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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Talks and Declarations as 234 Die on Sunday

AFP on the Syrian regime's bombardment of Al Bab, north of Aleppo, on Sunday

See also Syria Video Analysis: A Beginner's Guide to the Spread of the Insurgency
Syria 1st-Hand: Opposition Tries to Implement Justice Through Courts in Aleppo
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Better-Armed Insurgents Step Up Pressure on the Regime

2131 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Amidst calls for an independent investigation, the Bahrain government has blamed the opposition for the reported bombings. Minister for Information Sameera Rajab said that the attacks "are due to religious fatwas issued by some religious figures who haven't ceased inciting violence against civilians and policemen". This is a likely - if false - reference to Sheikh Isa Qassim, spiritual leader of AlWefaq, the largest opposition society. The Interior Minister implied that the deaths were an end to any possible dialogue between the regime and the opposition:

What happened was a terror act and major part of our work focuses on chasing those terrorists. Negotiation couldn't be carried out with terrorists and talks couldn't take place within this violence.

In a statement, AlWefaq condemned the incidents, adding that it is its "fixed stance to refuse violence". They also demanded "independent parties" to investigate this and previous incidents, as well as "to allow credible media and human right organizations to take part in presenting the truth to the public".

2125 GMT: Bahrain. Images, broadcast by State TV, of the victims of today's bombings:

2117 GMT: Syria. A preview of things to come:

In the last few weeks we've seen dozens of recoilless rifles, tanks, and even artillery pieces being fired by the FSA. We're seeing this heavy weaponry, captured at various military bases across the country, making it to the battleground.

If one month ago the FSA was able to capture bases without this kind of firepower, now that they have more equipment like this we're likely to see lots more videos like this one.

2030 GMT: Syria/Israel. Reading between the lines of a statement from an Israeli military official, it's even less clear who ultimately was responsible for the gunfire that hit an Israeli vehicle, except that it was crossfire and the Israeli military is now threatening to get involved if it continues:

"A military vehicle travelling in the Golan was hit by gunfire from Syria. Apparently they were stray bullets, and there were no injuries" to those aboard the vehicle, a military spokesman told AFP.

"The incident occurred in the central sector of the Golan Heights near the demarcation line," he said, adding that the Israeli army took no action in response on Monday.

Israel's armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said on Sunday that his country could become involved in the Syrian conflict, as fighting between regime forces and rebels raged near Israeli positions on the strategic Heights.

2000 GMT: Syria/Israel. Contradictory stories of renewed violence in the Golan Heights:

The Israel National News appears to blame Damascus, though it says the fire was likely unintentional. No mention of deaths or shelling near the DMZ:

An Israeli military jeep was hit Monday by Syrian gunfire on the Golan Heights, AFP reported. IDF soldiers were patrolling this evening near the northern border when they came under gunfire from the Syrian side of the border. The IDF Spokesperson told Arutz Sheva there were no casualties and that the incident is under investigation.

According to the IDF, the gunfire also most likely came as the result of the internal civil war in Syria, and was not due to deliberate aggression against Israel on the part of Damascus. "Apparently they were stray bullets, and there were no injuries" to those aboard the vehicle, a military spokesman told AFP.

Israel informed the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the region.

This comes just days after Israel accused Assad forces of moving 3 tanks into Israeli territory in the Holan Heights.

1934 GMT: Yemen. Tariq al-Fathli, a prominent Al Qaeda leader, was killed in Southern Yemen:

The officer, quoting a secretary of the Minister of Interior, said that al-Fathli was killed at 7:30 pm on Monday by the Popular Forces, tribal militia that fought al-Qaeda, after they besieged his house.

Fathli was reported to have entered Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, along with his armed men, angering the Popular Forces who warned to use force if Fathli did not leave.

The officer, speaking anonymously, said the Office Director of Deputy Minister of Interior Ministry, Ali Naser al-Lakhsha'a -an Abyan citizen, informed him that the Popular Forces were joined by government troops when they raided Fathli's house.

"But the Popular Forces were the ones leading the raid and killed al-Fathli," the officer said. The other two houses of Fadli are still under siege with Fathli's fighters inside.

1910 GMT: Syria. Back from a meeting and lunch to find that the death toll is Syria has risen to 137, according to the Local Coordination Committees:

72 martyrs were reported in Idlib (32 of them were martyred due to massacre in Kafranbel); 27 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 16 in Aleppo; 9 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Daraa; 4 in Lattakia; and 2 in Homs.

