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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Insurgents Take Another Town in the North

Fighting in Harem in Syria. late October 2012

See also Yemen Feature: Covering Up the Civilian Deaths from a US Drone Attack
Bahrain Feature: Policeman Slaps Father Holding Infant --- The Video That Went Viral
Bahrain Opinion: "A Regime Trampling Human Rights" --- Detained Zainab AlKhawaja in The New York Times
Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 156 Killed as UN Envoy Brahimi Meets Assad

2145 GMT: Egypt. Having signed the approved Constitution, President Morsi used a televised speech tonight to declare "a free Constitution, not granted by a king, imposed by a president, or forced by a colonial power...[but] chosen by the people of Egypt to give to themselves".

The President said that he is planning for a Cabinet reshuffle of the Government of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil "to face all problems, large and small problems".

Morsy then called for unity through discussion, “Dialogue has become a necessity. I renew the call to all parties and political forces to participate in the national dialogue, which I personally sponsor, to complete the road map for this stage. Ahead of us are days of work, effort, diligence and production from everyone.”

Morsi promised "to do my best to boost the economy, which is facing huge challenges". He said he "will respect the law and the Constitution, safeguard the interests of the people fully, and preserve the nation and its territorial sovereignty."

2055 GMT: Syria. Minister of Interior Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar has returned to Damascus, after treatment in Lebanon for wounds sustained in an insurgent bombing near the Ministry earlier this month.

Al-Shaar was wounded in his shoulder, stomach and legs when an explosives-rigged car and two other bombs were detonated, killing at least five people.

1725 GMT: Egypt. While the Muslim Brotherhood has been celebrating the passage of the Constitution by referendum, the Salafist Noor Party appears to be ih disarray.On Tuesday evening, former Party representatives issued a statement announcing the mass resignation of 150 leading members from 23 Egyptian governorates.

Mohamed Nour, former Party spokesperson, said he and his colleagues wished the ruling coalition the best, but they had a different political vision from those of recent Noor Party policies: “We decided to have our own political group that opens its doors to any Egyptian who wants to work under the Islamic Sharia umbrella."

The departing members include several current and former members of Parliament.

1705 GMT: Syria. An opposition rally in the Jobar section of Damascus today:

1646 GMT: Following his meeting on Monday with United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, President Assad has sent Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad to Moscow for discussions.

A "Syrian security source" gave no details of the talks and whether there was the prospect of a deal. However, a Lebanese official close to Damascus said Makdad had been sent to seek Russian advice on a possible agreement.

The official added, "There is a new mood now and something good is happening."

A Russian Foreign Ministry source said Makdad and an aide would meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East affairs, on Thursday He did not disclose the nature of the talks.

1505 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of insurgents battling a regime tank in the streets of the Damascus suburb of Darayya:

1235 GMT: Syria. Activists, including the Local Coordination Committees, claim that 21 people have been killed in regime shelling of a farm in Qahtaniya in Raqqa Province in northern Syria.

>Eight children are reportedly among the dead.

1045 GMT: Syria. The head of the Islamist insurgent group Jabhat al-Nusra has given an interview to Rana Abouzeid of Time.

Abu Adnan dismissed fears of an Islamic Syria:

Those in exile think that we will scare the West and Europe if we are an Islamic state. We are not an Islamic state now, and what have these countries offered over the past year and nine months? Why has the West for a year and nine months not given anything to the revolution?...

“The Prophet {Mohammad], peace be upon him, had a Jewish neighbour. Whoever has not oppressed, or participated in the harming of the people, his rights are his rights and his duties are his duties.

At the same time, Abu Adnan defending the execution of regime fighters, some of which have been captured on video: “We detained them, lined them up and killed them. They were fighters fighting us. So this is terrorism, but we forget that there is an entire state that has terrorized people for 40 years?”

0815 GMT: Israel and Palestine. A Ministry of Interior committee has given final approval for 1200 units in the Gilo settlement, located on Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem.

The endorsement is part of a wave of approvals of 5500 housing approvals on land over the Green Line. The largest project is 2610 apartments in the first stage of Givat Hamatos, the first completely detached new Jewish neighbourhood in Palestine since the construction of Har Homa in 1997.

A planning committee has also givem final approval to 1,500 apartments in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo, a project initially supported during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit in March 2010.

0755 GMT: Bahrain. Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah AlKhalifa has effectively admitted police abuses captured on videos that emerged on Monday.In one of the videos, police officers beat and kicked a defenceless man in AlEker. In another --- which has accumulated more than 330,000 views, a police officer in A'ali slapped a man holding an infant.

See Bahrain Feature: Policeman Slaps Father Holding Infant --- The Video That Went Viral

Claiming that some videos showing police aggression were shot several months ago, AlKhalifa condemned the "unacceptable" behavior of the policemen: "[It] gravely affects the public's opinion of the integrity of the police force." He stressed that the actions of a few officers do not represent the actions of the force.

The Minister said a committee, chaired by the Chief of Public Security, had been established to the causes and the solutions of such behaviour: "Anyone who has violated our policies will be held accountable."

0730 GMT: Iraq. A Kurdish official has said that Kurdistan has suspended oil exports in an ongoing dispute with Baghdad over payments.

Ali Hussein Balo, the advisor of the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources, said Baghdad is withdrawing $300 million from a settlement reached in September.

Since 2003, Kurdish authorities have unilaterally struck more than 50 deals with foreign oil companies, despite the opposition of the central government. In 2011, the two sides reached a tentative deal in which the Kurds send the oil to Baghdad, which sells it and pays 50% of the revenues to the autnomous region.

In April, the Kurds halted exports of around 100,000 barrels a day, saying that Baghdad had made only two payments under the agreement and had failed to pay $1.5 billion that was owed. Four months later, the Kurds agreed to restart exports as a goodwill gesture, paving the way for a new agreement under which Baghdad would pay about $848 million this autumn.

"The region has found itself forced to halt the oil exports as Baghdad didn't fulfill a commitment it made in the September agreement in regard to payment," Balo said.

Balo said the Kurdish region of Iraq had been exporting around 180,000 barrels a day before decreasing the shipments. He said exports were halted within the past week.

Faisal Abdullah, the spokesman for Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for energy affairs, confirmed that the full amount from the September agreement had not been paid. He said the payments were suspended because the Kurds were pumping less than the 200,000 barrels a day they had pledged to deliver.

0650 GMT: Syria. Another claimed high-profile defection --- in a video released on Tuesday, Major General Abdulaziz Al-Shalal, the "chief of the military police", declares that he left for Turkey "because of [the regime's] deviation of its fundamental mission to protect the nation and transformation into gangs of killing and destruction".

0550 GMT: Syria. Insurgents have reportedly captured another town in the north.

Activists said Harem, just over a mile from the Turkish border, fell to the opposition after weeks of siege and fighting. The town of 20,000 featured a historic citadel, overlooking the town, which had been turned into a military post.

The insurgents have secured most of the towns along the Turkish and Iraqi borders and are now pressing further into the country. In recent weeks, they have taken a number of towns near Hama and are now close to Syria's fourth-largest city.

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