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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Peace Plan?

Mass protest in Jarjanaz in Idlib Province in northwest Syria today

2130 GMT: A disturbing close to our coverage today --- footage has been posted claiming to be of women executed by regime "shabiha" (plainclothes forces) in Addawia in Homs in Syria.

2057 GMT: An evening demonstration in Kharab Al-Shaham in Daraa Province in southern Syria:

2029 GMT: Back from a break to find the claim of Avaaz. from citizen journalists, that at least 40 civilians were killed today in the Arbeen section of Hama, after violent clashes broke out between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army.

Doctors in field hospitals in Hama said they were unable to treat the injured as medical supplies ran out. Citizen journalists said there were still supplies of food but warned that they would not last long if the army blockade continued.

Claimed footage of men being detained in Hama:

1559 GMT: Claimed footage of a young man weeping over his mother, reportedly killed in the Bab Sbaa section of Homs in Syria, "Wake up mom, talk to me!":

1547 GMT: The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria claims that 59 people have died today, including 12 children and four women. Idlib has seen 23 casualties, while 13 have died in Hama and 15 in Homs.

Activists say 13 of the dead, including several women and children, were on a bus travelling to a refugee camp in Turkey when it was attacked by regime troops.

1539 GMT: Claimed footage of Muhammed Abdullah Sheikh, the head of the ruling Ba'ath Party in Idlib in northwest Syria, announcing his resignation --- translation via Mona Mahmood of The Guardian:

I declare that I am defecting from the [Ba'ath] party and joining the revolution. This regime does not have a future any more. Ba'athists do not have a history of cowardice except during the time of the Assads. Now they have to prove that they are genuine Syrians. They have bet on a criminal regime that has failed. Regrets will be useless afterwards.

Damn this regime for occupying towns and cities, killing civilians including women and children. It is a tragedy beyond any imagination. This regime is killing itself to try to show portray the revolution as violent. But that is a big lie, it is the revolution of the entire people against injustice and repression.

1529 GMT: A statement issued by members of Yemen's new coalition government has accused members of former President Saleh's General People's Congress of conducting "smear campaigns" against Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa.

These campaigns "reveal non-national inclinations that aim to harm national reconciliation and the missions of the unity government," said the statement by the Common Forum, an alliance of long-time Saleh opponents. It criticised "the destructive policies of the former regime over the past 33 years" of Saleh's reign in power.

1525 GMT: After talks in Vienna, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has called for action on Syria. Referring to Wednesday's United Nations Security Council statement calling on Syrian President Bashar Assad to implement a peace plan offered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, Davutoglu said:

We continue to think that Syria is playing for time and we must do something to stop this violence. In order for this human tragedy to end we must act together.

In Damascus in February we were promised that the violence and atrocities would stop, but since then more and more atrocities have taken place. Just making calls is not enough.

(Cross-posted from our Turkey Live Coverage)

1515 GMT: Claimed footage of shelling around the Madiq Citadel in Hama this morning:

1205 GMT: A funeral procession in Idlib Province in Syria today:

1200 GMT: A day after a Human Rights Watch report criticising kidnappings and executions by insurgents, a leading opposition group said it was working to implement a "code of conduct".

"The Syrian National Council deplores the reported incidents of human rights violations by armed opposition groups in Syria," spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said. "[We will] build coordination between the various groups on the ground in Syria to ensure that human rights abuse does not occur in the fight for freedom."

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has charged today, "Syrian security forces are committing serious abuses in their military campaign on al-Qusayr, a city of approximately 40,000 in Homs governorate near the Lebanese border....Witnesses describe heavy shelling of residential neighborhoods, snipers shooting residents on the streets, and attacks on fleeing residents. Humanitarian conditions are dire, including food and water shortages, communications blackouts, and virtually non-existent medical assistance."

The report is based on testimony from 18 witnesses.

Al-Qusayr residents said attacks have occurred for several months, with heavy shelling of residential areas starting between one and three months ago. Some reports indicate that the attacks may have been prompted by pursuit of Free Syrian Army fighters retreating from the Bab Amro section of Homs, re-taken by regime forces three weeks ago.

The witnesses said food and water are scarce, communications have been cut, and medical assistance is virtually non-existent.

