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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Insurgents Take a Military Airport in the North

See also Syria 1st-Hand: A Taxi Ride In the Damascus Suburbs
Israel-Palestine Live Coverage: Talk of Ceasefire Fades as Israel Pounds Gaza

Saturday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Insurgents Change the Situation on the Ground

2059 GMT: Jordan. Security officials are holding and interrogating 130 citizens for 15 days on suspicion that they called for the overthrow of King Abdullah II at protests this week. They face charges of "threatening to undermine the regime, illegal gathering, and creating civil strife", which can carry sentences of up to 5 years.

Human rights lawyer Musa Abdallat said of the detained individuals, "These are prisoners of conscience who should be released".

1919 GMT: Bahrain The Ministry of Interior offers its thought for the day:

Some may disagree. The main opposition society AlWefaq recently released a report on the attack on Friday prayers led by Sheikh Isa Qassim which took place on 9 November. Authorities reportedly set up 26 separate checkpoints to keep worshippers away from Duraz. People who attempted to travel to the mosque by foot were fired on with tear gas.

The Government, however, is unlikely to heed the dissent. It said Sunday that “a number” of Shiite religious figures have been referred to the public prosecutor for delivering political sermons or leading anti-regime chants.

See also Preaching Religious Tolerance, Practicing Religious Discrimination.

1917 GMT: Turkey. At least five soldiers were killed and one injured today in clashes with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) insurgents in the southeastern province of Hakkari, on the border with Iraq.

The Hakkari Governor's Office said four PKK members were killed and one injured during ensuing military operations.

1910 GMT: Egypt. Two people were killed and ten wounded this morning in clashes over a plot of land.

The army had set up a bunker during their deployment in the area, but after they withdrew, local residents began to use the land. When security forces and military personnel attempted to evict the residents, people blocked the street and set tyres on fire.

1840 GMT: Syria. Opening a meeting in Tehran for "national dialogue" between the Syrian regime and opposition, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has warned, "Some countries envisage arming the opposition with heavy and semi-heavy weaponry. In reality, they seek to legitimise publicly what they have been doing in secret."

On Monday, EU foreign ministers will discuss lifting a strict embargo on arms deliveries to Syria. France has publicly said it favours sending "defensive" weapons to the Syrian opposition.

Salehi said such arms deliveries would set a "dangerous precedent" and constitute "a clear interference in the affairs of an independent country": "It will spread insecurity, the risk of terrorism and organised violence in all of the region."

1835 GMT: Syria. Back from an extended break to find that the Chief Justice of the Deir Ez Zor court in eastern Syria has defected.

Ali al-Aoun told Al Arabiya, “The Syrian regime is embarking on a genocidal campaign against the people with the help of its allies."

Aoun, a member of the ruling Baath Party, said dozens of Syrian officials and party members will follow soon: “They have all defected since the first days of the revolution, but were waiting for the right time to make their defection public. This specifically applies to the judiciary.”

0756 GMT: Syria. The Israeli army said Saturday that it fired artillery into Syria in response to gunfire at its troops in the Israeli-controlled Golan Height.

"There was small arms fire (at Israeli forces), there was a response and from what I hear over Arab media it appears Syrian soldiers were killed," Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, Israel's chief military spokesman, told Army Radio.

Mordechai said Israel was trying not to be pulled into the Syrian conflict: "Our trigger finger is very stiff, not light. Under no circumstances do we accept any shooting on the State of Israel's territory, but nor do we intend to heat up the area."

0750 GMT: Turkey. Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has called for an end to a hunger strike by more than 700 Kurdish prisoners.

The hunger strike is in its 68th day and, although detainees are taking water and vitamins, doctors have said prisoners could soon die.

Today I went to see my brother Abdullah Ocalan face-to-face in Imrali prison," Ocalan's brother Mehmet said in a statement. "He wants me to share immediately with the public his call about the hunger strikes ....This action has achieved its goal. Without any hesitation, they should end the hunger strike."

Ocalan has been imprisoned on the small island of Imrali in the Marmara Sea since his capture in 1999.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), several of whose members joined the hunger strike, said its deputies in the city of Diyarbakir --- the regional center of the heavily Kurdish southeast --- would communicate Ocalan's call to prisoners there.

"We hope this call will pave the way for the next process, which is to end (Ocalan's) isolation....The Kurdish problem should be resolved by dialogue and deliberation," BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas told reporters.

0748 GMT: Iraq Clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops along the internal border on Friday left one person dead. In a statement yesterday, Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani said:

The Kurdish region is fully prepared to confront any undesirable occurrence, with the goal of defending our territory and our citizens.

I have asked the Ministry of Peshmerga to take all necessary measures.

Reuters notes that there have been escalating tensions between the Iraqi central government and the autonomous Kurdish region since US forces left in December. This has been further exacerbated "by the formation of a new command centre for Iraqi forces to operate in" in an area both sides claim jurisdiction over.

0648 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees claim 136 people were killed by security forces on Saturday, including 63 in Damascus and its suburbs, 30 in Aleppo Province, and 21 in Deir Ez Zor Province.

The activists said 153 locations were shelled, and there were 82 clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces.

0640 GMT: Syria. After days of fighting and rumours, insurgents confirmed on Saturday that they have taken Hamdan airport in northeast Syria, seizing mortars, armoured vehicles, and ammunition.

The airport only has two short runways and some far-from-imposing buildings; however, it was converted during the conflict to a base for helicopters and military tanks. The capture is also an important sign of the continuing advance of the Free Syria Army across the north: opposition fighters had taken the nearby city of Al Bukamal earlier in the week.

Regime forces now only hold one air base in Deir Ez Zor Province, running along the border with Iraq: the main military airport in Deir Ez Zor city.

About 12 insurgents were killed near Al Bukamal as regime units counter-attacked after the fall of the airport. 

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