See also See also Syria Video Special: Friday's Protests of Defiance --- Set 3 br>
Syria Video Special: Friday's Protests of Defiance --- Set 2 br>
Syria Video Special: Friday's Protests of Defiance --- Set 1 br>
Syria Feature: Defecting Military Officers Tell Their Stories br>
Egypt Opinion: "Lest We Forget" Why the Revolution Is Worthwhile br>
Israel Mystery: Who Carried out the Bus Attack in Eilat? br>
Syria Special: Syrian Ambassador to US Responds to Accusations br>
Thursday's Syria, Libya (and Beyond) Liveblog: Protests in Homs Defy Violence
2045 GMT: Another clip of the mass rally, organised by the opposition party Al Wefaq (see 1629 GMT), in Bahrain today:
1905 GMT: An activist has uploaded this video and is claiming that the Al-Fateh hospital in the Kafar Batna suburb of Damascus has been boarded up by Syrian military in order to prevent the hospital from treating injured protesters. Earlier, we reported that Syrian military had raided a hospital in Homs on Wednesday and removed 18 injured protesters, including 5 who were in the operating room.
1859 GMT: According to Al Jazeera's David Poort, NTC fighters are claiming that they have penetrated the Qaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid and are now only 2km from the souq. He also reports that 1 NTC fighter is dead and 4 are wounded. According to an NTC spokesman:
“I think we are very close. We are pushing further and we hope we can take the city without further fighting. But from our experience, they [pro-Gaddafi troops] are fighters – very professional, from different parts of Libya and also mercenaries.
But once we engage with them they throw down their weapons. There are snipers who shoot at the troops and at civilians.
We have taken seven prisoners. We are now 2 to 1.5 km from the centre of town, from the souq.
When we will go in for the final push [it] is up to the commanders in the field and to their superiors. We’ve entered the area from the east, north and south. The deadline is finished. They [pro-Gaddafi troops] finished it.
There are some 600 pro-Gaddafi fighters still in the area. The move in groups and are equipped with sniper rifles and heat-seeking missiles.
We hope that Saif al-Islam is inside the area.
1851 GMT: A Dramatic video, claiming to show the Kiswah district of Damascus. Soldiers can be seen firing up the street in the general direction of the cameraman, who seems to be inside.
A few important notes. We can only see a sliver of the street, and the majority of the firing does not seem to be coming from the soldiers we see in frame. Based on the impact noise that can be heard when they do shoot, they appear to be shooting live ammunition. No bullet impacts can be seen in the area where the soldiers are standing, and based on their repeated breaking of cover, it does not appear that these soldiers are being shot at. None of the firing that is in the background appears to be in the immediate area of the videographer, suggesting that it is on a cross street behind the cameraman.
Regardless, the amount of gunfire in a residential neighborhood in Damascus is unnerving:
1742 GMT: Pro-Qaddafi forces have launched rocket attacks from the strongholds of Sirte and Bani Walid. However, even more important news is breaking:
The Libyan Freedom Fighters have begun the attack on Bani Walid:
Anti-Gaddafi commanders said they had cleared outlying areas and were within two kilometres of the centre.They said they hoped to have full control in the next few hours.
Bani Walid and three other loyalist-held towns had been given till Saturday to surrender but the anti-Gaddafi forces said they had come under attack.
1733 GMT: Yet another video of the massive protest rally during Friday prayers in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen:
1709 GMT: Protesters in Cairo are taking apart, brick by brick, the wall that the Egyptian government had recently constructed around the Israeli embassy. The wall was put up to prevent damage of the embassy after Israel killed several Egyptian soldiers in an air strike several weeks ago. Here is a picture, uploaded minutes ago:
1646 GMT: According to the Guardian, 2 people have been killed today in Homs and Jab al Zawyeh today:
In addition, the LCCs said, eight soldiers were executed in Kesweh and Zabadani in Damascus "for refusing to open fire on protesters there". There seems to have been some kind of resistance by soldiers at their barracks in Kesweh, according to the activist group. One of the "martyred" soldiers was named by the LCCs as Khalid Mohammad Kharma. Six people were also injured, some of them critically, when security forces fired on demonstrators in Kesweh, the LCCs said.