1043 GMT: In a survey of the Syrian economy, McClatchy News Service cites the claim of economist Ala Din Diranieh that "unemployment is not less than 50 percent" and gives first-hand testimony:

"The people who haven't lost their jobs have had their salaries cut," said Mohamed, a Syrian who arrived in Amman from Damascus on Friday after closing the stationery shop he owned there...."No one is buying anything. It's almost impossible to find fuel and cooking gas, and when you can, it is two to four times the normal price."...

"My father's carpentry shop has stopped work because the workers live in Kesweh (a suburb of Damascus), and they are not able to leave to come to work," said an anti-government activist who now lives in Jordan and whose family has remained in Damascus.

1035 GMT: In an interview, the leader of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Riad Al-Shaqfa, has called for intervention to establish protected zones for civilians in the country:

The international community holds an ethical responsibility to support the revolution, but instead they hesitate. This indecisiveness will lead to more bloodshed....We do not hear anything except statements; in reality nothing happens. We believe that safe corridors and safe areas are now an urgent necessity in order to protect the Syrian people.

Al-Shaqfa rejected any negotiated settlement:

The Syrian regime can’t be part of any political solution after its insistence on using military force and killing. The regime has killed more than ten thousand martyrs, and tens of thousands of men, women, elders and children have been wounded, lost, or detained. We believe the Syrian people are capable of ending the battle in their favor if protection is provided. The people have decided to continue the revolution until the regime is toppled.

And the head of the Brotherhood went further in the call for intervention by supporting the arming of the opposition:

People in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have properly assessed the situation: that the Syrian regime doesn’t understand any concept but force and it should be faced by force. The Syrian people have the right to acquire weapons to defend themselves. The Syrian people appreciate their support.

1025 GMT: Syrian forces have shelled the Arbaeen neighbourhood of Hama after clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime troops.

Houses were destroyed, with an unknown number of casualties, according to activists. They said at least 20 people have been killed in bombardment of the city and surrounding countryside in the last two days.

0925 GMT: The Libyan Government claims Mauritanian authorities have agreed to hand over Abdullah al-Senussi, the former head of intelligence for the Qaddafi regime, but Tripoli gave no timetable amidst competing bids for extradition.

Senussi, detained last weekend as he arrived in Mauritania on a flight from Morocco, is reportedly in police custody in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, although local press claimed on Wednesday that he had been taken to a military hospital for heart problems.

Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour announced on Twitter that he had secured an agreement in principle from President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz while in Mauritania earlier this week. His claim was repeated by a National Transitional Council spokesman: "We have agreement from Mauritania to deliver Senussi to Libya where he will receive a fair trial. No date has been decided, but it will be very soon."

In Nouakchott, there was heated debate in Parliament on Wednesday over the issue.

0915 GMT: Back from the US-Iran seminar in Ireland to find The National pushing the story, "Turkey Readies Syrian Buffer Zone Plan":

Turkey has discreetly begun preparations for a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border between the two countries amid fears that hundreds of thousands could flee the fighting in Syria.

One official said about 500 specialised soldiers had arrived in the area recently to look at military options for the buffer zone and the handling of more refugees.

Some residents said they had seen high-ranking officers of the Turkish military inspecting the border region. Others said newly-established no-go areas in some sections of the border were also linked to preparations for the buffer zone.

0600 GMT: Al Jazeera English is headlining this morning, "UN Security Council Backs Syria Peace Plan", but I am not sure the story lives up to the billing.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a statement expressing "full support" for UN envoy Kofi Annan's plan for a political resolution in Syria, while calling upon both the regime and the opposition "to work in good faith with the envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis". The declaration threatened "further steps" if President Assad failed to comply with the proposal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "In clear and unmistakable terms, the Security Council called for an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations. It demanded secure humanitarian access and a comprehensive political dialogue between the government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition."

Annan's plan calls for a "daily two-hour humanitarian pause" and for both sides to engage in political dialogue. It also calls for political detainees to be released, and for restrictions on foreign journalists to be removed.

How this will lead to "peace" is unclear, however. President Assad rebuffed Annan when they met earlier this month, saying there would be no talks while "terrorist groups" operated in Syria. And while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw a "positive step", it was more in the context of a move to force Assad to back down or be removed: the President must ""take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation".

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