Bahraini medics after an earlier appeal against their prison sentences (see 0600 GMT)
2205 GMT: That last update appears to be even more significant than we originally thought. First of all, an opposition Facebook page says that there were clashes between anti-government protesters and Bahraini police yesterday in the village of Al Dair. Apparently, there was another protest in Al Dair tonight (see a photo gallery posted by activists).
But the significant piece of evidence is this video, which shows a crowd being attacked by plain-clothed men. The attackers then appear to grab a young boy and drag him away. Towards the end of the video, a white van, which appears to be similar to one used by police, appears in the frame, suggesting that the plain-clothed men are the same as the ones in the last video and are working with the police. At the very end of the video, a policeman appears and fires teargas towards the now-scattered crowd, confirming this suspicion:
A daytime rally, reportedly today in Al Dair village:
2159 GMT: This video was reportedly taken today in Al Dair village, Bahrain. What's remarkable, beyond the large amount of security in the streets, is the presence of plain-clothed men working alongside riot police. We've been receiving more reports about plain-clothed agents attacking protests, and we've posted several videos in recent weeks of plain-clothed men working with police, but the tren appears to be on the rise:
2126 GMT: The latest report from the LCCS says that 3 of the 21 people who have been killed today are defectors:
The number of martyrs today increased to 21 including 2 women, a child and three defected recruits. Nine martyrs died under excruciating torture. 13 martyrs in Homs, 7 in Idlib and one in each of Douma (Damascus Suburbs) ,Hama and Deir Ezzor.
LCCS has also posted video of an evening protest in Aleppo that we reported earlier:
Large protests are also reported in the suburbs of Aleppo. This was reportedly taken in Qebatan Jabal:
The attacks appeared to be aimed at police officers as well as Shiite pilgrims making their way to the holy city of Karbala. They were the latest in a wave of attacks primarily targeting Shiites that have killed more than 90 people in less than a week.
Meanwhile, the US military contractor Academi, the company formerly known as "Blackwater", which then changed its name to Xe Services, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit out of court:
The settlement closes the last lawsuit against the company, now called Academi, over the shooting that killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad's Nisoor Square, spokesman John Procter said.
Security personnel of North Carolina-based Blackwater were guarding U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in the crowded square on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
The Blackwater contractors argued that insurgents ambushed them in a traffic circle before they opened fire. Prosecutors who filed criminal charges said the men unleashed an unprovoked attack on civilians using machine guns and grenades.
The confidential settlement of the lawsuit against the former Blackwater "enables its new management to move the company forward," Academi said in a statement, "and, with respect to the Iraqi families and individuals who were plaintiffs in this lawsuit, provides them with compensation so they can now bring some closure to the losses they suffered."
1926 GMT: Large anti-government demonstrations are reported across multiple suburbs of Damascus. However, at least two large protests are taking place inside Damascus as well. This video was reportedly taken in the Barzeh district of Damascus:
Over the summer, protests in the suburbs would be important news. Now, they are daily occurrences, and over the last few weeks, protests in Midan and Barzeh are also becoming fairly routine.
Beyond this, the LCCS reports a protest in Aleppo, in the Hamdaniya district on the outskirts of the city, as well as in many suburbs. We'd caution not to read too much into any single protest, but here again protests in Aleppo were nearly unheard of until recently, and now they are not too rare. Both Aleppo and Damascus have been described as the last two great strongholds of the regime. IT is unclear whether the opposition is growing in these cities (though in Damascus it appears to be), but the opposition is clearly growing bolder in both cities.
1900 GMT: This video was reportedly taken today in the Jeb al-Jendali district, just east of the center of the city of Homs (MAP). It shows 3 tanks deploying to the neighborhood, and about halfway through the video one of the tanks begins to open fire. The tanks that are out of the frame also reportedly fire, but that can't be confirmed by watching the video:
1647 GMT: A prominent blogger shares a second video, reportedly taken in the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, apparently in the same area where another important video was taken. It also appears to have been taken by the same cameraman. Gunfire can be heard, as the people panic in the streets. This video appears to have been taken only moments after the last, so it is likely that the Arab League observers are still nearby.
