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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Anticipating A Friday of Protests and Clashes

Opposition rally today in Binnish in Idlib Province in Syria

See also Jordan Opinion: Is the Monarchy Courting Trouble?
Turkey-Syria Analysis: What Will Ankara Do Now? What Should It Do?
Thursday's Syria, Turkey (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Erdogan's Red Line

1954 GMT: Bahrain. Earlier we noted that there were clashes between police and protesters as crowds, gathered to mourn the loss of a prisoner of conscience who dies this week fro sickle cell anemia, were disrupted by teargas. It seems that some of the youth reportedly threw molotov cocktails, and injuries are reported. The Ministry of Interior released this statement, along with a phone number to call:

The General Director of Northern Police announced that a group of lawbreakers targeted on-duty policemen on Friday, while trying to secure Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman road near Buquwa. They attacked the police with Molotov Cocktails. The car gutted and one policeman was injured.

1841 GMT: Turkey/Syria. More escalation near the border:

There have been so many of these incidents that it is hard to keep track. The bottom line is that the Syrian forces seem to continuously challenge Turkey's borders, and Turkey has conducted several rounds of artillery bombardments today, on top of several rounds conducted yesterday, and even more conducted Wednesday night.

1832 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, announced earlier today that he had gone on hunger strike. He is demanding further release from prison to attend the mourning ceremonies for his mother, who died early yesterday morning. Rajab has subsequently extended the strike to include water and medicine. His wife Sumaya spoke to him earlier and said "his voice was low". She tweeted the following appeal:

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, which Rajab is the Director of, also issued a urgent appeal, noting:

We are also very concerned about the allegation by the Public Prosecutor that Nabeel Rajab has violated the law through a speech that he has given during the funeral of his mother.

1750 GMT: Syria. 60 people have been killed so far today, according to the Local Coordination Committees:

20 martyrs were reported in in Damascus and its Suburbs; 11 in Homs; 11 in Aleppo; 10 in Deir Ezzor; 3 in Daraa,3 in Idlib; and 2 in Hama.

See our note about the casualty figures put for by the LCC.

There looks like there could be significant blowback for the FSA's gains east of Damascus:

1738 GMT: Syria. The UN Security Council has released a statement condemning Wednesday's bomb attacks in Aleppo:

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in Aleppo, Syria, on 3 October, causing dozens of deaths and over 100 civilians injured, responsibility for which was claimed by the Jebhat al-Nusra group affiliated with Al-Qaida. They expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous acts and to the people of Syria.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.

The members of the Security Council reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

(hat tip - Tore)

This comes a day after the Al Nusra Front, a jihadi group fighting the Assad regime, claimed credit for the attacks.

1709 GMT: Syria. Quick clarification on that last report - first, "Riad al Assad" is not the real Riad al Assad. The Twitter account is simply the first source we saw that had the claim. The original source is a series of opposition Facebook pages, some of which claim that missiles were used.

However, according to one prominent activist, the brigade who reportedly brought down the helicopter says that they used machineguns, not missiles, to destroy the helicopter.

1631 GMT: Syria. More video of the wreckage of a downed helicopter east of Damascus - this time with the attached claim that the helicopter was, in fact, shot down by FSA elements using a surface-to-air missile:

If the helicopter was shot down by such a weapon, this is a big turn of events. If the FSA has acquired many of these weapons, things could change very quickly in Syria. However, it's still too early to tell if this was just a singular occurrence or the start of a pattern.

1623 GMT: Syria. More breaking news - A Twitter account brought this video to our attention, reportedly showing residents of Al Muhassan, near Deir Ez Zor, celebrating as a "second" MiG jet fighter has been shot down. Visible is a large cloud of smoke rising in the distance:

An opposition Facebook page says that the pilots of the MiG have been captured by Free Syrian Army units. In Late spring, a fighter jet was shot down in Mohassan, which would make this the second.

We have to stress that this is unconfirmed, though the level of celebration in the video is somewhat compelling evidence that something the crowd likes has just occurred.

1612 GMT: Turkey/Syria. For all of the apologies from the Assad regime, it appears that there have been more cross-border incidents:

First, note that Hatay province is west of Aleppo, a long ways from where the cross-border incidents north of Al Raqqah occurred. Also note that, according to the Zaman report cited earlier (update 1535), the Syrian government is struggling to keep its own troops out of the 10 kilometer area south of Turkey's border.

