A regime fighter jet is downed outside Aleppo on Monday
1923 GMT: Syria. British police have arrested a man at Heathrow airport and and charged him with helping to kidnap western journalists inside Syria.
Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans and British colleague John Cantlie were taken hostage on July 17 while working near the Syrian border with Turkey, and were released on July 26.
A police statement named the charged man as 26-year-old Shajul Islam. He was arrested on Oct. 9 with a woman of the same age as part of an investigation into travel to Syria in support of "alleged terrorist activity".. .The woman was released on Tuesday without charge, the statement said. A police spokesman said both were British nationals.
1900 GMT: Syria. At least 90 people have already been killed today, according to the Local Coordination Committees:
24 martyrs were reported in Deir Ezzor (including 20 due to aerial shelling of Mayadeen); 24 in Aleppo; 16 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 15 in Idlib; 5 in Daraa; 5 in Hama; 5 in Homs, 1 in Raqqa and 1 person from Jableh was martyred in Hama.
First, see our note on the casualty figures put forth by the LCC.
The amount of deaths in Deir Ez Zor province could very well mark a series of reprisal airstrikes, as the regime reportedly lost a helicopter yesterday, and fighting continues in the province as the FSA chips away at the Assad forces there.
1555 GMT: Syria. The French government is hosting a meeting to expand support for civilians who are now in control of large parts of northern Syria that have been "liberated" by the Free Syrian Army:
Foreign ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani said representatives of five "civilian revolutionary councils" will attend the meeting, along with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Diplomats from around 20 countries are expected to participate, but details of which countries will be represented were not disclosed.
France has said it wants to support such civilian groups in charge of areas "liberated" from the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, mainly in the north of the country.
This should be viewed in context. Yesterday there was a Human Rights Watch report that Turkey was turning away refugees, which would pen the refugees in northern Syria, thus increasing the need for international aid to northern Syria. All of this, of course, comes at a time when the FSA has finally carved out lots of contiguous territory, and has won (for now) the defacto (and almost untested) support of the Turkish airforce and artillery just on the other side of the border.
France and Turkey have been hawks on this issue since the start, and they're finally getting their buffer zone on the Turkish border. But if Assad tries to retake this territory, a process which has already started with Ma'arrat al Nouman, though progress has been thwarted so far, will Turkey and France act to defend northern Syria from the Assad regime?
1530 GMT: Egypt. Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) has rejected the articles in the draft constitution relating to its powers. Speaking at a press conference, the Supreme Court's head, Judge Maher El-Beheiri, described the draft constitution as an attempt to "interfere in the SCC's affairs".
Yesterday, Heba Morayef, a representative for Human Rights Watch in Cairo raised separate concerns, arguing that "the current draft fails to live up to these standards in light of vague phrasing and restrictions that jeopardize the essence of many freedoms", particularly concerning the rights of women and children.
Meanwhile, the Egypt Independent reports on an interview with Salafist Constituent Assembly member and Salafi Dawah Spokesperson Sheikh Yasser Borhamy, who asserts that "unrestricted freedoms established in the draft suggest the freedom of paganism, Satanism and apostasy".
An English translation of the draft constitution is available here.
1506 GMT: Saudi Arabia. EA's John Horne reports:
Amnesty International calls on the Saudi authorities to withdraw their recent threat that any individual caught participating in protests would be "firmly dealt with". The threat came in a statement issued last week by the Ministry of Interior, which also disclosed the names of ten citizens it described as being part of "the deviant group". One of those listed was human rights activist Mohammed Saleh al-Bajady, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty, who received a four year sentence in April charged with engaging with foreign bodies "to carry out activities that undermine security".
1436 GMT: Syria. Food prices have almost doubled in areas of fighting in Syria, according to the World Food Program who have been distributing food aid. Spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva that they were unable to deliver food to 100,000 people of their intended target of 1.5 million, with distribution made particularly difficult in Aleppo, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Daraa, and parts of rural Damascus. As well as an increase in food prices, cooking gas has also become scarce, with price hikes up to 400% in some areas.
1422 GMT: Jordan. EA's John Horne reports:
The date for the general election has been announced as January 23rd, following the dissolution of parliament by King Abdullah. The Muslim Brotherhood says it will boycott the election, in the belief that constitutiency boundaries have been gerrymandered to favour loyalists. They are also seeking an elected Prime Minister, rather than one appointed by the King.
Meanwhile, concerns have been raised over the possibility of rising food and fuel prices. Offical sources told Al-Hayat newspaper that cancelling subsidies for certain commodities and essentials "could lead to a broad wave of protests and demonstrations."
