security building in Damascus and the political security building in Zabadani.

1549 GMT: This dramatic video was taken yesterday, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus called "Black Stone." The videographer is filming soldiers, both military and irregulars, deploying through the city. Gunshots can be heard. As a testament to how brave some of these reporters are, he is filming while security is moving through the stairwell outside his door.

1534 GMT: Activists have informed us that the second and third video under the 1444 update took place in Midan, another very central neighborhood in Damascus.

1526 GMT: Reporter Jenan Moussa has this report from Hama:

Just spoke to man inside Hama. Has thuraya (satellite) phone. How scared he sounds! He asks me, "Does the world know about us! We are dying!

"Alamein street has dead bodies that we cannot collect due to snipers." This guy didn't sleep for 5 days.

This eyewitness tells me: All city surrounded except one road open. 2day 1 car with bread &vegetables entered #hama from jabal el zaweya.

He tells me about the UN condemnation: "What Can I say! how lame compared to sight of my friend's brain all over the room."

1517 GMT: Al Jazeera's Rula Amin has this update on the situation in Hama:

Just spoke to an activist in Hama, he says things are quiet now, army and security are deploying in major streets and intersections. (There are) snipers taking positions on rooftops, almost dividing city into 4 sections. Still no electricity.

There was shelling between 4-5 am , then from 12-2 pm.. security seems to be positioning itself for control. All shops, banks, govt offices all shut down, no water in some neighborhoods and mobile & landlines down.

Security deployed especially all along Alameen str, and talet Hader main roads that connects Homs and Hama.

1450 GMT: The first credible report of violence breaking out today in Hama, from Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times:

Hama witness tells @latimes stringer in damascus: "wounded cannot be saved. bodies lying on the roads. people trapped in homes

1444 GMT: A truly massive demonstration in Kafar Sousseh, a central neighborhood in Damascus. This video was taken at a funeral for Khaled Ramadan Alvakha, who we believe was killed yesterday.

Another funeral in Damascus (UPDATE: This is Midan, central Damascus):

1407 GMT: The Libyan opposition fighters have stolen an oil tanker, reportedly filled with oil, from Colonel Gaddafi:

A Libyan tanker reported to have been seized by rebels opposing Muammar Gaddafi is about to enter the rebel-held port of Benghazi having been cleared to proceed by NATO ships enforcing an arms embargo, NATO officials said on Thursday.

Sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday that suspected Libyan rebels seized the tanker Cartagena, which belongs to the Libyan government's shipping arm, off Malta and set course for Benghazi.

NATO officials said NATO forces enforcing an arms embargo on Libya had hailed the ship in the Mediterranean and had cleared it to proceed.

1353 GMT: This video was taken today in Ugarit, Damascus, where a funeral for a martyr, presumably someone killed yesterday, has again turned into a protest. James Miller notes that just a few weeks ago, the opposition was worried about the lack of large protests in Damascus, but for the last 3 days we've seen a steady stream of large protests, and large convoys of security forces trying to quell the unrest, in some of the most important neighborhoods and suburbs around the capital.

1303 GMT: This blog is all business, so it's time for a sports update.

Syrian goalkeeper Mosab Balhous was arrested in Homs on charges of "sheltering armed gangs," which has become a regime code word for cooperating with protesters, and possessing suspicious amounts of money. Balhous plays for Al Karamah (Dignity) sports club, a top division team.

Meanwhile, the goalkeeper of the Syrian U-23 men’s national football team, Abd Albasit Al Sarut, has recently appeared on a YouTube video accusing the army and the security forces of seeking to kill Balhous.

Sarut said the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad accused Balhous of plans to establish an “Islamic Emirate” in Homs following his participation in anti-regime protests.

But Sarut dismissed the accusation as “weak” and said the regime was simply seeking to spread chaos in and kill more civilian protesters.

1259 GMT: Women stage a sit-in near the Justice Building in Idlib City:

1253 GMT: An activist reported to the AFP that at least 30 people have been killed in Hama on Wednesday alone. He also added a detail that has confirmed what we've seen in several videos, that the people of Hama are burying their dead in parks, as it is unsafe to travel the streets for any distance.

1236 GMT: James Miller reporting for duty...

The Human Rights Watch is requesting that Saudia Arabia halt the trial of journalist Fahd al-Juhani. Juhani is accused of defaming an official, after he wrote about a health inspector's attempts to extort money from local shop keeped in Huta, south of Riyadh.

“Jailing journalists can only give Saudi Arabia a bad name,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “And silencing reporters who try to expose corruption sends the wrong message to Saudi officials and the public.”

1200 GMT: An activist who has left the occupied city of Hama in Syria has said at least 45 civilians were killed in a tank assault on Wednesday and early Thursday.