The takeaway - the Syrian government probably is not stupid enough to provoke Turkey and potentially trigger a regime-ending foreign intervention. But the Syrian military has been operating in far less centralized patterns for months. There are no rules of engagement, no limitations on brutality, and no oversight. The Syrian soldiers are used to doing whatever they feel is necessary to crackdown against those who oppose Assad. Turkey is trying ti impose strict rules, but Syrian soldiers are not used to following ANY rules. This is why we have already seen so many cross-border incidents, ruthless massacres of civilians, and other examples of failed leadership on behalf of the Syrian military.

1609 GMT: Morocco. EA's John Horne reports:

AFP reporter Omar Brouksy today had his accreditation as a journalist withdrawn for publishing what the government described as a "unprofessional news item" about the recent by-election in Tangier. The article in question suggested that candidates for the Authenticity and Modernity Party, which has been competing with the Islamist Justice and Development Party, were "close to the royal palace".

Philippe Massonnet, Global News Director at AFP, has called on the Moroccan government to reverse the decision, saying:

The report in question had no motive other than to inform and provide context, with no intention of harming anyone whomsoever.

1602 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees say that fighting has broken out near Damascus, and they confirm the report of the downed Syrian aircraft:

Very fierce artillery shelling at most cities in Eastern Ghota was reported after the Free Syrian Army shot down a regime forces' warplane. Heavy smoke columns are rising due to shelling.

A note - "warplane" is an ambiguous term when used by the Syrian opposition which often refers to helicopters. Linguistically, "plane" rarely describes a helicopter in many English speaking cultures.

1552 GMT: Syria. The Free Syrian Army may have had a significant military victory today east of Damascus. Earlier, The Guardian carried a report that the FSA had captured a military base in east Ghouta, an area just east of the capital (see video at update 1116):

A video posted on YouTube shows dozens of rebels dressed in army fatigues celebrating as black smoke rises from a military installation behind them.

A middle-aged man holding an assault rifle says the assault on the base, in the Eastern Ghouta area was carried out by a rebel battalion from the town of Douma - both places are a few miles east of the capital.

Rebels say the operation happened on Thursday.

Another video showed rebels at the base's weapons cache which included what appeared to a be part of a surface-air-missile.

It is unlikely that rebels have the ability to fire the missile but they might be able to use the explosives to make improvised bombs.

Now, Brown Moses posts two videos claiming to show a helicopter shot out of the sky in the Ghouta region. Several pro-opposition Twitter accounts are also carrying the report:

From a quick analysis onf the videos, they appear to show the same helicopter. The Guardian posts two videos, one of the helicopter falling, and the other claiming to show the wreckage:

We've never seen an incident with this many different camera angles turn out to be false.

1545 GMT: Syria. The one dependable feature of this conflict is that Kafranbel always has strongly worded signs and witty cartoons:

The sign reads: "Obama and his Coward NATO have taught all World's Rulers the Art of Telling Lies Skillfully."

1535 GMT: Syria. The Turkish news agency Today's Zaman has a significant claim. Citing another Turkish source, Zaman (which is highly reliable) reports that the Turkish government has ordered the Syrian military to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the border with Turkey, and to avoid firing artillery into that area.

Turkey's news portal claimed, citing “reliable sources,” that the Syrian regime had ordered all kinds of military aircraft, including warplanes and helicopters, to stay at least 10 kilometers from the Turkish border. The report also said a number of Syrian warplanes which approached within 10 kilometers of the Turkish border despite this warning had been ordered to turn back immediately by Syrian authorities.

This immediately caught our attention, because of a story we covered yesterday. We confirmed that the Turkish government used long-range howitzers capable of hitting targets 40km away, and we also confirmed that positions in Idlib were hit - far more strategicly important to the opposition than al Raqqah, where the cross-border incident took place. But the most important detail was the claim (made by the highly-disreputable-but-occasionally-correct was that the Turks had hit many areas within 10 kilometers of the Turkish border and were specifically targeting artillery bases fairly deep into Syrian territory and fairly far from the Acakale/Tal Abyad region.