One of the dead in Homs was named as Abdul Razaq Shakir Al Masri.
1640 GMT: This video reportedly shows protesters in Hama, south of the football stadium, running from Shabiha (plain-clothed "ghosts" loyal to the Assad regime):
1629 GMT: According to some activists, the largest rally since March has taken place today in Bahrain. This is video of the rally, organized by the opposition party Al-Wefaq, on what the protesters are calling the "Friday of No Condescension."
1619 GMT: We've received a graphic video showing the body of two people killed today in Idlib, Syria. This video, however, if different from the rest.
Earlier we reported about a soldier, Hussein Harmoush, who had defected from the Syrian military and was hiding, along with other soldiers, in the home of his brother. We noted that a raid had occurred in and attempt to find the 11 soldiers, and at least 5 people were reportedly killed.
This video shows the bodies of Muhannad Hourieh, and Mohammed Harmoush - the brother of Hussein Harmoush.
1559 GMT: The scene today in Keswah, in the Damascus suburbs, where almost constant gunfire can be heard. These soldiers, according to the video, are shooting at protesters, though whatever they are shooting at appears to be out of the frame. Men and women can be heard screaming in the background:
"A 15-year-old boy was martyred when soldiers manning a checkpoint opened fire in the village of al-Rama, in Jabal al-Zawiyah," in the northwest, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
AFP is reporting that heavy clashes were underway on Friday near Bani Walid, a stronghold of loyalists to Muammar Gaddafi, a military commander of the new interim government said. "Fierce fighting between our forces and pro-Gaddafi ones are underway in sectors very close to Bani Walid," Abdullah al-Khzami told AFP.
Al Jazeera's correspondent Sue Turton said that there is a different atmosphere today on the outskirts of Bani Walid. "Fighters are coming past and shouting 'we need more ammunition'."
"We've seen a constant stream of reinforcements, fighters coming in from other parts of the country," she said. "We can see a build up., but when the attack is going to happen, we still have no idea."
1527 GMT: CNN is reporting that the Syrian military raided the al-Barr hospital in Homs on Wednesday and "snatched" 18 wounded men, including 5 who were in the operating room:
"They were looking for a specific person called Bilal. The administrator told them that there had been a Bilal who arrived at the hospital but he had died from his wounds and his family had already taken the body," the doctor said. "The security forces then asked the administration for lists of wounded who had arrived that day and then I saw them go through the rooms of the hospitals taking anyone with a bullet wound, regardless of when they had arrived. In total they took 18 wounded from the hospital. Five of them were taken from the operating room, including two who were still unconscious."
1517 GMT: This video reportedly shows pro-Assad plain-clothed agents (Shabiha, "ghosts") attacking unarmed civilians outside the Al-Hasan mosque in the Midan district of Damascus, during today's "Friday of International Protection" protest.
1507 GMT: An activist has forwarded us this video, reportedly showing police beating a member of Bahrain's youth as they are arresting him last night:
Today, protests continue in Bahrain. A Twitter account associated with the opposition party Al Wefaq posts this picture:
1459 GMT: This video, reportedly taken in Zamalka, Damascus, shows protesters chanting towards a soldier who beckons to plain-clothed "Shabiha, armed with clubs, to approach the protesters:
1421 GMT: Below is a live stream of protests outside Egypt's Ministry of Interior, where a massive crowd is protesting:
"We want to restore our constitutional rights. We demand satisfactory change," read a banner carried by Islamist and leftist demonstrators who marched after midday prayers from Al-Husseini Mosque to the nearby city hall.
Waving national flags and calling for elected governments and "genuine reforms," the protesters chanted: "We want a reformed constitution and we want it to see the light."
"We will keep pushing for comprehensive reforms. We insist that the people should elect their own governments," Hamma Said, the top leader of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, told the demonstrators.
There were smaller demonstrations in several other cities in towns across the country.
1357 GMT: James Miller takes the liveblog, and a HUGE thank you to Scott Lucas for setting the blog up. Welcome back.
Two new videos from Yemen today, where massive protests are underway during what the activists are calling the "Friday of Victory." The first video is from Taiz's Freedom Square:
The second video shows women and men protesting in Sana'a:
1335 GMT: Returning to our opening entry (see 0700 GMT) on the killing of defecting troops by Syrian forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the military abducted the brother of an officer who announced his defection in June and handed his body over to his family early on Friday.
