A Syrian girl holds up an olive branch in a gesture of peace
2135 GMT: Zainab Alkhawaja provides details of this latest woman killed in Bahrain. According to her Twitter stream, the woman is named Fakhriya Jassim, 55 years old. She inhaled teargas in the town of Isa on New Year's Eve. According to Zainab:
Fakhriya's son says a day before she died his mother kept saying "this time the tear gas is different" she could barely talk. The night be4 being exposed to the teargas Fakhriya was fine, she went out shopping
She was the mother of 5 children, and had 10 grandchildren, according to alKhawaja.
We're still hearing rumors of more tear gas in Bahrain tonight.
2127 GMT: We've been tracking reports of teargas in Bahrain for the last hour or so, but not activists are reporting that a woman has died from teargas suffocation tonight. Said Yousif Almuhafda reports:
#Bahrain picture of fakhrya jassim alsakean who died today after sofecatung from tear gas .im with her family now
2050 GMT: This video was reportedly taken earlier today in Hama. Citizens talk to the Arab League observers, and one yells out, "They've massacred us."
There's an interesting, and important, subtext behind these conversations. Hama has paid a heavy price since the uprisings started in the spring. The first large-scale attack on civilians was in Hama, killing more than 70. But even this attack pales, next to the Hama massacre, committed by Bashar al Assad's father, Hafez, in 1982, where between 20,000 and 40,000 were killed by the regime.
This point is not lost on many activists, who view Assad's current actions as a family tradition, completely in line with what the Assads, and their backers in the military, are willing to do in order to maintain power. Just today, activists have shared this photo gallery, showing some of the devastation during the attack.
RT @ahmed: GRAPHIC: Defected soldier Khaled al-Zeer was reportedly tortured to death for refusing to fire at protesters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrPvjPt9qf0 #SYRIA
Idlib: Heavy gunfire accompanied by huge explosions on the southern Cornish, near al-Zarra bakery in the city of Idlib."
2018 GMT: Another video, from a different source, is claiming to have been taken tonight in the Saif al-Dawla district in Aleppo:
2010 GMT: There are large, and significant, protests lasting deep into the night. We have already posted several videos from the important Midan district of Damascus, we've received dozens of videos of night protests so far today.
Activists report that this was taken this evening in the Saif al-Dawla district of Aleppo. Any protest in Aleppo has added significance, and this looks like a fairly large protest in a central district of the city:<
This was reportedly taken in Barzeh, Damascus, north of the capital:
A large anti-government protest in the Karam el-Zitan district of Homs:
1955 GMT: Turning now to Yemen, a large crowd of women led a protest which ended in front of the home of a prominent MP in Sana'a:
1915 GMT: This video was reportedly taken earlier today in Hama, showing a military checkpoint of some kind firing on unknown targets:
1910 GMT: There have been more protests, and unconfirmed reports of violence, in Bildalqadeem village, Bahrain. The lighting is pretty poor, but this video reportedly shows part of the protesting crowd:
Eighteen members of the security forces were killed today by defected soldiers in the southern province of Dera'a. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the men were killed in the town of Jasim after threatening to shoot soldiers when it emerged that they wanted to leave the army with their weapons.
While no further details were released, this is the opposite of a pattern that we've become all too familiar with seeing in Syria, reports of soldiers killing defectors for failing to shoot civilians. This development is further evidence that the more inside the military are willing to defect, and willing to shoot back if they are threatened by the regime.
This is the second day that defectors have reportedly struck back at the regime. Yesterday, we noted in our liveblog that the opposition was claiming to have captured dozens of Assad-loyal soldiers, along with two checkpoints, in the Jabal al Zawiya region of Idlib, cite of much of the fighting between defectors and the army, and cite of a claimed massacre of defectors last month. The Guardian has received more details, courtesy of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:
More than 20 members of the regular army defected to the opposition after two military checkpoints were captured by anti-regime militia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The raids are being seen as an important sign that the Assad regime has failed to snuff out armed resistance in the area despite reports last month of a massacre of more than a hundred people in the area.