In the same Zaman report, we see the first indications from Turkey that Wendesday and Thursday's artillery strikes did damage to Syrian military targets:

According to ntvmsnbc's report, Syria had ascertained that the Turkish artillery fire had killed 10 Syrian soldiers and damaged three tanks and two armored vehicles.

If all this is true, Turkey may have just granted the Syrian opposition the buffer zone that they so crave, as well as access to the entire Syrian border, greatly complicating Assad's efforts to shut down FSA supply routes to the north.

This claim is still unverified, and even if it is true it's not clear that the Assad regime will permanently abandon the strip 10 kilometers south of its border.

1519 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Last Friday, former Deputy Minister for Human Rights Saeed Mohamed AlFaihani, was elected to United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, having been nominated for the position by the Bahrain government. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights today issued a statement expressing its "extreme disappointment" at the selection.

Mr. Al Faihani has held several positions within the government in Bahrain, he left his post as Deputy Minister for Human Rights less than one month ago, and he is clearly not an independent voice for the UNHRC Advisory Committee.


Saeed Al Faihani is unfit to serve on the UNHRC Advisory Committee. His election amounts to an international vote of confidence for a country in which systematic human rights violations remain a serious problem.

At the stat of September, fourteen NGOs wrote to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton outling their concerns that AlFalhani's election would "threaten the credibility" of the UNHCR Advisory Committee.

1512 GMT: Syria. News from Houla, where the promise of protests have been met with violence:

1506 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has announced that Nabeel Rajab has started a hunger stike. Nabeel, who is serving a three year sentence for organising and attending protests, was briefly allowed out of prison to attend the funeral of his mother whom he had otherwise been prevented from seeing. Today he was not permitted to attend the second day of mourning.

1420 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Two symbolic coffins were made today and placed on a roundabout in Daih, ahead of the final day of mourning for Ali Mushaima (see 1342 entry). The second coffin was for 17 year old Ali Naema, who was shot and killed by Bahrain security forces last Friday. Ali Mushaima's coffin is surrounded by chains, representing his imprisonment, whilst Ali Naema's is ringed by guns, signifying his targeting by police violence.

Opposition party AlWefaq alleges that after the clashes with security forces that followed the mourning march, police vandalised the coffins.

1404 GMT: We're collecting videos of today's protests in a separate Pressimus page:

1359 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne Reports:

Photojournalist Mazen Mahdi reports on clashes between opposition and police:

Claimed footage from today of protesters dispersing after being fired on by tear gas:

1342 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Earlier today, mourners gathered in AlDaih for the final day of Mohammad Ali Ahmad Mushaima's funeral. Many held pictures and banners with his image on:

Mushaima passed away on Tuesday from sickle cell anemia. He was serving a seven year sentence, received by a military court last year following his involvement in the February 14th uprising. He was considered a prisoner of conscience by many. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights have posted documents they claim proves that he was arrested last year from Salminaya Medica Complex when the "military took over, and was sentenced by a military court to 7 years imprisonment despite his lawyers presenting documents proving that he was in the hospital at the time of his alleged crime".

As the funeral was taking place, there were many reports of a heavy police presence in Sanabis, with checkpoints throttling access.

Sanabis is mid-way between AlDaih village and the site of Pearl Roundabout. When the funeral ended, a march to Pearl Roundabout began. Clashes are anticipated.

1330 GMT: Syria. Speaking of Qamishli, large protests have taken place there today against the Assad government. Protests there have been growing for months, as the city is largely isolated from much of the violence that has kept recent protests smaller elsewhere:

Another video, reportedly taken in Qamishli today. The sign held in front of the camera says that this was taken in Qamishli. The music is a new anti-Assad protest song. The theme of today's protests: "We want weapons, not statements," a message aimed squarely at the international community:

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us to the afternoon.

1320 GMT: Syria. Wladimir van Wilgenburg reports for EA....

The Kurdish news site Welati reports heavy clashes on Thursday evening in the northeast near the Hasakah-Qamishli road and airport in Qamishli.

The fighting follows a bomb near the headquarters of State intelligence last week in Qamishli. Welati claims the Free Syrian Army does not have much support in Qamishli, with Syrian Kurdish parties against the FSA's deployment in the area, but wants to control the Turkish-Syrian border.