1408 GMT: Syria. A Youtube and Twitter account reportedly affiliated with the Free Syrian Army have released this video, claiming to show an FSA brigade in possession of members of the Assad regime who were directly responsible for shooting down the Turkish jet fighter back in June:
القبض على العميد مطر حمدو الأسعد المسؤول غير المباشر عن اسقاط الطائرة التركيةyoutu.be/WYIluLZhRPA— الجيش السوري الحر (@FSAUnited) October 15, 2012
Is it possible? Large segments of Idlib and Lattakia province are under the control of the FSA, so it's not impossible that they captured these men. Though we can't confirm that the men in the video are Assad soldiers, we don't see any evidence that they are not, and the FSA has captured many units in the region.
But as to the specific claim, it's also possible that the FSA commander here has coerced these men into claiming responsibility for such a high profile incident. After all, it's happened before.
1342 GMT: Syria. There is no doubt that the month of October has been a highly successful one for the Syrian insurgents. In a quick evidence review, I examine and collect the evidence of insurgent advances and victories in the last several weeks.
It's now several days after we postulated that the insurgents may have broken the stalemate, and FSA advances that we thought would hold have held, while FSA advances we were not sure would hold have also held. Beyond this, there are even more victories reported in the last several days.Yesterday, multiple eyewitness reports, and several different videos taken from different angles, reported a jet fighter shot down by the FSA in Aleppo's countryside, between the city and Al Bab, near the village of Taanah (see the video at the top of this entry, and yesterday's live coverage). As we noted, this report is made more intriguing because Taanah is the cite of an air defense base captured by the FSA on Friday.
Within an hour, however, new reports suggested that one of the videos showed a helicopter, not a MiG, shot down in Al Bukamal, in Deir Ez Zor, not Aleppo. This video was doubted for several reasons. It came after the other video, and it showed parachutes. Helicopter pilots rarely use parachutes.
That confusion deepened when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights carried that report, with the same video that we had determined was almost certainly Aleppo.
Now there are new sources, ones associated with more official opposition parties like the SNC, that report that while the video shows a MiG downed in Aleppo, a helicopter was also shot down in Al Bukamal. There are so many different reports that confirm both of these stories, and confusion like this is relatively rare, it adds credence to both stories.
There's no question that the rate of FSA victories against airborne aircraft are coming faster, but there is still no hard evidence that the FSA is using surface to air missiles, despite plenty of evidence that they may have whole batteries of the weapons.
But one FSA victory, achieved last week, we cited as vital for the survival of the regime. In order to maintain their most critical supply route, I argued that the Assad regime would have to recapture Ma'arrat al Nouman and maintain control of the roadside base at Wadi al Daif. Amazingly, the completely-outgunned FSA has weathered tank assaults and more than a week of intense aerial bombardment, but they still control this central highway. The Guardian reports:
Mosa’ab Taha from a rebel brigade in the town told our colleague, Mona Mahmood, that the base at Wadi al-Daif was surrounded by opposition fighters.
The nearest reinforcements are more than 15km away where they are being held at rebel controlled checkpoint, Taha said. Two other convoys of reinforcements have also been dispatched, he added. One of them is pinned down at fuel depot south-east Khan Sheikhoun. The second convoy was stopped in the Besida area, 7km north Khan Sheikhoun.
However, while these victories belong to the insurgency, the people of Idlib, in particular Ma'arrat al Nouman, have paid a heavy price. The town has been reduced to ruins by some of the heaviest ordnance used by the Assad regime to date, and reports of cluster bombs used against the civilian populous have come from dozens of locations across the country.
The regime may be losing battles, but it's the Syrian people who have the most to lose in this conflict.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage, with thanks to Scott Lucas and John Horne for their great work thus far.
1340 GMT: Turkey/Syria In comments to Turkish media, US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said that the US "does not see the possibility of war between Turkey and Syria". The Ambassador added that the "US and Turkey have common goals", with both Assad and the PKK as shared enemies.
1334 GMT: Libya. With the second US Presidential debate later tonight, the past 24 hours has witnessed a series of leaks, statements, allegations and claims about US actions in Libya. These are the headlines:
What does this all mean? In material terms, likely not that much. What it really signifies is the Obama campaign setting in place a strategy to handle Romney's and the Republican party's continuing crticism on Libya. Senior Republican Rudolph Guiliani said last night regarding how Romney should handle the Bengazi incident: "[Romney] should be exploiting it". Everything we have seen so far suggests that "exploiting it" is precisely what he will be doing.
1330 GMT: Yemen. General Khaled Al-Hashim, a senior intelligence official, was assassinated earlier today in a drive-by shooting in the capital Sanaa. A security official told Associated Press that Al-Hashim was an Iraqi military expert hired by Yemen after the fall of Saddam Hussain's regime in 2003.
