2046 GMT: Syria. More than 30,000 people have been killed so far. A number. In an area like Daraa, hundreds of shells fall every day. Numbers. But if you start watching this video from the 7:30 mark or before, you will be reminded of the horror that has become Syria:
@jmiller_ea chilled me to the bone— kristin (@hlk01) October 15, 2012
2025 GMT: Syria. A disturbing video feed - a source we've used before for information from Hama posts a livestream of an incredible hail of bullets reportedly being fired in the city as we speak. We cannot confirm the video, but violence this intense won't stay quiet for long.
2001 GMT: Syria. A note on the downed MiG.
First, the location. All the first sources we encountered say that this MiG was brought down near Taaneh, between Al Bab and Aleppo city. Incidentally, this is the same area that the FSA, working with the Al Nusra Front, captured a base on Friday. What's interesting about that? The base was filled with anti-aircraft defenses, including heavy machineguns and SAM missiles, though from what we saw it is unlikely that the SAMs captured at this base could work without radar, unlike those captured last weekend in Damascus.
However, another Youtube account posted the same video and said that it was taken near Albukamal, in Deir Ez Zor province. This video is suspect. It was uploaded second, and does not match the other reports. Upon a more substantial evidence review, we're confident that this plane was taken down in Aleppo province.
1900 GMT: Syria. Activists share another video of the MiG that was reportedly shot down in Aleppo - but this one shows the explosion that brought it down:
There do not appear to be streaking objects or smoke trails that might have indicated that the jet fighter was brought down by surface-to-air missiles. Machineguns are the likely culprit.
The smoke matches other angles we've seen, and just as we saw in one of the other videos, the parachuting pilots can be seen.
1838 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
Stephanie David, director of the MENA desk at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has been denied entry to Bahrain at the airport. Eight hours ago she tweeted that she was en route to Bahrain to attend and possibly testify at Nabeel Rajab's appeal hearing tomorrow.
On my way to Bahrain to attend and hopefully testify at Nabeel Rajab's trial tomorrow. #Freedom for HRD in Bahrain— Stephanie David (@steph_david2012) October 15, 2012
Confirmed: entry DENIED! Bahrain is preventing international witnesses from testifying at Nabeel Rajab's trial.— Stephanie David (@steph_david2012) October 15, 2012
1634 GMT: Syria. Back from a business break to find that a MiG, or a helicopter, or both, have been shot down in Aleppo, according to activists:
This is reportedly the black smoke of the MIG as it hit the ground, filmed from far away:nuffsilence did he say MiG specifically ? Only there's a heli down youtube.com/watch?v=zldI1c… smoke looks similar— kristin (@hlk01) October 15, 2012
Note the Tweet that helicopter pilots do not typically have parachutes.
This is an unconfirmed report.
1457 GMT: Syria. The headlines out of Damascus give the impression that the entire Ghouta region, just east of the capital, and all suburbs north are under attack today, with tanks firing shells and helicopters strafing the populous below. MiG jet fighters are also reportedly flying over at low altitudes. Videos like this one show the helicopters, and gunfire that is reportedly the FSA's efforts to bring the helicopters down:
1438 GMT: Bahrain. Amnesty International publishes a video appeal from Jalila Al-Salman, Vice President of the Bahrain Teachers Association. Jalila and her colleague Mahdi Abu Dheeb were arrested, tortured and sentenced before a military court last year, after calling for a national strike of teachers. Jalila was subsequently released pending appeal, whilst Mahdi remains behind bars. They are both expected to receive the final verdict on their appeal hearing on October 21st.
1435 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
The verdict in the case of the misdemenour charges against 28 medical professionals was postponed yet again today, reports Brian Dooley of Human Rights First:
1424 GMT: Syria. Turkey and Iraq are stopping Syrian refugees from crossing their borders, according to Human Rights Watch. Gerry Simpson, a senior researched for HRW, has been interviewed by The Guardian, where he reports that Turkey may be refusing to admit refugees so that they will be kept in northern Syria, a development which could help an international movement towards establishing real buffer zones:
Even if camps were set up inside Syria for those displaced by the violence, neighbouring countries would still have an obligation to allow people to cross the border and seek asylum, Simpson pointed out.
A buffer zone, as Turkey has suggested, would only be acceptable if the safety of refugees could be guaranteed, he said. And even then people would still have the right seek asylum abroad.