Dozens of regular army soldiers were captured in Monday's raids in the village of Kafr Hayya, according to the Observatory's Rami Abdulrahman
The head of the Free Syrian Army has threatened to escalate attacks against the regime, particularly once the Arab League observer mission is gone, if things don't improve.
1700 GMT: Last month, Mariam Al Sarraj was arrested alongside Zainab AlKhawaja for staging a sit-in protest at a roundabout on Budaiya Highway. Last night, she tweeted that her father had been arrested during a raid on the village of Sallihiya, a raid that nearly also led to the detention of Nabeel Rajab, President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
We have posted a separate feature with Mariam's complete account of what happened last night.
1555 GMT: An interesting video. These tanks, reportedly in Baba Amr today, are reportedly manned by the Syrian army, directly in front of the Arab League observers:
In today's sit-in at Al-Jisr Square, participants raised banners demanding the Arab League observers to visit the area as well as chanting for the regime's ouster and complying to the Dignity Strike all over the city.<
Former rebels of Tripoli and a separate group of fighters from the city of Misrata fought with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns. Col. Walid Shouaib, a member of Tripoli Military Council, said the clashes were triggered by arrest of a Misrata fighter on New Year's Eve by Tripoli fighters. He was suspected of robbery and the Misrata fighters were trying to free him.
A Misrata military council member, Mohammed al-Gressa, said he feared a civil war. He said a meeting was taking place between commanders of ex-rebels and the Tripoli military council.
"I am not optimistic because blood has been spilled," he told The Associated Press. "I feel this looks like a civil war."
Others said the clashes were not that serious.
This is not a good sign, but it's not entirely unpredictable. The fighters, all young men who remain heavily armed, were not part of any organized political groups, nor were they fighting over sectarian or political issues. If anything, the incident proves that the NTC is still not moving fast enough in the establishment of a permanent government and a permanent security structure.
1505 GMT: This video is significant. A high profile activist, Khaled Abu Salah, famous because he is willing to show his face, is speaking with Arab League observers. According to a source associated with the CFDPC, Salah, or someone, revealed to the observers that the Free Syrian Army had captured a tank, and the observers asked to see it, as they wish to comply with the wishes of the observers.
Where did the FSA get a tank? We've seen a few videos of tanks being left behind in Baba Amr, after the army pulled the majority of its tanks out of the city immediately before the arrival of the Arab League. It is possible that this is one of those tanks. However, why it was left behind one could only speculate. It may be broken, or perhaps the army can no longer afford to continue to move all these tanks around the country.
1445 GMT: The Arab League has called for an emergency meeting, which will take place on Saturday, in order to discuss the mission in Syria. It is entirely possible that the observers will be removed from the country based on the decision that happens on Saturday.
Meanwhile, France has strongly condemned the actions of the Assad regime:
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the regime must not be allowed to interfere with the observers on the ground.
"The conditions in which this observer mission is taking place need to be clarified," he told French television I-Tele. "Does it really have completely free access to information? We await the report that it will submit in the coming days to see more clearly."
Meanwhile, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has said that he has followed recent developments in Syria with "disgust and revulsion."
1430 GMT: US Ambassador Robert Ford has accused the Assad regime of something that EA's sources in the field have been reporting for months - namely that the government is stealing refined fuel and using it for it's own purposed, including its extensive use of military vehicles:
I have never seen this in an Arab country before – women having to stand in a long line in the night. We found it sad that these women, some older and some younger but who in any case normally should have been home with their families, instead were reduced to waiting in a line in the dark night.
The government and menhebbakjiyeh will try to blame the West for the shortages, but the sanctions do not stop sales of refined energy products to Syria. Western government specifically avoid this so as not to hurt the Syrian people. Instead, the government is limiting how much fuel it buys, military vehicles are using much mazut and there is corruption in the government distribution system too.