Security forces are throwing unidentified corpse at the roads' sides in the city and then ambulances are taking them to the hospitals. The number of thrown corpse by security members has reached to 7 in the past 3 days. None of the thrown corpse belong to Arbeen residents and the people think that the regime is doing this to justify an upcoming invasion of the city.
Arbeen is a central and important suburb, and has been a hotbed of dissent in recent weeks.
1622 GMT: The LCCS now reports that 19 have been killed today, "including 2 women, a child and three defected recruits. Nine martyrs died under excruciating torture. 12 martyrs in Homs, 5 in Idlib and one in each of Douma (Damascus Suburbs) and Hama."
It appears that the 9 reportedly killed by torture were discovered in the Bab Sbaa area of Homs. Also, 6 of those were from the same family.
The LCCS has also posted a video gallery. In one of those videos (below), the people of Khalidiya, Homs, reportedly speak with Arab League Observers:1616 GMT: This video reportedly shows "thousands" of protesters at a funeral for a protester in Deir Baalba, Homs:
The people of Daraa have a message for the regime: "This is a message from the revolutionaries, we want to see your execution."
1600 GMT: This video reportedly shows soldiers from the Free Syrian Army firing back at regular army soldiers in Homs. This is the first time we have seen them equip a 4x4 vehicle with a heavy machine gun, perhaps suggesting that they are preparing to conduct more substantive offensive raids:
1550 GMT: This video was reportedly taken on 60th street in Homs. It shows a man in the street, beside his bicycle, reportedly after he was shot by a sniper:
1525 GMT: An prominent blogger posts a rather boring video from Khalidiya, Homs. If it's boring, why are we discussing it? According to Ahmed al Omran, protesters have written "The people want the fall of the regime" on the side of the car. But what's far more significant, this car is clearly marked with the seal of the Arab League, confirming that the car in the last video we've posted is definitively the Arab League's car, which means that the gunfire was witnessed by the observers in the car.
1523 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria are reporting that 15 have been killed by security forces so far today, " including 2 women, a child and three defected recruits. Eight martyrs died under excruciating torture. Nine martyrs in Homs, 4 in Idlib and one in each of Douma (Damascus Suburbs) and Hama."
The footage, posted by the LCC activist network, shows crowd of people chanting and protesting around a car apparently belonging to the Arab League. Half way through, men around the car point up at a building, apparently trying to draw the attention of the people inside. What sounds like gunfire is heard erupting.
1456 GMT: Al Jazeera was able to interview a group of soldiers belonging to the Free Syrian Army. Accompanying their report, is this summary:
The Free Syrian Army is claiming that a steadily increasing number of defected soldiers are joining its ranks.
The group is believed to number anywhere between 1,000 and 25,000 troops, divided over 22 battalions spread across the country.
1,000 to 25,000? A massive range. Both the low range and the high range of that figure seem unrealistic, based on our observation of the patterns of the Free Syrian Army. However, the figure is largely the result of a highly-secretive, and somewhat decentralized group, operating deep within territory where it is nearly impossible for independent journalists to reach:
Perhaps the most interesting claim in the video is made by one soldier who claims that officers within the regular army are selling weapons to defectors. This is the first time that we've heard that detail.
1445 GMT: Revealing Tweet Alert - A former Bahraini member of Parliament has posted a tweet that, according to activist Said Yousif Almuhafda, encourages the killing of protesters and calls them all traitors.
1434 GMT: Two Bahraini protesters, convicted of murdering police during the early days of the uprising, have had their death sentences overturned. According to AP Journalist Reem Khalifa (a Bahraini journalist who has been critical of the government in the past),
By moving their case and others to civilian courts, the government appears to be following through on at least some of the recommendations from a panel of international investigators who accused Bahrain of rights abuses during the crackdown, including denying fair trials to protesters.
Two other high-profile cases were back in court Monday, including the retrial of doctors and other medical professionals who treated protesters injured in the crackdown.
