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Sunday
Dec022012

Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Internet Returns as Regime Tries to Hold Damascus "Periphery"

Saturday's rallies for Egyptian President Morsi and the draft Constitution

See also Syria Feature: How the Assad Regime Shut Down the Internet
Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Breaking Through the Blackout


2135 GMT: Yemen Two tribesmen have been killed following intensive Government shelling in Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa. According to Associated Press, citing an anonymous official, the shelling "was aimed at intimidating militants who attacked a crude oil pipeline just half an hour after repairs to it were completed a day earlier".

2130 GMT: Syria. Journalist Jenan Moussa reports on food shortages and rising prices in Aleppo:

2100 GMT: Syria. >. Lebanese troops fought with Syrian insurgents on the border today, in what a security source said was the first such clash.

The fighting occurred when a Lebanese border unit spotted insurgents, who opened fire to prevent the patrol from approaching. The source said there were no casualties.

2008 GMT: Bahrain. Police on duty in Sitra tonight:

1934 GMT: Egypt. Judicial sources within Egypt's Judges Club say members will boycott the Constitutional referendum on 15 December, refusing to supervise the voting process.

1734 GMT: Israel and Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed condemnation of plans to expand Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

"We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel's strategic interests," Netanyahu said after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Responding to Thursday's United Nations recognition of Palestine as an Observer State, West Jerusalem has announced that it is withholding Palestinian tax revenues this month and that it will build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

An Israeli official said the Government also ordered "preliminary zoning and planning work" for thousands of housing units in areas including the "E1" zone near Jerusalem. Such construction could divide the West Bank in two.

However, Israeli officials said it could up to two years before any building begins in E1.

An Israeli official said any agreement not to build in E1 was now irrelevant:

I understand there was some agreement with the Americans in 2009 … at the start of this government’s term of office not to build in E1. That commitment has been kept in full.

Now we have two new factors making it no longer a relevant understanding --- new elections in a few weeks [that] will bring a new [Israeli] government...and [the Palestinian Authority’s] fundamental violation of all prior agreements and re-writing of the rules.

1732 GMT: Syria. 105 people have been killed so far today across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees:

47 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 20 martyrs in Aleppo, 22 martyrs in Homs, 6 martyrs in Idlib, 5 martyrs in Raqqa, 3 martyrs in Hama and 2 martyrs in Deir Ezzor.

See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

1617 GMT: Syria. EgyptAir has announced that it will resume its flights to Damascus and Aleppo airports tomorrow. The airline had suspended flights on Friday. In a statement, the company's head Roshdy Zakaria said:

The decision comes after coordination with the Egyptian embassy in Damascus and the EgyptAir office in Syria and making sure the security conditions are stable at the moment in Syria, especially on the roads leading to Damascus and Aleppo airports.

1610 GMT: Syria. Aftermath of today's car bomb in Homs, which reportedly killed at least 15 people:

1600 GMT: Saudi Arabia. The latest hearing in the trial of activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid was held on Saturday, with the public prosecutor saying the two were charged with “trying to impede the country's development”. He said, “Anyone that follows what the two are writing, finds no mention of any positive aspect [of Saudi Arabia]. This proves that they are only looking for flaws”.

The public prosecutor's evidence of al-Hamid's disrespect to state clergy including a claim that the activist had misspelled the last name of clerlic Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen to make it sound like “Muhammad, the son of the sterile".

1550 GMT: Egypt. Eighteen opposition groups and political parties have announced plans for a peaceful march to the Presidential Palace on Tuesday at 5pm. A statement posted on the Egyptian Popular Current's Facebook page reads in part:

The constitution project that Morsi wants to put before a referendum is in fact a project for tying down the political, civil, social and economic freedoms of Egyptians.

This is a final warning to Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected president: his policies, which favour his party and group, will cause the dissolution of his legitimacy.

1541 GMT: Kuwait/Palestine. On Thursday, Kuwait gave the Palestinian Authority $50 million to support its budget. Jamal al-Ghunaim, Kuwait's Ambassador to the Arab League, said it would help the Palestinian Authority face economic pressure from Israel, reported Ma'an news.

Today, Israel announced it was withholding this months tax receipts to the Palestinian Authority, believed to be worth up to $100 million (see 1509 GMT).

1529 GMT: Palestine Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas returned to the West Bank on Sunday to cheering crowds, three days after Palestine won Observer State recognition from the United Nations General Assembly.

"Palestine has accomplished a historic achievement at the UN," Abbas said. "The world said in a loud voice... yes to the state of Palestine, yes to Palestine's freedom, yes to Palestine's independence, no to aggression, no to settlements, no to occupation.

Abbas pledged that his "first and most important" task after the UN victory is to achieve Palestinian unity, with efforts to reconcile his faction Fatah with Hamas. The crowd responded, "The people want the end of the division."

Abbas was received with a full honour guard, descending from his car to walk along a red carpet at the Ramallah Presidential headquarters, where he shook hands with waiting dignitaries. He laid a wreath and said a brief prayer at the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, dedicating the UN victory to his memory.

1524 GMT: Egypt. An 18-year-old activist, Ahmed Naguib, has died of gunshot wounds suffered during last month's clashes between security forces and protesters just off Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Naguib was hospitalised last week with a head injury.

At least one other protester has died of gunshot wounds, and another succumbed to tear gas inhalation since the fighting began almost two weeks ago. Protesters were marking the one-year anniversary of the death of 45 demonstrators during rallies near Government buildings.

1520 GMT: Iraq. State TV is reporting that security forces have arrested the top Al Qa'eda leader in the country.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of insurgents, after the killing of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in a US airstrike in 2010.