On Thursday, security forces raided the home of Mohammad Harmouche, 74, in the northwestern village of Ibleen where three military defectors were also slain. His brother, Lieutenant Colonel Hussain Harmouche, was the first Syrian army officer to announce his defection.
Syria's State news agency SANA, quoting an unnamed military source, said that the Ibleen raids targeted several members of "armed terrorist groups" and that six members of the security forces were killed and three others wounded in the operation.
1255 GMT: Back to Egypt and the protests calling for change from the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces. On the Qasr el-Nil bridge:
Fans of the football team Al-Ahly outside American University Cairo, chanting against the Ministry of Interior:
And a march in the Giza section of Cairo:
Demonstrations are also reported in Alexandria with chants such, as “No to the military council’s monopolisation of power”, “Put all the murderous officers on trial”, and “Everything is the same even after the revolution".
1215 GMT: Large demonstrations are also reported in Yemen today --- a march in Ibb:
And a protest in Al Beydah:
The International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requested the warrants on Thursday.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said, "As far as Interpol's general secretariat headquarters is concerned, Muammar Gaddafi is a fugitive whose country of nationality and the ICC want arrested and held accountable for the serious criminal charges that have been brought against him."
The ICC issued arrest warrants in June for the three men for crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, "local sources" have said General Ali Kana, in charge of Qaddafi's troops in southern Libya, has fled to Niger.
1100 GMT: Video of troops and tanks in the Bab Dreib district of Homs, Syria's 3rd-largest city, today:
1050 GMT: Analysts are warning of a "catastrophic" economic situation in Yemen, as "poverty has increased, unemployment has doubled, services have deteriorated and prices of consumer goods have tripled since the beginning of the year", according to Mohammed Afandi, director of the Yemeni Center for Strategic Studies.
Afandi says about 60% of Yemen's 24 million people are now living below the poverty line on an income of less than $1 a day. Inflation has is now above 35%, with shortages of petroleum products and cooking gas escalating prices 200% and 300% above the official rates.
According to Anwar Eshki, director of the Saudi-based Middle East Institute for Strategic Studies, economic growth in Yemen fell to 3% in the first quarter of 2011 and 1.5% in August, down from 4.5% in 2010, with the political crisis discouraging foreign investors and local entrepreneurs.
Eshki said only 17 new firms have been established in Yemen in the first quarter of this year, compared to 92 start-up companies during the same period in 2010, while at least 500 factories have been forced to shut down since the start of 2011.
0940 GMT: According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to adopt a series of harsh measures against Turkey amidst tension between West Jerusalem and Ankara.
Amidst the steps, to be discussed in a high-level Foreign Ministry meeting on Saturday, are a travel warning urging all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to or boarding connections in Turkey. Lieberman, during a visit to the US, would meet with leaders of the Armenian lobby to propose anti-Turkish cooperation in Congress, and Israel may also back Armenia in its dispute with Turkey over control of Mount Ararat.
Most striking, however, is this claim, "Lieberman is also planning to set meetings with the heads of Kurdish rebel group PKK in Europe in order to 'cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area'. In these meetings, the Kurds may ask Israel for military aid in the form of training and arms supplies."
One afternoon in May, police in Bahrain led away security guard Mahdi Ali from his job at the Gulf kingdom's state-controlled aluminum plant. He claims he was blindfolded and beaten so severely that the bruises still have not healed.
His only offense, he insists, is being part of Bahrain's Shiite majority as it presses for greater rights from Sunni rulers who have Western allies and powerful Gulf neighbors on their side.
The 44-year-old Ali now counts himself among Bahrain's purged: Hundreds of Shiites — some say thousands — dismissed from jobs or suspended from universities for suspected support for demonstrators.
"My only crime is being Shiite," said Ali, who claims he has been effectively blacklisted from finding a new job. "I've paid for it by being dismissed, arrested, tortured and insulted."