The death toll has slowed in pace over the last several hours, but still could rise - in the last month or so, many victims are buried in rubble as bombs and artillery shells destroy buildings, making the total destruction hard to measure. As this phenomenon gets worse, not better, even those who survive are faced with increasingly grim prospects for moving forward.

See our note on the casualty figures put forth by the LCC.

1715 GMT: Syria. Eastern Damascus has been absolutely hammered by Assad air power today. Take this video, posted by the CFDPC, which reportedly shows a bomb falling on East Ghouta. The size of the bomb, and the explosion, are alarmingly large:

More from the CFDPC - jet fighters scream over Harasta as smoke rises, reportedly the result of the bombs:

The LCC shares a video of homes burning in Harasta. The area has been hit like this for days. CFDPC also shares this video showing homes destroyed yesterday, and this video of the al-Seel neighborhood reduced to rubble. Perhaps this activist says it best:

1651 GMT: Syria. According to The Guardian, a group of Syrian activists say that the FSA was trying to target "shabiha," pro-regime thugs, in today's car blast in Damascus. Meanwhile, State media SANA reports that 11 have been killed in the blast:

Terrorists on Monday detonated an explosive device planted under a car in Mezzeh Jabal 86 area in Damascus, killing 11 citizens and injuring tens, including women and children.

A source at al-Muwasat hospital told Sana that it received the bodies of eight martyrs killed in the bombing and 31 injured people who are currently receiving treatment.

A source in Yousef al-Azmeh hospital said that the hospital received the bodies of three martyrs and 24 injured people, most of them critically injured.

Sana's correspondent who visited the bombing site said the explosion caused significant damage to the area which is heavily populated, and that a large number of cars and shops were destroyed and infrastructure and utilities were also damaged.

1548 GMT: Syria. An activist reports on an FSA campaign to capture a military checkpoint in the Layramoon district in Aleppo (map):

This battle was small, in comparison to some of the recent events, however it is still significant. Even when the FSA has advanced into parts of the city, small pockets of resistance, regime bases like this one, have remained. Now, with heavier weapons, more ammunition, and a growing number of fighters, these locations are falling. This will improve FSA supply routes, reduce the chance that the regime can retake these areas, and they also increase the amount of ammunition and equipment into the hands of the FSA.

1537 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that at least 130 people have been killed so far today - an elevated number for this hour:

72 martyrs were reported in Idlib (23 of them were martyred due to massacare in Kafranbel), 18 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (5 of them were martyred in Yarmouk Camp), 15 martyrs in Aleppo, 9 martyrs of one family in Raqqa, 9 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 4 martyrs in Lattakia, 2 martyrs in Daraa and 1 martyr in Homs.

See our note on the casualty figures put forth by the LCC.

1527 GMT: Turkey. EA correspondent Ali Yenidunya translates a statement just released by the Turkish Prime Ministry concerning the shooting inside the Prime Minister's building:

1515 GMT: Syria. Horror in Kafranbel. Many sources report that a bomb, dropped by an Assad jet fighter, hit a crowded market in the a town that has sometimes been considered the heart of the peaceful opposition movement, and an area that is close to the battlefront. Many have died. The LCC posts this disturbing video:

Three more graphic videos:

According to the LCC, 23 people have been killed in Kafranbel (that number may rise) and 92 have been killed nationwide (that number definitely will rise).

1509 GMT: Turkey. The gunfire inside the Prime Minister's office was the result of a man firing blanks, according to the AP:

Police detained a man who fired three blanks outside Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office on Monday, news reports said.

Erdogan was presiding over a Council of Ministers meeting when the man fired the shots just outside the visitors' entrance to the building, the state-run Anadolu Agency and other media reported. The suspect, who was not identified, was quickly subdued and was being questioned by police.

It was not clear how the man managed to enter the heavily protected complex with the gun.

AP went on to speculate that this event may have been related to the situation with the PKK, but at least one activist is not so sure:

1500 GMT: Turkey. Gunfire in the Prime Minister's office has been reported:

More details when we have them.

1454 GMT: Syria. Another car bomb in Damascus, this one in the Mezzeh district. State Media broadcasts these images:

Information is still unfolding. It is interesting to note, however, that recent bombings that have targeted Assad forces or regime infrastructure have almost immediately been claimed by one of the opposition militant groups. Attacks that have targeted civilians, however, have gone unclaimed. There remains a strong possibility that these are the work of a new group.