1517 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA reports a car bomb in Homs, killing at least 15 people and wounding at least 24.

1515 GMT: Egypt. The Supreme Constitutional Court has declared an open-ended strike, saying its judges were prevented by protesters from delivering a key ruling in the current political crisis.

The Court was due to rule on the legality on the Constituent Assembly, which presented a draft Constitution to President Morsi yesterday.

The judges, declaring a "black day" for the judiciary, said they would "suspend work for an indefinite period...and until there is no more psychological and material pressure."

1509 GMT: Israel/Palestine. Israel announced today that it is withholding this months transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. Claiming that Palestine violated interim peace agreements by upgrading their status at the United Nations, Israel will not pass on what could be up to $100 million. Instead, Israel says they will deduct this months tax receipts from a debt they claim the Palestinian Authority owes to the Israel Electric Corporation. Reuters reports:

The cash-strapped authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, largely depends on the tax money to pay civil servants' salaries. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said Israel was guilty of "piracy and theft" by refusing to hand over the funds.

Israel has previously frozen payments to the body during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism, such as when the U.N. cultural body UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership a year ago.

1504 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Several stray shells, fired from Syria, landed in the town of Reyhanli in southeastern Turkey last night, following clashes in the Syrian Bab al-Hawa border post. Turkish state media reported no casualties. It is unknown if there was any return fire.

1055 GMT: Egypt. The Egypt Independent summarises the controversial articles in the draft Constitution, including the relationship between State and society, sections on rights and freedoms, and the powers of Egyptian officials including the President and the military.

The Christian Science Monitor also has a summary.

1035 GMT: Egypt. The Supreme Constitutional Court postponed a session this morning, during which it was expected to rule on the legitimacy of the Constitutent Assembly and its drafting of a Constitution.

Officials cited "administrative reasons" for the delay. Observers said judges had not shown up; however, it appeared they may have been blocked from the courthouse. Several thousand supporters of Morsi surrounded the Court building, holding up placards denouncing the judges and preventing staff from entering the building.

The officials did not know whether a new date has been set for the ruling.

0905 GMT: Iraq. US officials have again warned Baghdad about allowing flights carrying arms to Syria to use Iraqi airspace.

US officials used The New York Times to say the shipments have continued despite Iraqi assurances that they would ground and inspect aircraft. Two planes have been inspected, the latter one on 27 October, but no weapons were found. The US officials say one of the aircraft was returning to Iran from a delivery to Syria.

The officials add, "Iran appears to have been tipped off by Iraqi officials as to when inspections would be conducted."

On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Baghdad was still committeed to enforcing the ban on deliveries, but he added that Iraq does not have the resources to ground and inspect all suspect flights.

0835 GMT: Gaza. The Committee to Protect Journalists has written to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying it is "gravely concerned that Israeli airstrikes targeted individual journalists and media facilities" in last month's eight-day attack on Gaza.

Three journalists were killed in strikes on their cars, and two buildings serving as media centres for the Gazan and international press were deliberately hit, killing one person and injuring at least eight journalists, including one whose leg was amputated.

The Israel Defense Forces have continued, in public statements and social media, to defend the attacks. They have said they were targeting Hamas communications antennae on the towers and that the slain journalists, who worked for Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds Educational Radio, were effectively supporting terrorism.

0825 GMT: Syria. The opposition National Coalition for Opposition says it has agreed upon the parameters of a transitional government.

Meeting for the first time since its creation last month, the Coalition said in a news conference in Cairo that the government would have 10 ministers.

Coalition member Khaled Saleh said: "We now have a clear mechanism for forming the transitional government. We've also worked on mechanism to unite all the different fighting units on the ground in Syria, that has been a demand of the international community, something that we were very eager to accomplish."

0745 GMT: Kuwait. Candidates of the country's Shia minority, for the first time, have won more than a third of the 50 Parliamentary seats.

The victory came in polls boycotted by the opposition, who objected to new electoral laws declared by the Emir.

In contrast, Sunni Islamists were reduced to only four seats, compared to 23 after elections in February.

The Shia, about 30% of Kuwait's native population of 1.2 million, held only seven seats in the dissolved 2012 Parliament and nine in the 2009 legislature.

Three women were elected, and there were as many as 30 new MPs.

The opposition said the boycott was successful, claiming a turnout of 26.6%. The Ministry of Information maintained that 68.8% of registered voters participated.

0739 GMT: Egypt. President Mohamed Morsi, receiving a copy of the draft Constitution on Saturday night, set a date of 15 December for a referendum.

In a televised speech, he declared that the draft, hastily presented and approved this week by the Constituent Assembly, was a amjor step towards the fulfillment of the Revolution that removed the Mubarak regime.

Earlier in the day, supporters of Morsi and the draft Constitution turned out in tens of thousands in rallies across the country. In the largest demonstration, protesters carried banners reading "Together to Save the Revolution."

0730 GMT: Syria. Internet and mobile phone service was restored across much of the country on Saturday afternoon after a cut-off of more than 48 hours. As the regime insisted that the blackout was no more than a technical problem which had been resolved, news began to return of the extent of the Syrian military's campaign to hold the suburbs around Damascus and push back the closing insurgency. Attacks were reported from the northeastern suburbs to the east and south and to the southwest, as fighting continued near Damascus International Airport.

The Local Coordination Committees reported 165 people killed on Saturday, including 60 in Damascus and its suburbs, 38 martyrs in Aleppo Province, and 21 in Idlib Province.

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