The messages exalt the “gains harvested” under the conservative government of M. Abbas El Fassi since 2007, with a website Makassib (Achievements) launched before expected parliamentary elections on 25 November.
Moroccan Twitter users have reacted with humour and sarcasm via a dedicated #Makassib: "Browsing through the #Makassib website, I felt like there were no more problems in Morocco!"
Another activist turned the regime campaign by linking it to a video calling for a march next Sunday to protest living conditions, "Take that in your face, #Makassib!"
The list includes Vice-President Farouk al-Shara and Minister of Interior Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar and organisations such as Syrian Military Intelligence and the Al Mashreq Investment Fund.
0820 GMT: A women's march in Dhamar in Yemen on Thursday calls for pressure on the regime:
0720 GMT: While the headline-grabbing story in Libya is the search for former leader Muammar Qaddafi, the more important development is the attempt of the new government to establish its authority.
The Guardian of London summarises the first public appearance in Tripoli of Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the National Transitional Council, and his admission: "I agree there hasn't been a good contact and connection because of what's going on in the liberation of Libya. We promise after next week we hope to start a national dialogue through the territories of Libya."
Saoud Elhafi, a co-founder of the February 17 Coalition, is representative of the concerns over the NTC's performance: "There is definitely a vacuum. [Jibril] needs to fill this vacuum as soon as possible. He was assigned to form a new government but we are yet to see it. Part of stability is to provide services to the people --- otherwise, they will revolt."
Jibril used his press conference for this response, "I call on all Libyans, especially the youths, to see this is a stage where we have to unify and be together and have national honour, not to attack each other because the battle is not yet finished. Once the battle is over and the constitution is finished and there is an interim government, the political games can start."
0715 GMT: In Zabadani outside Damascus, protesters chant to President Assad, "Bashar, we don't run away from death":
An anti-regime demonstration in the Midan section of Damascus last night:
0700 GMT: It is Friday, so our first port of call is likely to be Syria, where we expect an escalation in the daily displays of defiance against the Assad regime. However, it is no longer just a case of watching for protests, sustained despite the bloody crackdown on dissent --- we are also looking for evidence of defections in the Syrian military.
CNN posts this account:
The column of military vehicles rolled into the village of Ibleen shortly after dawn on Thursday. Residents said artillery fire and machine gun fire followed soon after.
The troops left a path of destruction in their wake.
A video distributed on the internet by opposition activists shows several burned-out cars, the charred carcass of a motorcycle and a torched pick-up truck. Empty bullet casings litter the ground outside a home that has clearly been ransacked. A thick trail of blood leads from a discarded plastic sandal up a set of crude earthen stairs.
The target of the raid, residents said, were a group of at least eleven soldiers who had taken shelter in Ibleen after defecting from the Syrian army.
"This is the village of Hussein Harmoush," said a resident who only gave his first name Yousuf, to protect himself from government retribution. He was referring to a Syrian army officer who defected months ago and began broadcasting video statements denouncing the Syrian government, before eventually fleeing to neighboring Turkey.
In a phone call with CNN, Yousuf said at least five defector soldiers were killed in the Ibleen raid.
Those casualty figures were roughly corroborated by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory's director, Rami Abdul Rahman, told CNN the army deserters had been taking shelter in Harmoush's brother's house in Ibleen.
Residents said after destroying the village, security forces arrested at least a dozen people, including children.
"Their age is not more than 10 years," Yousuf sobbed into the phone, speaking of at least five children he said were captured. "We are asking all humans to stop this bloodshed against my people."...
In recent weeks, there has been a marked increase in reports emerging from Syria of security forces pursuing and targeting communities that have sheltered soldiers who have broken with the Damascus regime.
Opposition groups claim this week's military offensive into the central city of Homs also was triggered by the defection of soldiers there.
A video purportedly filmed in Homs shows about a dozen uniformed soldiers standing on a balcony, addressing a crowd of hundreds of cheering supporters on the street below. They issue defiant challenges against the government in Damascus.
"We exist for you people, and God willing we will protect you against the tyrant," said a uniformed man who was identified as an officer from Dair El Zor. "We will do that for you because you proved how brave you are and you can protest in a peaceful way and stand in front of the tank without any fear."