The activist said 40 people were killed by heavy machine gun fire and shelling by tanks in al-Hader district, north of the Orontes river. He claimed five more people from the Fakhri and Assa'ad families, including two children, were killed as they were trying to leave Hama by car on the al-Dhahirya highway.

Other residents said tanks had advanced into central Hama on Wednesday after heavily shelling the city, occupying the main Orontes Square. Snipers spread onto rooftops and into the nearby citadel, while shelling concentrated on al-Hader district, large parts of which were razed in 1982 when regime forces crushing an uprising and killed thousands of people.

1135 GMT: Claimed footage of Syrian military snipers on a rooftop in Nawa near Daraa in the south:

1130 GMT: Claimed footage of a late-night demonstration in Rastan near Homs in Syria:

See also Libya Interview: Qaddafi's Son Saif Al-Islam "We Will Ally with Radical Islamists"
Syria Document: The UN Security Council Resolution Condemning the Regime
Syria Video Essay (3 August): More Night Prayer and Protest
Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Sights and Sounds of Protest

1125 GMT: Libyan regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has confirmed that Qaddafi forces fired a missile at an Italian warship in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday.

The target appears to have been the Italian frigate Bersagliere, which was about 19 kilometres (12 miles) from the Libyan city of Zlitan. The missile fell harmlessly into the sea about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the ship.

Ibrahim said, ""We have amazing capabilities that we have not felt that we need to use yet. Our army is still very strong. We haven't used our real military power."

1115 GMT: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad issued a decree today authorising a multi-party system.

The decree allows political parties to function alongside the Baath Party, in power since 1963 with the constitutional status of “the leader of state and society". State news agency SANA reported the draft legislation was “aimed at enriching political life, creating a new dynamic and allowing for a change in political power".

1105 GMT: The trial of Egypt's former Minister of Interior, El-Adly, and six senior security officials resumed this morning.

The accused all face charges over the killing of protesters during the uprising against the Mubarak regime.

The proceeding against El Adly was joined with that against former President Hosni Mubarak yesterday, but has been separated again, meeting the request of defense lawyers.

Al Jazeera English's Sherine Tadros has a latest update, during a recess in proceedings:

All [the] boxes full of evidence have now been opened by the judges. It was pretty theatrical at times, especially when the judge couldn't find scissors to open some of the rope that was around the boxes and he started using a lighter to open it. Theatrical too because of what was coming out of these boxes, not just documents and CDs and notebooks but even bloodstained clothes and guns.

The next stage really is for the judge to most likely adjourn the case. The point that the defence lawyers are making is that they want time to look at all of this evidence and examine it, probably behind closed doors, I don't think that part will be broadcast live for Egyptians. And we expect that when the judge comes back, he will announce to the defence lawyers when it is possible for them to go and have a look at that evidence.

0850 GMT: Bahraini police raided the offices of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) last week, claiming the aid group was operating without permission.

The regime's confirmation followed MSF's condemnationover the storming of its premises.

Bahrain's Ministry of Health said police searched the group's medical center and arrested an employee, charged with offenses including providing medical services without a license.

MSF said armed Bahraini forces damaged property, confiscated all medical supplies, and arrested volunteer Saeed Mahdi.

0830 GMT: Pro-reform marches, followed by clashes with security forces, in Bahrain last night --- first, Barbar:


And in Sitra:

0600 GMT: And while concern grows over the fate of Hama, the United Nations Security Council --- after three days of debate --- agreed on a statement which "condemn[s] widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities".

But, even as Russia and China were brought on board for the statement's passage, the questions arose: will the statement carry any impact? Does it matter for Hama?

0535 GMT: For a few hours yesterday, attention shifted to the legal and political theatre in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Former Presidential Hosni Mubarak, lying on a stretcher in a defendants' cage, joined by his son and his former Minister of Interior, was being tried for corruption and for ordering the murder of protesters against his regime. 

Almost all of the hearing was entangled in the procedural complications and manoeuvres of establishing who was representing the defendants, who should be in the courtroom, whether the trials should continue to be joined or should be separate. The headline moments were symbolic: Mubarak --- was he really sick or was he posturing? --- uttering one sentence to deny the charges against him but, in a moment that overtook all others, caught on video in the very un-Presidential act of picking his nose.

Even if there was little to note before the trial adjourned until mid-August, the emotional significance of the moment, as pro- and anti-Mubarak factions clashed outside the Police Academy, could not be understated. The political impact --- not with Mubarak as yesterday's ruler but with the post-Mubarak Egypt under its military leaders --- remains to be seen.

And so from Cairo to the more immediate story of Syria. While James Miller sifted through dozens of videos yesterday of protest and conflict, posting the most compelling in a video essay, the story was in absence --- it appears that the regime, moving tanks and troops into Hama, has now cut off communications with the city. Even activists such as the Local Coordinating Committees say they cannot get news of what is happening in Syria's fourth-largest city.

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