1326 GMT: Libya. Yesterday, 120 prisoners escaped from Al-Judaida prison in Fornaj, Tripoli. Authorities claim that up to 60 have subsequently been captured. The circumstances of the escape and the makeup of the prisoners remains unclear. Earlier, the head of Libya's national guard told the BBC that "some were illegal African migrants imprisoned for immigration violations and others were Libyans with criminal convictions".
Supreme Security Council spokesman Abdel-Monem al-Hurr told Reuters that the escape occured after the security official in charge threw a set of keys into the prisoners' cell.
1321 GMT: Libya. In Bengazi, around 2am, military official Captain Adel Baqramawi was assassinated when a bomb was thrown at his car by somebody in a truck, according to the Libya Herald.
He is the 15th military official to be murdered in the city this year. Just over a month ago, an airforce colonel, Badr Khamis Al-Obedi, was assassinated in a drive-by shooting as he left Benghazi’s Saida Aisha mosque after prayers.
There have been numerous other assassination attempts. Three days ago, a bomb, also reported as a “gelatina”, exploded under the car of Benghazi’s police chief, Colonel Mohamed Ben Haleem, which was parked outside his home. He was inside the house at the time.
1316 GMT: Bahrain. Mohammed AlMaskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) has been taken into police detention and charged with "illegal gathering, rioting and participating in illegal protest" according to Maryam AlKhawaja, acting head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He is expected to be held overnight and brought before public prosecution in the morning.
AlMaskati was part of the delegation who travelled to Geneva last month to attend the UN Human Rights Council session on Bahrain. Whilst there, he allegedly received death threats and other harassing phone calls.
Maryam AlKhawaja made the following comment on his AlMaskati's arrest:
1215 GMT: Bahrain. Nabeel Rajab remains in prison, serving a three-year sentence for organising and particpating in protests, following today's court hearing.
he appeal will resume on 8 November. According to lawyer Ali Aljuffairi, the judge refused to allow defensc witnesses.
Yesterday, Stephanie David, director of the MENA desk at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was denied entry to Bahrain. She had been intending to attend and testify at Rajab's hearing. Diplomats from the UK, US and France were present in the court.
EA's John Horne takes over today's live coverage from Scott Lucas for the next few updates.
1210 GMT: Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met for 40 minutes on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Azerbaijan today, according to Turkish media.
Reports claimed the two men discussed the Syrian crisis but no details were offered by Turkish and Iranian representatives.
Those added include most of the Assad Cabinet, such as Vice Prime Minister Qadri Jameel, Minister of Economy Mohamad Zafer Mohabak Minister of Information Omran Al-Zoebi and Minister of Industry Adnan Abdo Al Sikhny, and Minister of Justice Najm Hamad Al Ahmad. Prominent businessmen, and Raza Othman, the wife of Rami Makhlouf, cousin of President Assad and "principal financier of the regime", are also on the list.
0750 GMT: Egypt. Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, who defied an attempt by President Morsi to remove him last week, has ordered an investigation into allegations that two top Muslim Brotherhood officials incited attacks on women during a Cairo protest.
The investigation of Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian arose from clashes last Friday between secular groups and members of the Brotherhood’s political party that injured more than 140 people.
Morsi had tried to move Mahmoud to an ambassador's post at The Vatican, after the failure to convict those accused of beating protesters during last year's uprising against the Mubarak regime, but relented after a meeting with the prosecutor this weekend.
Authorities had asked opposition lawmakers to call off the rally for political reforms, but at least 5000 people gathered in a square near Parliament.
The demonstrators called on the Emir to set a date for Parliamentary elections after the dissolution of the assembly last week. Over the last year, Ministers have resigned and the Parliament building occupied amid allegations of corruption.
(Photo: Mohammad Jassim/Reuters)
0510 GMT: Syria. Monday's fighting, from Daraa to Hama to the Damascus suburbs, was marked by the downing of another regime jet fighter by insurgents near Aleppo. The Local Coordination Committees reported that 100 people were killed by security forces, including 34 in Damascus and its suburbs, 29 in Aleppo Province, and 15 in Deir Ez Zor Province.
Meanwhile, United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi continued his trip through the region, which has included talks in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. He again called for a cease-fire, this time during the holiday of Eid al-Adha, and said the conflict was a threat to world peace.
There was no sign of any political advance, however. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki offered standard rhetoric for quick progress in resolving the crisis. The Iranians called for a political transition led by Bashar al-Assad, a non-starter for the Syrian opposition and many countries who have called for the departure of the President.