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

1445 GMT: Kuwait. An EA correspondent observes developments in the country, including Sunday's mass protests, challenged by police with tear gas:

Basically the Kuwaiti people are not against the Emir nor are they against his Government.This is not another link to be added to the Arab Spring chain --- it is not a revolution and the Kuwaiti people will fight anyone that claims it to be a revolt against the Emir and the ruling Al-Sabah family.

The campaign "Dignity of a Nation" was put together in response to the Emir's decision to change the electoral system by reducing every Kuwaiti from 4 votes in an election to 1.

Kuwaitis feel as though this decree broke the laws of Constitution, since no changes can be made without passage through the Parliament, which represents the nation as a whole. Because the Emir had disoolved the Parliament, he issued this decree without its consent. This has enraged the people who gathered in large numbers to walk together last week and yesterday.

On Sunday the Emir invited the heads of the largest tribes in Kuwait to his Palace. These heads recommended that he withdraw his decree in response to the people's wishes. The Emir said he would maintain the decree; however, he said he will abide by a decision of the Constitutional Court.

1335 GMT: Syria. More than 30 people have been killed in the last 24 hours on the outskirts of the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees south of Damascus, amid fierce clashes between the army and insurgents.

Seven people died today when a mortar attack hit a mini-bus and 24 died on Sunday after at least 10 shells fell on the camp.

According to one resident, the fighting between the Free Syrian Army and regime troops, backed by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), lasted 24 hours.

Syrian state media is claiming that the deaths of those in the mini-bus were caused by “terrorists”.

1308 GMT: Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has sparked controversy amongst Palestinians with recent remarks that some have interpreted as a concession to Israel on the issue of Palestinian refugees’ “right of return".

Asked during an interview with Israeli TV whether he would like to return go to the town of his birth --– Safed, in northern Israel ---– Abbas responded by saying he would like to but not to live there.

Protestors in the Gaza Strip have reacted angrily to the comments, burning pictures of Abbas and accusing him of reneging on the principle behind the right of return, which holds that any political solution should allow those expelled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to reclaim their homes.

1305 GMT: Syria. A diplomatic sources has told AFP that former Prime Minister Riad Hijab met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday to discuss efforts to restructure the Syrian opposition.

"The ways to address the Syrian crisis and a reorganization among the Syrian opposition ranks were discussed," the source said.

The meeting took place as scores of politicians and activists opened a meeting in Qatar for a "Syrian National Initiative" to supplant the existing opposition umbrella, the Syrian National Council. Hijab, who defected from the Assad regime in August 5 after two months as Prime Minister, has been mentioned as leading figure in the Initiative.

1132 GMT: Syria. Prominent Syrian-born Palestinian actor Mohammed Rafeh and alleged supporter of the Assad regime, is believed to have been killed at the weekend by gunmen for apparently giving information to the regime about rebels and anti-government protesters, according to his family and activists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Rafeh was kidnapped Friday night in the Damascus neighbourhood of Barzeh, which has been hit by fighting between rebels and government troops.

1105 GMT: Libya. Protests outside western Libya's main oil refinery have shut down operations for the second day in a row, causing long queues at petrol stations in the capital Tripoli.

Essam al-Muntasir of the Zawiya Oil Refining Company said that the Zawiya refinery, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and provides 40% of western Libya's oil needs.

1103 GMT: Syria. A snapshot from AFP, "Syria Rebels Tolerate Extremists Despite West's Fears":

On the ground, rebel fighters and commanders say they have no problem fighting alongside such groups as the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist force that has taken part in key battles and waged a campaign of bombings.

"We fight together on the front," said the head of the main rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the embattled northern city of Aleppo, Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, adding that Islamist-inspired fighters were often at the forefront of battles.

"They have a deeper love for martyrdom than the other fighters," he told AFP by telephone.

Adnan, a rebel fighter in Aleppo, added: "They want to be martyrs, we let them stand in the front line."

1057 GMT: Turkey. The Turkish military launched an air assault on Saturday night against camps of the Kurdish PKK in northern Iraq.

Five PKK members were also reportedly killed by the Turkish army in clashes on Cudi Mountain inside Turkey.

1050 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Two Saudi Arabian border guards have been killed in an ambush in Sharoura near the border with Yemen.

Saudi Arabia fought a brief war with Yemen in 2009 against the country's Houthi population, and continues to fight those whom it claims are linked with Al Qa'eda in Yemen.

