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Bahrain, Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 1000s Gather for The Sit-In

The Meqsha Sit-In in Bahrain last night

See also Syria Live Video: The Shelling of Bab Amro in Homs
MENA Feature: Made in China --- The Arab Spring's Mobile Technology
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Security Council Vetoes --- What's Next?

2208 GMT: We already reported that the US has closed its embassy in Syria, so we ignored the report that the US had issued a new travel warning on Syria. But we missed an interesting detail -

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to remain in Syria despite this Travel Warning to enroll their stay in Syria through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at, and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information.

Next-of-kin information? It is possibly part of a scare strategy, but it would also seem that the US State Department is expecting more escalation in violence, particularly in Damascus.

2143 GMT: According to the Local Coordinating Committees, 74 have died today in Syria at the hands of the regime, "among them 4 children and 4 women: 47 martyrs were in Homs, 12 in the Damascus Suburbs (Zabadany, Saqba, Madaya. Hazza, Daraya), 9 in Idlib, 3 in Damascus (Kafar Souseh, Dummar City), 2 in Aleppo, and 1 in Qalaat Madiq in Hama."

It's worth noting that 27 of those reportedly killed were not in Homs. Though the most disturbing story remains the massacre in Syria's 3rd largest city, there are ongoing campaigns against the opposition in Daraa province, Idlib province, and Damascus, as well as Hama.

2126 GMT: More video from Homs - The initial spark for the massacre in Homs on Friday night were battles between the Free Syrian Army and pro-Assad troops, and the capture of more than a dozen Syrian soldiers, in the Bayada district, which, as is obvious from the last videos we posted, is an area that is still under siege. However, the Baba Amr district appears to have been the hardest hit. This video, also posted by France 24, reportedly shows the blood-spattered walls in a home in Baba Amr, as well as the sheer destruction outside. During the video, explosions can be heard outside:

We believe that this video was taken by an activist, Cheikh Raed, whose full account of the situation in Homs can be found here.

2054 GMT: Recently, EA has noted several defections from the Assad military that we felt were significant. Now, a senior Pentagon official has stated that the US intelligence believes that some of these defections are "noteworthy."

"It is noteworthy that we're seeing some high level defections, senior Syrian military officials defecting into the opposition," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters.

2047 GMT: We've seen many videos today of activist Muhammad Abu al-Fida, who has been filming the damage in Homs, often as the shells are still landing in the distance, primarily (or exclusively) in the Bayada and Khalidiya districts (see a map of Homs).

2024 GMT: Back from a lunch/research/interview break to find that the news hasn't gotten any better in Syria.

The first noteworthy news is that, according to the LCCS, several noteworthy landmarks, including the clock tower in Bab Amr, have been destroyed by the Syrian military. According to the LCCS, SANA is videotaping the scene and says that "armed terrorists" were behind the destruction.

According to some reports, the shelling continues in Homs.

Several cities in Daraa province are also reportedly being shelled. Since last week, there has been concerted military campaign against several cities that have a high-opposition presence.

This video was also reportedly taken in Ma'arrat al Nouman, Idlib PRovince:

1647 GMT: The LCCS now reports that 55 have been killed so far across Syria, including "4 children and 3 women. 37 martyrs in Homs, 9 in Damascus suburbs (Zabadani and Madaya), 6 in Idlib, 2 in Aleppo and 1 in Kafar Souseh in Damascus."

The list of deaths has few surprises, based on their updates this morning, with Homs and Zabadani/Madaya accounting for the majority of the deaths.

1626 GMT: Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is addressing the House of Commons. He has condemned the veto of a security council resolution by Russia and China, but has pledged that the UNSC was not the end of the process to stop the violence in Syria.

Hague has pledged his continued support of the efforts of the Arab League, but has also said that he wishes to broaden the international coalition that could seek an end to the crisis. He has announced that he would support an Arab Group, "Friends of Syria," that could be headed by Qatar. The pirpose of this group would be to increase pressire on Assad economically and politically.

The UK would support this group, but would also seek to strengthen its ties with the opposition, and stressed the need to unify the various opposition groups.

