A demonstration on Wednesday night in the Qaboun section of Damascus
See also Syria Video: Stop One Year of Bloodshed br>
Syria Breaking: Alien World Steps In...Since This One Refuses To br>
Syria Special: Will Turkey Back Foreign Intervention? br>
Turkey Live Coverage (14 March): A Growing Role Over Syria br>
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: More Than 100 Die as Regime Takes Idlib
2109 GMT: Another important video, reportedly taken in Aleppo today. This comes via NPR's Ahmed al Omran:
2018 GMT: Syrian State News Agency
TV, SANA, has released pictures of the Pro-Assad rallies that took place across the country. Looking at the pictures, we're shocked. These rallies were scheduled way ahead of time, many of these supporters were bused to the location, there are rumors that some of the crowd was paid to be there, and state employees were forced to go. Despite all these facts, the size of the crowd in Damascus appears to be perhaps only half of what we've seen in similar rallies in the past.
1959 GMT: In Bahrain, many activists today are remembering Ahmed Farhan, who was killed one year ago today. In many ways, Ahmed has become the focal point of the many rallies that reportedly took place both earlier today and this evening across the small island nation.
1832 GMT: A Bahraini activist reports on this evening's events in one of the villages:
There [is] a small rally which will be followed by memorial sit-in for Ahmed Farhan. Some of the chants - "God is Greatest," "Oh Hamad, you are traitor," "You are criminals....Go back to Zubara", "revolution, revolution continue...alKhalifa, get out," "Oh Ahmed martyr...hear us shouting...down with the regime..."
And of course the most famous one "Down Down hamad!"
It's amazing - while we are almost at the end of the rally reaching to the sit-in location we saw another rally coming from another village to join the memorial sit-in.
Security concerns are all valid reasons to close an embassy, but there are no new concerns, and Damascus has not been particularly violent this week, compared to the last month or so. This sudden rush also suggests that there are backdoor conversations in the international community about what is about to happen nnext in Syria.
1720 GMT: Explosions and gunfire echo through the streets of Khan Sheikun, in Idlib province today. The rest of the videos shows the damage that has been done to residences over the last several days:
1707 GMT: The current situation in Turkey is changing wildly. Refugees flocking across the border, and a constantly evolving international dynamic, has encouraged us to start our Turkey live coverage.
Now, Mahir Zeynalov, news editor of Turkey's Today's Zaman, adds these updates:
Turkish officials: 5,000 Syrian refugees crossed into Turkey in the past 10 days. Number of refugees reached to 15,000 in 7 refugee camps.— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) March 15, 2012
Turkish Interior Minister says Turkey is also considering establishing a buffer zone in Syria as mass influx of Syrian refugees have started— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) March 15, 2012
1658 GMT: Today's death toll is probably higher than this, especially since the LCCS itself is reporting two deaths in Aleppo, but this is the latest tally from the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, a network of activists based inside the country:
The number of today’s martyrs in Syria has risen to 46, between them one woman and 4 children. 37 martyrs fell in Idlib, 5 fell in Hama, 2 martyrs fell in Daraa and 1 martyr fell in each of Homs and Aleppo.
1638 GMT: Homs, and particularly Baba Amr, became important stories because of several reasons. It is a major city, it was nearly completely surrounded, and the residents there were captives during the entire assault.
However, it is far from a unique place. Al Rastan to the north of Homs; Zabadani, Madaya, and Rankous, near Damascus; Qalaat al Madiq in Hama... many cities are surrounded and shelled daily.
The town is suffering from a very tight siege after security forces are deployed in it and many security checkpoints are set up inside it. most of the bridges leading towards it are destroyed and there are tunnels that were dug around it. fire shots are fired every now and then to scare the people, and some motorcycles are being confiscated
1612 GMT: Syrian activist Zilal, who is very familiar with Aleppo, forwards us these two videos, the first of a very large demonstration in the Umayyad Mosque, in the heart of Aleppo, protesting the Assad government. The second video shows those same protesters fleeing gunfire.
Aleppo now has multiple neighborhoods where there are regular protests, its streets look like the inside of a military base, its university is in outright rebellion, and its lawyers have joined the throng.
This is Aleppo, the
second largest city in Syria, the wealthiest city in Syria - this is Assad's last real stronghold.
1604 GMT: EA's John Horne reports:
Bahrani activists, including Sayed Mohamed and a delegation from the UK, spoke at the Swedish Parliament yesterday. With the scandal of the Swedish built arms plant in Saudi Arabia currently sweeping the country, the Bahraini activists spoke about the role of Saudi troops and arms in suppressing the opposition movements as well as the ongoing human rights violations committed by the Al-Khalifa regime.
This comes at a time when another Scandinavian country, Demnark, is putting increasing pressure on the Bahrain regime to release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Al-Khawaja, a human rights activist and political prisoner, is currently on the 36th day of a hunger strike.
"The shutdown is an expression of the revulsion we feel in the face of the appalling violence of the Syrian government," Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said in a statement.
"Minister Rosenthal shut down the Dutch embassy in Damascus because of the worsening security conditions and to send a political sign to Syria," he said.
1528 GMT: Pro-Assad protests have occurred in several cities across Syria, being organized to defy the 1 year anniversary of anti-government protests. In Al Harak, Daraa, however, a large and defiant crowd of opposition protesters gathered to "show up" the pro-Assad crowd.
1518 GMT: Smoke rises over Aleppo University as security and "shabiha" storm the campus:
According to a prominent network of activists, the LCCS, many arrests have been made, and many dorm rooms have been searched, after days of nearly continual protest on campus.