The FSA, claiming that its Hasakah military council was behind the 30 September blast that killed at least four regime soldiers, said the area has remained far from the revolution and needs to be connected to other "liberated areas" near the Turkish border in Idlib and Aleppo.

In response to the increase in FSA operations, the People Defence Units (YPG), linked to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), has established a second brigade, named after a YPG member killed in fire near Tal Abayd and Derbissiyye on 2 October. The YPG also held a military parade in the Kurdish town of Kobani in Aleppo Province.

The Hasakah Province is Syria’s main wheat- and rice-producing region and also reportedly is the location of an uranium enrichment plant.

1245 GMT: Jordan. While reports of the attendance at the protest in Amman vary wildly from 3000 to tens of thousands, Al Jazeera English summarises:

Witnesses and journalists estimated attendance at between 10,000 and 15,000 people, with the crowd expected to grow as protesters traveled to Amman from elsewhere around the country.

Attendance was still well below the 50,000 predicted by the Islamic Action Front, the Jordanian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the country's main opposition group.

1136 GMT: Syria. A large rally in Halfaya in Hama Province today:

1116 GMT: Syria. Insurgents claim they have captured an air defense base in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and seized missiles.

A battalion from the nearby town of Douma reported took the base on Thursday.

(Hat tip to The Guardian)

1112 GMT: Libya. Amid clashes between militias from Misurata and Bani Walid, Reuters offers the context of the tension between residents of the two towns, a continuation of disputes over the toppling of the Qaddafi regime last year.

1108 GMT: Jordan. A large protest in the capital Amman today, challenging the regime to carry out political and economic reforms:

1103 GMT: Tunisia. President Moncef Marzouki has offered a state apology to the woman, allegedly raped by two policemen, who may face indecency charges.

Marzouki "strongly" condemned the rape and praised the police officers who refused to cover up for their colleagues, an action which he said demonstrated that the problem "is not the security institution itself but the mentality of some of its members".

"There is no more tolerance, neither for rapists, nor for those...who want to hide the truth," said the statement from the President's office. "The presidency will follow this case closely to ensure that no partisan interest is brought to bear on the rule of law, and so that Tunisians have their rights restored."

The 27-year-old woman faces possible indecency charges with her fiance based on the testimony of the alleged rapists, policemen who say they took the couple by surprise in an "immoral position" just before the claimed attack.

0957 GMT: Syria. An economic story we missed earlier this week....

Prime Minister Wael al-Halki admitted the scale of the Government's problems on Tuesday in an address to legislators, revealing that losses are more than 2 trillion Syrian pounds (about $30 billion).

Al-Halki said the Government would "rationalise and adjust the current spending and investment" while providing citizens with basic foodstuffs, drugs and oil derivatives.

0952 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of the insurgent Al-Baraa Brigade in the Damascus suburbs, announcing it begin executing 48 Iranians --- seized this summer -- within 48 hours if the regime does not halt violence against civilians:

0950 GMT: Turkey. Videos from a march late Thursday by thousands to Taksim Square in the center of Istanbul, protesting any military conflict with Syria:

0750 GMT: Bahrain. Released from prison to attend the funeral of his mother, human rights activist Nabeel Rajab calls on the Bahraini people to maintain hope amidst the regime's suppression --- select Captions to get subtitles in English:

0620 GMT: Syria. For a day, news of the violence and protests inside Syria was overtaken by attention to Damascus's relations with Turkey. After Ankara's retaliatory shelling for the Syrian mortars that killed three women and two children in a Turkish town, we watched for any signs of an escalation in the military conflict, even as we predicted that it would not occur.

That prediction was borne out. Signals were sent to contain any direct clash, while Turkey tried to take political advantage. Turkey said it had received an apology for Wednesday's cross-border fire; Syrian officials denied one had been sent, while expressing condolences. and the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a statement condemning the shelling "in the strongest terms" and called on Damascus "to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.". 

Meanwhile, the routine of death and fighting continued inside Syria. The Local Coordination Committees reported that 120 people had been slain by security forces, including 52 in Damascus and its suburbs and 35 in Aleppo Province.

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