James Miller takes the liveblog.
The Syrian economy will soon suffer from what I will call a “financial crisis”. This will occur as credit write offs mount. The banking system will soon be hit with a wave of defaults at both the corporate and retail levels. The former will come about as the larger companies decide not to pay the banks.
Most of the credit that they have been offered comes in the shape of overdrafts, bills discounting and letters of credit. Banks are exposed to this and their exposure exceeds that at the retail level (car loans for example). Some of the banks are already fearing that a number of businessmen will default and leave the country.
Another very important thing to watch is the possibility that some state banks will default on payments to the private banking system. I am led to believe that this has already happened and that no one dares make the information more public. For now, they are treating the default as a “delayed payment” and so on. The private bank involved is of course starting to think it is a default. The Central Bank has been approached. No one can speculate if it will be liable or not as it may open the floodgates for other public banks.
As you know, I have always highlighted the fiscal pressures on the government. The number of state employees and subsidies are simply unsustainable. The government will not be able to raise enough revenues to pay for such liabilities. They cannot borrow from the domestic or external sectors to bridge this gap. The only thing they may do is print more money. This will lead to inflation and loss of purchasing power as the Syrian Pound loses value.
How long will it take for the above financial crisis and/or fiscal crisis to show up publicly?
My sources continue to say that the answers is “Months”. They have been saying this of course for months. My own prediction is that it will take another year or two before things truly unfold. One thing to remember always is that Syrians are poor and more importantly are used to living well below global standards. The country has been through economic hardship many times over its recent modern past. It will take a lot of further pain to cause many to revolt in massive numbers.
0813 GMT: Essam el-Erian, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has said the party had decided to support keeping Egypt's caretaker Prime Minister and Cabinet in office until June.
Erian and other FJP leaders had suggested that they might lead a Parliamentary challenge to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over control of the posts. However, Erian said on Sunday that the caretakers cound stay on until the military’s preferred date for a handover of power, after the new Constitution is approved and a President is elected in June.
El-Eissawy has also sued Akhbar journalist Ahmed Taha Al-Naqr and the paper’s chairman of the board for an article arguing that the current police force should be replaced by another which respects law and human rights.
Physicians for Human Rights has complained that its Deputy Director, Richard Sollom, has been refused entry into Bahrain, even though he has a valid visa and has been invited in the past by senior Bahraini officials to visit the country.
The problem for the authorities may be that Sollom was traveling to Bahrain to monitor the appeal. This, however, cannot be admitted by the regime, so the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development tries this line:
The Ministry received two correspondences from Mr. Sollom, the last dated 4th January 2012 where he asked to visit Bahrain and meet H.E the Minister. The reply was sent to him on 5th January through the ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington in a form of letter, which was verified by the embassy that his office received it. The letter was clear and stated: that the National Commission is currently working on implementation of recommendations of the BICI report. The Commission’s deadline to complete its work is by the end of February 2012. Therefore, it would be more beneficial for a visit from his esteemed organization to take place after this date. Despite this Mr. Sollom defied this letter and proceeded to Bahrain without having any confirmation of a meeting. Therefore, what was stated by Mr. Sollom is completely erroneous. However, the Ministry would consider any request for a future visit by PHR after February 2012.
0550 GMT: We open with the fallout from two weekend stories. In Bahrain, the regime is having to deal with the political complications of Friday night's assault by security forces on a protest in the capital Manama. The beating of leading activist Nabeel Rajab, only minutes after police were talking to Rajab in an attempt to turn back the march, has brought international attention to the ongoing demonstrations and response of the police.
The daily "new normal" of protests and deaths in Syria --- activists claim at least 21 people were killed by security forces on Sunday --- was overtaken by the meeting of Arab League Foreign Ministers to discuss the first report of its observers and to consider further measures. In truth, however, there is little to mention. The League put out a perfunctory statement, restating its demand for the Assad regime to end violence by its forces and to allow more monitors into the country. The proposal to approach United Nations observers into Syria --- a limited step, but one which could open the door to further intervention --- appeared to make little headway.