"The Syrian people is deeply divided and if we give arms to a particular faction of the opposition we could trigger a civil war between Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shia," Juppe warned, in a radio interview.
"It could become an even bigger catastrophe than we have now."
1456 GMT: EA Correspondent John Horne reports:
Around 75 members of the US Army National Guard will be heading to Bahrain for 9 months to provide security at the Bahrain International Airport.
The decision by America to accept the Bahrain governments request for assistance risks exacerbating anti-American sentiment felt by many in the Bahrain opposition, concerned by US military and other support to the Al Khalifa regime. It will also likely create concerns about survillance of visitors in and out of the country and could threaten the relationships US Government organisations and NGOs have been trying to build with many Bahrainis.
This has never happened before - so why now? It's possible that US authorities are unhappy with Bahrain's security measures, or that they have received a specific threat (there have been a rash of ramming airport security gates worldwide this month). While we're unlikely to ever really know the reason, it's likely to stir up more controversy, and plenty of ill feelings.
1435 GMT: Today is the one year anniversary of the first protests in Syria, an organized rally in Daraa. Since that day, conservatives estimates of the amount of people killed in the resulting crackdown range from 8,000 to 12,000. EA's estimate is closer to 11,000, but some activists claim to have lists over nearly 20,000 dead. Beyond this, countless are wounded, and perhaps more than 100,000 political prisoners remain in detention, where allegations of torture, or worse, are always whispered.
There have been many video campaigns to commemorate the event. We have posted on in a separate feature, a collection of videos from the conflict and statements by western celebrities, which was sent to EA by super-activist Rami al Jarrah.
See also Syria Video: Stop One Year of Bloodshed br>
1427 GMT: In Syria, it is the one year anniversary of the first protest in Daraa. However, the story today is far more violent.
There are continued reports of Syrian military operations across Daraa, Hama, Idlin, and Homs provinces, as well as reports that there have been many arrests today at Aleppo University.
This video, reportedly taken today in Qalaat al Madiq, in Hama province, shows a shell slamming into the city, reportedly hitting a home in the citadel district. The city has been under attack for days.
Elsewhere, the scene is equally chaotic. An EA correspondent reports in on events that are only minutes old:
"The Youth of Markuban village regrouped and went on to protest towards the police station in Sitra - Police shot teargas in extensive [amounts].
"Teargas shots were flying over my car!!! I had to go in reverse and drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid them. The police went on chasing the youths."
1340 GMT: Things are very busy today in Bahrain on the one year anniversary of the regime's attack on Sitra. Earlier this hour, an EA correspondent in Bahrain reported that a march started in Kharijya village, and about a thousand protesters are walking inside the village, but "police are preparing to attack - about 20 jeeps parked near the village." This is far from the only protest, however.
"Small clashes have been on going in the island (Sitra). And burning tires on the main roads from early morning."
Now, he reports that the situation appears to have intensified:
"The situation is dangerous. Police forces are moving in their SUVs, teargasing the village entrances.
"Now I see a house covered with teargas due to [police] shooting in it!!"
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.
0945 GMT: The Bahraini regime has announced that families of Bahrainis and expatriates killed or injured during the unrest may apply to a BD10 million (more than $26.5 million) compensation fund as part of a "Civil Settlement Initiative".
Regime outlets say this is part of the compliance with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report published last November.
The announcements says motorists whose cars were damaged or disappeared amidst protests over the last year may also claim compensation.
On another front, the Information Affairs Authority posts, "The Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development (MoHRSD) signed today a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bahrain Reiki Centre to provide Energy Healing (Reiki) services to the ministry’s employees."
0845 GMT: Two contrasting claims about Iranian intervention....
Iranian State news agency IRNA highlights that a Tehran aircraft carrying 40 tons of medical aid arrived in Syria today. The cargo was handed over to the Syrian Red Crescent, according to the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani.
Sheibani said the shipment included medicines and medical equipment, with subsequent deliveries of food products, ambulances, tents and blankets.
The New York Times prefers a far different claim of Tehran's involvement in the Middle East:
In the past several months, Iran appears to have increased its political outreach and arms shipments to rebels and other political figures in Yemen as part of what American military and intelligence officials say is a widening Iranian effort to extend its influence across the greater Middle East.
Iranian smugglers backed by the Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are using small boats to ship AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other arms to replace older weapons used by the rebels, a senior American official said. Using intercepted cellphone conversations between the smugglers and Quds Force operatives provided by the Americans, the Yemeni and Indian coastal authorities have seized some shipments, according to the American official and a senior Indian official.
The scale of Iran’s involvement remains unclear, and some Yemeni officials and analysts remain skeptical about the impact of any weapons shipments, citing a long history of dubious accusations by Saudi Arabia — Iran’s regional nemesis — and Saudi allies in Yemen.
Militants rampaged through an army camp in southern Yemen before dawn, catching soldiers asleep and killing more than 180. Amid the turmoil, the defense minister ordered helicopters to evacuate the wounded.
The air force commander, Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, refused, according to a senior official at the main air force base in Sanaa.
Notably, al-Ahmar is a half brother of ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. Many in the military and government say the refusal last week is one example of how Saleh is working behind the scenes to obstruct the new U.S.-backed government as it tries to bring reform and step up the fight against al-Qaida militants in this impoverished Arab nation.
0605 GMT: We are travelling to Ireland this morning, so Live Coverage will resume later today. In the meantime, we post two features: "Will Turkey Back Foreign Intervention?" and "Syria Breaking: Alien World Steps In...Since This One Refuses To".