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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 156 Killed as UN Envoy Brahimi Meets Assad

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2100 GMT: Egypt. The US State Department has reacted to today's official declaration of the approval of the Constitution:

The future of Egypt’s democracy depends on forging a broader consensus behind its new democratic rules and institutions. Many Egyptians have voiced deep concerns about the substance of the constitution and the constitutional process. President Morsi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions, build trust, and broaden support for the political process. We have called for genuine consultation and compromise across Egypt’s political divides. We hope those Egyptians disappointed by the result will seek more and deeper engagement. We look to those who welcome the result to engage in good faith. And we hope all sides will re-commit themselves to condemn and prevent violence.

2000 GMT: Palestine. Electronic Intifada reports on Samer Issawi, a detainee in an Israeli prison, who has gone without food for 138 days.

Issawi's sister Shireen said:

The last news we got was on 14 December when the Israeli occupation court refused to release Samer on bail. I have received news from different sources indicating that my brother has recently started suffering from severe pain in all of his body especially in his muscles, abdomen and kidneys.

He has an acute vitamin B-12 deficiency. His body has begun to eat his muscles and nerves. It seems he has lost the control of his limbs as a result of malfunction of the nerves. His vision is frail as a result of fainting four to five times a day and his body is covered with bruises. He is vomiting blood, his heart is weakening and he can barely breathe.

Issawi and other hunger strikers are protesting the Israeli system of "administrative detention", under which prisoners can be held indefinitely without charge.

1940 GMT: Egypt. The Electoral Commission has confirmed the "Yes" vote in the referendum on the Constitution, with 63.8% support among those participating.

Turnout was 32.9%.

"There is no loser in this referendum result. This constitution will be for all of us," Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said in a statement. He called on "all political forces to cooperate with the government" to restore the economy.

The opposition coalition National Salvation Front has dismissed the referendum as "only one battle" and vowed to "continue the fight for the Egyptian people".

Samir Abul Maati, the President of the Commission said opposition allegations of fake judges supervising some of the polling were unfounded.

1812 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees claim that 126 people have been killed today including 47 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The LCC claims that the Damascus death including 17 men field-executed in the suburb of Moadhamiya.

1805 GMT: Yemen. At least five people were killed in two drone strikes on Monday in the south of the country.

Monday's strikes were the first in almost two months.

Officials said the first drone strike hit a vehicle in a town in al-Bayda province, killing at least two suspected Al Qaeda members. One of those killed in the attack was a Jordanian citizen.

Family members of the other man, a Yemeni named Abdul Raouf Naseeb, confirmed he was one of those killed.

In the second drone strike on Monday, at least three people riding two motorcycles and carrying pistols were killed by a missile in Hadramout Province.

1715 GMT: Syria. Activists claim insurgents have captured Harem, a town of 20,000 in northern Idlib Province near the Turkish border, after weeks of siege and heavy fighting.

Mohammed Kanaan, an Idlib-based activist, said the last post taken was the historic citadel, overlooking the town, which had been turned into a military post.

"Harem is fully liberated now," Kanaan said.

1423 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that 61 people have been killed so far today, including 32 in Damascus and its suburbs.

1043 GMT: Yemen. Two gunmen have shot dead Brigadier Fadel Mohammed Ali, an adviser to the Minister of Defence, outside the ministry's offices in Sanaa.

Meanwhile, eleven people have been killed in the army's ongoing offensive against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly sabotaging an oil pipeline in te Habab Valley in east Yemen.

Seven tribesmen and four soldiers were slain in the early hours amid air raids and rocket-propelled grenades from the insurgents.

A major oil pipeline was sabotaged again last week. Lost production due to attacks in the east has cost the government more than $1 billion in 2012, as oil exports fell by 4.5%.

A tribal source said the offensive was aimed against prominent figure Salah bin Hussein al-Dammaj, who has allegedly blown up the pipeline several times to pressure the authorities to pay him 100 million riyals ($480,000) in compensation for land he claims was taken from him in the capital Sanaa.

1003 GMT: Syria. Taylor Luck of The Washington Post reports:

Encouraged by what they see as fatal setbacks to the Syrian regime, several thousand of an estimated 250,000 Syrian exiles in Jordan have left in recent weeks to join the rebellion in their homeland.

The exodus has emptied hundreds of the safe houses, apartments and refu­gee tents that have housed Syrians in Mafraq and other northern Jordanian cities, according to Syrian activists and Jordanian officials. Jordanian security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk on the record, said that as many as 8,000 Syrians have crossed the border back into their home country in the past 10 days.

According to Syrian activists in Syria and Jordan, the sudden returns are a response to a call for reinforcements issued in early December by the rebel military council, the main umbrella organization of army defectors locked in a bloody war of attrition against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Activists said the response has been greatest among refugees in Jordan because pro-Assad militias in Lebanon have prevented similar returns from that country and because many Syrians in Turkey have already been involved in the fight.

0948 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Israel has granted university status to a college for Jewish settlers in Palestine's West Bank.

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said that, following a legal review, he had instructed the military to upgrade the college's status. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the institute's president to congratulate him and issued the statement, "This is an additional boost to higher education in Israel."

Israel's council of higher education previously voted against the upgrade, citing academic rather than political reasons. It said there was no justification for another Israeli university when others were already suffering from a shortage in faculty and research infrastructure.

About 9,000 Jewish settlers live in Ariel, located deep in the West Bank. The Ariel institution has operated for 30 years in some form and how has about 12,500 students. It is open to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs, but like other Israeli universities, it is closed to the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

0748 GMT: Bahrain. Reports indicate that the detention of Said Yousif, the Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, will be extended:

Yousif was seized during a protest in Manama on 17 December and held for "sending false Twitter messages".

0745 GMT: Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood reports on its webpage that the official results of the referendum on the Constitution will be announced at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

0730 GMT: Syria. On Monday, Martin Chulov of The Guardian reported that the former Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi, who "disappeared" from Syria earlier this month, is now in the US and co-operating with American intelligence services.

Now activist Rami Jarrah has posted a lengthy conversation, via Direct Messages on Twitter, that he had with Makdisi in July --- an extract:

0650 GMT: Syria. United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met President Assad on Monday in Damascus.

Before the encounter, there had been chatter that Brahimi would present a plan for a transition of power to Assad, but little of significance emerged. The envoy merely said, "The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all the parties will go toward the solution that the Syrian people are hoping for and look forward to." Syrian State media said Assad had "stressed Syrian government's keenness on the success of any efforts that pour in interest of the Syrian people and preserve the sovereignty and independence of the homeland".

Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committees reported that 156 people had been killed on Monday, inlcuding 21 children and four women. Sixty of the deaths were in Damascus and its suburbs, 29 in Aleppo Province, 28 in Homs Province, and 19 in Hama Province.

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