It also appears that the UK will pressure the EU towards more action, and Hague even talked about documenting Assad's crimes for possible trial, perhaps in the International Criminal Court.

The final, and perhaps most significant update from Hague - the UK has also closed it's embassy in Damascus.

It appears that if Russia and China would like to shut down the UN's discussion with the Syrian regime, then the UK and the US are signaling that they are also done with using diplomacy to force Assad to change, but they are just getting started in their efforts to use diplomacy with outher European and Middle Eastern nations, against the Assad regime.

1615 GMT: A London group has also released this promo video, supporting a rally to be held in the UK on Saturday in solidarity with the Bahraini opposition.

1603 GMT: EA's John Horne reports that the Bahraini opposition has friends in London:

We have often noted the creativity demonstrated by many in the Bahrain opposition. In London yesterday, snow offered the opportunity for activists to make a minature Pearl Roundabout:

1600 GMT: This was reportedly taken in a residential neighborhood of al Rastan, north of Homs. Reports have been coming in all day that the city is also being shelled, and in the tail end of the video you can hear the distant rumbling of explosions:

1556 GMT: The LCCS has released a statement on the latest situation in Zabadani (see update at 1444 GMT):

9 martyrs were reported, among them 2 children; there are multiple wounded; and 40 houses were destroyed as a result of artillery fire at Zabadany and Madaya. Residents are suffering a severe shortage of medical and food supplies, as well as water, and the area is totally surrounded by tanks. Communications and electricity are completely cut off. These conditions make the Zabadany area a disaster zone. Activists fear an impending massacre by the regime as revenge against the FSA. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria holds the regime responsible for any killing or wounding of civilians.

1518 GMT: There is no blood in this video, but it is hard to watch, as people stand in what used to be a home, destroyed just minutes earlier by a shell in the Khalidiya district of Homs:

This is a map of all the neighborhoods in Homs. So far, there are reports of heavy shelling in the north, south, east, west, center, and most neighborhoods in between.

1505 GMT: The LCCS also post this video, which they say is a fire set by shelling near the train tracks in Daraya, Damascus.

1455 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria have posted a statement that they say comes from an organization of Alawites in Homs. The statement condemns the actions of the Assad regime, and pledges full support of the Syrian opposition. According to the statement, the Alawites anounced:

- Our public and unconditional support of the Syrian revolutionaries

- Our public and unconditional denouncement of the Syrian thugs ruling the country and everyone supporting it despite of his/her motivations and excuses.

- Our public and unconditional support against those who encourage the killing of the unarmed civilians; for they are the true enemies of the new Syria regardless of their sect.

If the statement comes from a respected Alawite organization, this is a major development. The Assad regime is largely made up of Alawites, a minority in Syria, and many primarily-Alawite neighborhoods have remained loyal to Assad, even in Homs. It is worth noting, however, that this is not the first group of Alawites to condemn the actions of the Assad regime. However, this, to our knowledge, could mark the first time an Alawite group actually declared support for the opposition.

1444 GMT: This video was taken in Zabadani, 20 miles northwest of Damascus. Zabadani fell to the opposition several weeks ago, and the Syrian military signed a ceasefire agreement with the local leaders and the Free Syrian Army, but Zabadani has now been under attack for several days:

1435 GMT: We've been covering the crisis in Syria for 11 months, but we cannot stress enough how urgent today's news from Homs has become, and this video is the clearest sign yet that the government has dramatically increase the level of aggression against the city.

This was reportedly taken in the Baba Amr district of Homs. Listen to the shells (or rockets?) whistle in before the massive explosions. Also note that there is nearly constant gunfire in the background in the beginning.

1429 GMT: A resident gives this report to The Telegraph from what appears to be a hospital in Homs. He says,

"They're hitting us with rockets. They've been hitting us with rockets for four hours now. They're going to kill us all. If you don't help us, they'll kill millions, and nobody will find out about it.

"Please, someone help us! This is Homs, Baba Amr, February the 6th."

1422 GMT: In the last report, the LCCS said that 36 were killed in Homs. That number may be very low, but the LCCS has a fairly sophisticated verification method where their own sources have to confirm their numbers with multiple sources.