1046 GMT: Bahrain. State TV is broadcasting graphic images of an Asian worker whom it claims was one of two people killed by explosions of home-made devices in the capital Manama this morning. It is also showing a worker whom it claimed was wounded.

1040 GMT: Syria. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov has told Egypt's Al-Ahram daily that the Russian arms being sent to Syria are "part of old Soviet contracts and [do] not violate international law”.

Lavrov put out the line of Moscow, which has sold the Syrian government $1 billion worth of weapons in the last year, that “it aims to support Syria's defence capabilities in the face of external political threat, and not to back Bashar al-Assad".

1039 GMT: Turkey. Police have updated the toll from Sunday's car bomb in Hakkari Province in the southeast to one dead --- an 11-year-old child --- and 26 wounded.

The blast occurred as a police special forces armored vehicle was passing. No one has claimed responsibility, but there are frequent operation by the Kurdish insurgency PKK in the area, near the Iraqi and Iranian borders.

0939 GMT: Bahrain. The Bahrain Ministry of the Interior has blamed the deaths of two Asian workers, and the injury of a third, on what it has called “Five Domestic Terror Explosions in Manama.”

Authorities said the five explosions caused by home-made devices occurred in two areas of the capital. One of the men died at the scene when he kicked a device in Gudaibiya, while the second died in hospital after being injured by an explosion near a cinema. A third explosion in Adliya injured a cleaner.

0925 GMT: Syria. Jennie Matthew of AFP reports that a Syrian warplane bombed the town of Al-Bab on Sunday, hitting civilian buildings including the local Islamic school.

Medics on the scene said that the bombings “killed at least four people and wounded eight others.”

0835 GMT: Turkey. Global Voices Online highlights the hunger strike of hundreds of Kurdish prisoners, now entering its ninth week. The site claims that Turkish security forces fired tear gas at mothers of the prisoners when they staged a sit-in on Sunday.

0705 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees have issued a statement about the talks in Qatar for a new opposition leadership:

It is no longer acceptable, under any pretext, to continue with the absence of a unified and effective political leadership for the revolution. All political parties must come together as quickly as possible to reach the proper political representation of the revolution.

At the same time, the LCC criticised the manner of the US-backed move for the "Syrian National Initiative": "We clearly announce that interventions in the affairs of our revolution, as stated in Hilary Clinton's remarks, are unwelcome."

The Committees continued, "It is [incumbent] on the international community to reconsider its defeatist policy against supporting the Syrian people and the rebels, which has lengthened the age of the regime and has extended the time for Syrians to be killed, increasing the complexity of the crisis and ultimately leading to extremism as a reaction."

0655 GMT: Bahrain. Marches took place throughout the Kingdom on Sunday in support of imprisoned opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, serving a life sentence and suffering from cancer -=- a demonstration in Sadad:


0555 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees claim that at least 234 people were killed on Sunday, including 100 in Damascus and its suburbs, 42 in Idlib Province, 35 in Aleppo Province, and 31 in Daraa Province.

Opposition activist Mohammad Al-Hou said 20 people were killed, including several medics, and dozens wounded by shelling of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in south Damascus.

Most headlines, however, are about talks and statements. Scores of politicians and activists gathered in Qatar in an effort, promoted by the US, to form a new opposition leadership. The five-day conference is pursuing a "Syrian National Initiative" to supplant the Syrian National Council.

In Cairo, the United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El Araby held a press conference after their discussion.

Brahimi called for a UN Security Council resolution, based on an agreement in June, to set up a transitional government: "It is important that the Geneva Declaration be turned into a resolution from the Security Council to gain the power to enable it to become an applicable political project."

Lavrov was far from supprotive, however. He said both sides should be forced to sit down to negotiations, but asserting that Moscow backed the Geneva Declaration, he criticised other foreign actors, "Unfortunately, some countries which participated in Geneva don't speak with the government but only with the opposition and encourage them to fight till victory and this has very negative implications."

So, Lavrov continued, "Maybe we don't need a resolution" from the Security Council, because it could create more conditions to remove the Syrian government:  "This is a successful recipe to continue the bloodshed."

And in Jeddah, French President Francois Hollande spoke with Saudi King Abdullah and then declared, "France is very keen on the formation by the opposition of a transitional government that would give it full legitimacy and ensure democratic transition in Syria."

Hollande backed the Syrian National Initiative, "[It is] absolutely necessary for the opposition to restructure," and said French military aid would be given to insurgents only if "a temporary government is formed....We could only then ensure where the arms that could one day be provided go."

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