Protests in Hula, northwest of Homs, in Syria
1859 GMT: This video reportedly shows the aftereffects of the shelling of Jabal al Zawiya, Idlib province, by Syrian forces yesterday. Cars are on fire, bullet casings litter the ground, and a nearby house is ransacked:
1836 GMT: This video, reportedly taken today, shows women in Taiz, Yemen, chanting, "Oh Sanaa revolt revolt, towards the Presidential Palace."
1748 GMT: More video, reportedly showing protests in Hama today. One of the signs clearly reads, "SOS."
1744 GMT: Now Lebanon describes this video: "A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Thursday in the Homs area of Bab al-Sibaa shows many soldiers deploying on the street as gunfire can be heard in the background":
1729 GMT: Yesterday, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Imad Moustapha, spoke on NPR, and he tells a very different story than the evidence that we have collected here. In our conversation with NPR's Andy Carvin and Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell, none of us have seen any video evidence that would support the Syrian government's claims, despite the fact that Moustapha claims there are hundreds of videotapes that the Syrian government has collected which show armed gangs killing innocent civilians.
We have posted a separate feature with the full audio on the interview:
1656 GMT: According to the London-base Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, thousands of defecting soldiers have been arrested in Syria:
Abdul Rahman added that security forces have launched raids on the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amro and conducted arrests on Thursday.
“Homs can now be called the capital of the revolution… despite the killings and oppression, protests [against the regime] are still ongoing.”
1648 GMT: Back from a break to find the first video that definitively confirms defections in Homs. The video claims to show a group of soldiers greeted by protesters:
1541 GMT: Protests today in Hama, Syria:
1534 GMT: This video purports to show damage done by the Syrian military to the Khaled Ban Waleed Mosque in Khalidiya, Homs:
It's a hard claim to prove, but here is food for thought. With all of the tanks, machine guns, and soldiers deployed in the city, how would the opposition manage to get their hands on a soldier's body unless he had defected and was away from the pack?
1510 GMT: There are three important things about this video that was reportedly taken today at the Bab Dreib Gate in Homs. 1) It was taken by a soldier. 2) Machine gun fire, lots of it, and it's constant. Also, it appears to sound like 1 gun, so whatever they are shooting at is not shooting back. 3) The amount of troops being deployed down the road, suggesting that the gunfire is about to get a lot louder:
1451 GMT: Former Qaddafi loyalist Moussa Koussa is in Doha, the capital of Qatar, trying to help coordinate NATO attacks while also trying to earn a spot on the NAtional Transitional Council. However, the NTC has refused to take him because of the "blood on his hands."
The former minister is living in the city’s Four Seasons hotel, where he has been visited regularly by his sons. Qatar is picking up the tab, with his stay in the country sanctioned from the top by Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.
In the meantime, discussions over what to do with him continue. One defense official in the Qatari capital indicated that his continued presence was not entirely welcome and said Koussa was now “hanging around Doha like a bad smell.”
1437 GMT: Libya's National Transitional Council has vowed to not change its banking relationship with one of Italy's largest banks, saying it will honor all previous banking contracts and that it is a transitional council and will try to not make major changes until the elections.the NTC also said that none of its assests have been stolen or are missing from the bank.
1427 GMT: The Egyptian transitional government, run by the military, has put a halt to new satellite television channels, and has threatened to take action against current channels for "media unruliness." The vague decision could prevent the media from criticizing the transitional government during the lead-up to the elections. According to the state-run MENA news agency,
"It was decided in the meeting to stop issuing licenses for satellite channels temporarily," the news agency quoted Information Minister Osama Haikal as saying.
He said the cabinet had also tasked "the investments authority with taking legal measures against (existing) satellite channels that shake stability and security in this period.
1420 GMT: CNN reports on the latest news from the Mubarak trial, noting that this is the first time there have not been clashes outside the courtroom:
1409 GMT: Despite the fact that the National Transitional Council has given the Qaddafi loyalists in Sirte until Saturday to surrender, it seems the loyalists themselves are pushing that deadline forward. The Guardian reports that Qaddafi forces in Sirte are shelling freedom fighter positions east of the city (it's being described as a "modest shelling") and Al Jazeera reports that Qaddafi loyalists are firing rockets out of Bani Walid at opposition positions:
Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists have fired at least 10 rockets from inside one of his last strongholds, hours after a TV station aired an audio message reportedly from the ousted Libyan leader urging his fighters on.
At least 10 loud explosions could be heard on Thursday along the desert front line at Bani Walid, a dusty town of 100,000 some 140km southeast of Tripoli, following early morning skirmishes in the same area.
Smoke billowed from the projectiles - said to be Grad rockets - after they landed in Wadi Dinar, about 20km outside the town.
1404 GMT: James Miller returns, and he's got a lot of news to catch up on.
Staying with the theme, we'll start with Syria. There are reports of clashes between defected soldiers and the Syrian military. A contact for the Guardian has this report:
Violent clashes have broken out between defected and loyal soldiers in the province of Deraa this morning, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, which monitor protests in the country. They say the violence broke out after a raid on Busr al-Harir village was planned.
Information on the level of defections from the military is sketchy and hard to confirm but activists say an increasing number of soldiers are escaping from the army. "The regime has never fully trusted the army; it has always sent security agents and the shabiha [ghosts - pro-Assad militia] to watch over them," said one Damascus-based activist speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some defecting soldiers are protecting groups of demonstrators, leading to some fighting back against government forces. But despite the founding of a Free Officers' Movement, activists say networks between groups are limited, meaning that many unhappy soldiers can only desert rather than defect. The upper echelons of the army, populated by loyalists to the ruling Assad family, also remains tight knit.
1115 GMT: A note from Scott Lucas --- I have just landed in the UK after an overnight flight from California, so updates will be limited for a few more hours. Thanks to EA readers for their patience and for keeping us going, via the Comments sections, with latest news and ideas.
0417 GMT: Yesterday we reported that 17 people were killed in Homs. Al Jazeera is now saying that 21 were killed on Wednesday in Homs alone. But the city is not backing down. Protesters seem to be finding the areas of the city that don't have tanks, or snipers, and that is where they make their stand.
Now, the reports of defections are increasing. Syrian State TV, SANA, is reporting that soldiers were killed yesterday:
Eight soldiers and five "insurgents" were killed Homs, the official Sana news agency reported, adding that "dozens" of soldiers were wounded by "armed terrorists who attacked civilians and security forces" across the city.
"Security forces succeeded in eliminating them and five of the armed criminals were killed," Sana said, adding that several arrests had been made.
It said there was an "anti-tank missile strike against the hospital in Homs," and another near Homs where an "armed group ambushed and attacked a military truck".
SANA made similar claims when the military attacked Jisr al Shughour, but activists said that the soldiers were killed at point-blank range when they refused to fire on protesters. As per our conversation with NPR's Andy Carvin and Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell yesterday, none of us have seen a single piece of video that would back up the Syrian government's claims.
The activists, however, have plenty of video evidence for their claims. This video reportedly shows a large and defiant crowd chanting Wednesday night in the center of Homs, despite the violence (or, more accurately, because of it):