However, reports have been circulating for many hours of another heavy assault on the city of Homs, and a report that is at least an hour and a half old said that the Syrian National Council was already reporting more than 50 deaths in Homs.

1418 GMT: According to the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, 46 people have been killed by security forces, "among them four (4) children and three (3) women. 36 martyrs fell in Homs, four (4) in Madaya in Damascus Suburbs, two (2) in Aleppo, three (3) in Idlib and one (1) in Kafar Souseh in Damascus."

1412 GMT: The US has closed its embassy in Syria, and all staff have already been removed from the country via Jordan:

The Syrians were notified about the decision to pull the staff and shutter the embassy after the employees were out of the country, the officials said.

The officials said the deterioration of the situation in the country made it impossible for the embassy to continue operations and for the staff to remain.

“The government is getting stretched beyond its ability to control the various elements of violence in the country,” one senior official said.

The officials said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the final call after the State Department’s management and security staff presented her with their concerns and recommendations.

“This is a decision we never take lightly. Our embassies are a very important part of our diplomacy around the world.”

This move signals two things: 1. the situation is deteriorating rapidly, so quickly that the US does not believe that it is worth the risk to continue direct diplomacy, and 2. the US is planning to increase non-diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime.

1342 GMT: With Scott Lucas on the road, James Miller takes over the live coverage and will try to quickly get up to speed.

Just moments ago, an EA correspondent in Bahrain sent us this information, that another person has, according to members of the opposition, died on teargas inhalation in Bahrain:

Translation of Said Yousif Almuhafda's Latest tweets (Almuhafda is a leading member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights):

"I just spoke with the Family of martyr Ali Abdullah Alhaiki and they confirmed that he suffered from suffocation from teargas that was shot in front of his house in Samaheej.

"The shots were in front of his house main door, after he got suffocated he was taken to the Salmanya hospital, Ali did not suffer from any kind of illness"

I called a friend from Samaheej and he confirmed said tweets and gave more information too about the martyr:

Name: Ali Isa Abdulla AlHaiki
From: Samaheej
Age: 48 y/o
Date of martyrdom: 6-2-2012
Cause of death: suffocating from tear-gas

0810 GMT: A march in Mehaza in Bahrain last night declaring readiness to die for the pursuit of rights, "Prepare your shrouds, we will return to Martyrs Square (Pearl Roundabout":

0610 GMT: In Syria, activists report continued shelling of the Bab Amro section of Homs, more than 48 hours after the slaying of hundreds in a regime assault on the city.

Sunday's bombardment reportedly started at 8 a.m. Danny Abdul Dayem, a resident, said, "It has been terrible. There is non-stop bombing with rockets, mortar bombs and tank shells. There were more than 50 people injured in Bab Amr today. I saw with my own eyes kids with no legs, and a kid who lost his whole bottom jaw. It is terrible."

Sounds of gunfire and explosions in claimed footage of the neighbourhood this morning:

A Live Stream is also broadcasting from Bab Amro.

0555 GMT: In Egypt, clashes persisted for a fourth day in Cairo, with the Central Security Forces firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and birdshot.

Last night, news emerged that blogger and activist Salma Said, prominent in the uprising against the Mubarak regime and an articulate spokeswoman for resistance in appearances around the world, had been hit by three birdshot pellets in the face and 26 in the legs. A close-up photograph showed how close Said was to losing her eyes, as many others have over the last year.

Said, speaking in an Al Jazeera English report last April about a police raid on Tahrir Square in Cairo:

0545 GMT: The picture is not only a thousand words. In this case, it stands in for words.

Almost unnoticed by media outside Bahrain --- a story from Reuters was a notable exception --- thousands have begun gathering in Meqsha for a week-long sit-in, leading up to the first anniversary of the mass protests next Monday.

Last night, the square was full of people listening to speeches and anthems, after the tone had been set by Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of the the largest opposition soceity Al Wefaq, "This people will not calm down and there will be no calm or stability while [political prisoners] are behind bars." Poetess Ayat al-Qurmezi promised, "This is a dress rehearsal for the return. We will return! We will return! Soon our sit-in will not be here but at the Pearl Roundabout," the symbolic centre of the demonstrations which was overrun by security forces last March.

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