We hope for an end to this crisis and the beginning of a real transition that brings about respect of Syrians' human rights and an end to killing and torturing of peaceful protesters, and an end to the everyday indignities that Syrian men and women must suffer.
The Guardian posted the report, along with this video, a cue for fuel in Jobar, Damascus. Only a few months ago, shortages near the capital were not reported, and such reports were confined to areas in Idlib, and around Daraa and Homs:
1412 GMT: This video reportedly shows damage from RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) fired in what appears to be a market district in Homs. EA has no way of confirming what type of weapon caused this damage, nor who fired it:
Turning to Kafer Batna, the LCCS is claiming that the man who was killed was a soldier who refused to fire on unarmed protesters. Meanwhile, there is this report from nearby Zamalka:
Heavy shooting and the regime’s army is trying to open Sarghaya road, which was closed by the activists in implementation of Dignity strike.
LCCS has also posted video of protests, including a crowd around Arab League observers in Tafas, Daraa, as well as a martyr in Homs.
1349 GMT: James Miller takes the liveblog.
The Coalition of Free Damascenes For Peaceful Change has published a series of videos, reportedly taken last night in and around Damascus. According to sources, there was a concerted effort to ensure that many protests happened at the same time across the capital and its immediate suburbs. Last night, EA posted videos of a large protest in Shahbandar square, just west of the heart of the capital. Beyond this, the CFDPC has also posted videos of overnight protests in Qaboun, Kafer Souseh, Hammouriyeh, Saqba, and Zamalka. Below, we've included the videos from Hammouriyeh and the ever-important Kafer Souseh:
1050 GMT: In Bahrain, police have used force this morning to disperse a protest in Samaheej.
Dozens of protesters demanded the release of 18-year-old detainee Hassan Oun, whom activists claim has been abused and raped while in prison.
Photojournalist Mazen Mahdi later reported via Twitter, "Been briefly detained by Samaheej police, beaten once by riot police in front of the station during protest, then released. Lost track of how many times they hit me on the head, I think they hit me to forget the earlier ones."
1010 GMT: Journalist Amira Al Hussaini writes that even the honking of horns can prompt firing by security forces: "This is the sequence of events: They honk and chant, then you hear boom boom boom. Then we are in a teargas cloud."
0810 GMT: In Egypt, the third and final round of voting for the lower house of Parliament begins today, with balloting in nine provinces, including the Nile Delta, the south, and the tourist resorts of South Sinai.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party have taken the majority of votes and seats in the first two stages.
Meanwhile, the FJP announced Monday that it will seek an end to American aid to Egypt when Parliament is seated in January.
Ahmed Abou Baraka, the legal consultant for the FJP, said the aid is used to interfere in Egypt's internal affairs: "The report of the Central Auditing Agency shows that this aid has no economic or social impact on the Egyptian society. It is also a burden on the political and social decision-making in Egypt."
0800 GMT: In Bahrain, the 14 February Coalition has called for mass protests on Friday to honour "The Revolution Capital" of Sitra, where protests have been constant despite February and where 12 people have been killed:
This would appear to be a statement of the obvious, amidst cautious treading by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil El-Araby, amidst the mission by League observers:
Yes, there is still shooting and, yes, there are still snipers. Yes, killings continue. The objective is for us to wake up in the morning and hear that no one is killed. The mission's philosophy is to protect civilians, so if one is killed, then our mission is incomplete.
El-Araby couched this in claims of progress, with tanks and artillery pulling out of cities and residential neighbourhoods, food reaching residents, and bodies of dead protesters recovered.
Still, El-Araby's statement is definitive: "There must be a complete ceasefire. We call upon the Syrian government to fully commit to what it promised."
The question, of course, is whether --- beyond stating the obvious --- the Arab League lives up to that demand after the observers returns.