“We are no where near any part of Syria being established as a safe zone. For the time being it is a very theoretical and hypothetical question," he said.
We've seen evidence that the Turks are sending humanitarian aid to Syria, but as Simpson notes, this is probably not a coincidence. Turkey may already be enforcing, at least by the unspoken threat of retaliatory action, a buffer zone in western Idlib province. This may be a strategic move to expand international support for this action.
Then again, Turkey has also repeatedly stated that it has met or surpassed its maximum carrying capacity for Syrian refugees.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
1140 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA headlines a directive from President Assad to form a committee to carry out maintenance and rehabilitation works of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo.
Fire broke out this weekend inside the 13th-century mosque in the centre of the Old City, reportedly as it was being used by regime troops as a base.
Videos posted by activists showed a large blaze and black smoke raging inside the mosque on Saturday, and later its blackened, pock-marked walls.
1100 GMT: Syria. AFP offers a first-hand account of the regime shelling of Ma'arat al-Numan, the town in Idlib Province taken by insurgents last week:
Construction worker Adnan Khaled Kashit is 50 years old and has come to see his mother. A neighbor has just brought them some potatoes, and he is sitting outside the house, reading the Koran.
The bomb hits the middle of the street just 20 meters from their house.
Kashit is literally cut in two. Minutes after the blast, his terribly mutilated body lies face down in a puddle of blood, just steps away from the front door. A straw mattress is placed on the body to hide the horror.
"He was my son! Who'll look after me now?" his distraught mother screams at the sky, tears streaming down her face as she beats herself on the chest.
"God, you took my son—take pity on his soul," she implores as two women already draped in black veils try to hold her up.
More grief-stricken relatives arrive as one man retrieves body parts and puts them in a plastic bag.
"We have to get the body away before his children get here," he sighs.
An official from the Turkish prime minister's office said Ankara had been informed the plane would be carrying humanitarian aid and Armenian officials knew it would be searched.
0830 GMT: Syria. Human Rights Watch has called on Iraq and Turkey to re-open border crossings, claiming more than 10,000 Syrians are stranded.
At the same time, HRW said Turkey deserves credit and support for hosting almost 100,000 refugees in 14 camps and thousands of other Syrians who live outside camps, and it asked donor countries, including the European Union, to provide financial and other support to establish more camps.
This weekend Human Rights Watch put out a report, based on videos from activists, that RBK-250 cluster bomb canisters with AO-1SCh fragmentation bomblets are being used, particularly as the Syrian military tries to re-take territory in Idlib Province in the northwest.
“There is no confirmation to this… There are loads of weapons in this region, including in Syria and other countries of the region, and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally,” Lavrov said. “It is very difficult to establish from where and how ammunition and weapons are supplied there.”
0800 GMT: Syria. In a separate entry, we post an analysis of political spin put out by US officials via David Sanger of the New York Times, "Assessing a US Warning over Arms to the Insurgency".
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph tops a first-hand account from its correspondent inside Syria with the scare headline, "Rebel Fighters Fear the Growing Influence of Their 'Bin Laden' Faction".
On Friday, massive clouds of grey smoke rose from the site as a Syrian warplane slowly circled overhead.
The bodies of three young men lay in a road leading to the site, with a fourth off to the side, their hands behind their backs, at least one blindfolded, streams of blood running down the road.
Two wore military boots and another camouflage pants. They were apparently Syrian soldiers executed by the rebels. On Saturday, those corpses were gone.
The article indicates that the insurgents did not take away the base's missiles:
"We took over the entire site and destroyed the missiles that were in it," said the Muhajireen member, who gave his name as Assad Allah (Lion of God) but did not personally take part in the attack.
"We were not able to carry them, because they were big and we do not have a base to launch missiles," he said.
He also said the fighters captured several heavy automatic weapons, a number of Kalashnikov assault rifles, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades.
0500 GMT: Syria. There were few headline events on Sunday. United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Tehran, a visit which has produced little of substance so far except public-relations proclamations in Iranian media. Fighting continued in Idlib Province, with regime forces counter-attacking against the insurgent takeover of the town of Ma'arat al-Numan. Syrian State media claimed four workers were killed in a "terrorist" attack on a bus in Homs.
Yet the Local Coordination Committees reported that 220 people were confirmed dead on Sunday. The activists said 140 of the victims were in Damascus and its suburbs, including 100 bodies found in a hospital between between Darayya and Moadamiyeh.