President Assad, in an interview with Russia Today, warns against foreign military intervention
1807 GMT: Bahrain. A source shares with us a video reportedly taken yesterday in Bilad Al-Qadeem. It appears to show men in plainclothes armed with tear gas launchers, firing them in the direction of what we are told was a march by protesters.
The men arrive in two vehicles, fire several shots, then drive off. It is unclear if they are civilians or members of the security forces.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdisi said El-Araby was a "partner, sponsor and tool of a terrorist project to destroy Syria" because he backed the effort in Qatar this week to forge a new opposition leadership.
Makdisi added that he was "not surprised that Nabil al-Arabi repeats his fantasy about regime change in Syria, a founding member of the organization that employs him".
1725 GMT: Egypt. The Constituent Assembly has dropped an article from the draft constitution which asserted the State’s commitment to ensuring gender equality “as long as it does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic Sharia”."We reached an agreement to drop article 68 as there is an article ensuring equality between all citizens without any discrimination based on gender, race or religion, which satisfied the liberal and secular forces,” spokesman Mohamed Mohi al-Din said.
The article had sparked outcry among rights activists, some of whom were still unhappy after the withdrawal.
"What happened is they have put in an extremely poor article and now they want us to celebrate its removal," Nehad Abu Komsan, director of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, complained.
Unarmed and cornered by Syrian rebel fighters, the man seemed to accept his death with more silent sorrow than surprise; his killers did not hesitate as they shot their prisoner.
The incident, filmed by a Reuters video crew, happened last week in Harem, near Aleppo, where rebels have surrounded hundreds of troops and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Taking one neighborhood after days of bitter street fighting, opposition fighters went from house to house.
From one building they hauled a man in middle age, dressed in casual clothes, black bearded and without a weapon. He seemed anxious and shied away as he stumbled into the street. Three rebels fighters casually raised their Kalashnikov rifles. A shot rang out, then another. A third. The man began to fall. Still silent. More shots. He lay still. A final round hit his head....
Brigade commander Basel Eissa did shout at his men but was unable to stop them. Leaders of the unit said the fighters were angry at taking casualties. They also justified their action by saying they later found documents showing the dead man was a loyalist army officer - though that would be no defense in a war crimes court.
"I try to remind them that there are moral reasons we do not just kill soldiers," Eissa said. "And beyond that, I tell them that strategically it is bad - we get help or information when we spare these men's lives. We are not their judge, God is."
1535 GMT: Morocco. Nineteen foreign journalists have been deported from Morocco by the Interior Ministry. The journalists, 15 Spanish and 4 Norweigan, travelled to the Western Sahara without official permission. A statement by the Ministry accuses them of planning to meet with "separatist" elements, on the second anniversary of clashes between security forces and locals.
1525 GMT: Bahrain. Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), was today called in for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in Manama, following a summons last week. In a letter to the Ministry of Interior, the organisation claimed that he "has been summoned based on no reasonable grounds for investigation", viewing the move as a further tactic of intimidation and "continual targeting of human rights defenders in Bahrain".
Hussain's father is Mohamed Hasan Mohamed Jawad (known as "Parweez"), a long standing human rights activist who was sentenced to 15-years imprisonment by a military court last year.
1513 GMT: Bahrain. Hours after revoking the citizenship of 31 opposition members, the Bahraini regime sentenced one of them, former AlWefaq MP Jawad Fairooz, to 13 months on charges related to illegal assembly. Fairooz's brother --- and fellow former MP --- Jalal was also stripped of his citizenship. The two are currently in London. The Guardian reports that they "may now be forced to make high-profile asylum applications that will be awkward for the relationship between the British and Bahraini governments".
Amnesty International described the decision to remove 31 people's citizenship as "frightening and chilling", adding that "any arbitrary deprivation of nationality, is prohibited under international law".
1502 GMT: Bahrain. Lawyer Mohamed AlJishi reports that Jalila al-Salman, Vice President of the Bahrain Teachers' Association, was arrested yesterday to complete her six-month sentence, on charges relating to calling for a strike.
AlSalman's guilty verdict was upheld last month, despite an international campaign by groups such as Amnesty. She was reportedly tortured and held in solitary confinement following her original arrest last year. Her colleage Mahdi Abu Dheeb is serving a five-year sentence on related charges.
1500 GMT: Syria. Insurgents raid a Government building in a southern suburb of Damasus, defacing posters of President Assad:
Many international NGOs have called for Rajab's release, following a three-year sentence on charges related to organising and participating in protests. Speaking earlier to The Guardian, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said:
Nabeel Rajab must be the world's first Twissident, locked up for criticising his repressive government on Twitter.
"I know him to be an honest and decent man, who travelled far and wide to help the families whose relatives had been locked up in Guantánamo. He's not a lawyer, and he's the furthest thing imaginable from an extremist.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country in a deal to end the conflict.
“I am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or any other country,” Assad said.
He then warned against foreign military intervention, “I don’t think the West is headed in this direction, but if it does, nobody can predict the consequences."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, in remarks posted on his Ministry’s website on Thursday, that Moscow will not support any resolution that threatens the Syrian regime with sanctions:
If their priority is, figuratively speaking, Assad’s head, the supporters of such approach must realize that the price for that will be lives of the Syrians, not their own lives. Bashar Assad isn’t going anywhere and will never leave, no matter what they say. He can’t be persuaded to take that step.
We consider peaceful means as our strategic direction in our political work, attitudes and practices, in order to achieve the demands of our people of real participation in political decisions and planning the future of our homeland with principles of freedom, democracy, social justice, equal citizenship, social and civil peace. Our continuous call for tolerance, diversity, and plurality, is originated from our deep and sincere believe that this is the ideal path to enforce national unity between all different elements of our people.
0825 GMT: Syria. Video of the Free Syrian Army moving into Ras al-Ain, which has a largely Kurdish population, on Wednesday:
All the members, chosen by a general assembly of about 420 participants, are men. They will choose an 11-member executive body and an SNC President later today.
When the results were announced, women delegates jumped up in protest. Some of the male delegates joined their demands that women be added to the group retroactively.
0615 GMT: Syria. It is only 72 hours since the launch of the "Syrian National Initiative", the US-backed attempt to organise a new opposition leadership supplanting the Syrian National Council, but there are always signs that it is being put aside --- or at least complemented --- by other moves.
On Wednesday, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby made the call for the groups meeting in Qatar to reach agreement: "It is important to unify the opposition's visions, especially because everyone knows that the regime in Syria will not remain for long and one day there will be a new situation in Syria."
Yet as the Doha meeting promised a new leadership by Thursday, the more interesting statement came from an unexpected source, British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Amid a tour of the Middle East, Cameron not only said that London would deal directly with leaders of the insurgency but also urged President Obama, now that he has been re-elected, to take decisive action. After a visit to a desert refugee camp for Syrians in northern Jordan, he told reporters, "I am hearing appalling stories about what has happened inside Syria so one of the first things I want to talk to Barack [Obama] about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis".
n Ankara, a Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed to another initiative for a "protected zone" inside Syria. He said Turkey is in talks with NATO about the possible deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that no formal request had been made.