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Sunday
Mar252012

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 45 Dead amid Regime Attacks on Homs and Idlib

The Syrian regime's attack on Saraqeb in Idlib Province on Saturday

See also Syria Wired: The Latest from Social Media and EA's Readers
Saturday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Surge of Protest


2015 GMT: Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has defended its handling of Egypt's political transition against criticsm from a Parliament led by Islamist parties.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party has the biggest bloc in Parliament, described Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri's cabinet as a failure and criticized the army for continuing to support it, in a statement on Saturday.

"We understand that the government's performance may not satisfy public aspirations at this critical stage," SCAF said in a statement read on state television. "But we emphasize that the nation's interest is our first concern and we will not spare any effort and will take any measures or decisions needed for the sake of the nation and its citizens."

SCAF and the Ganzouri Government has been criticised for failing to halt the slide in the shattered economy and for heavy-handed tactics in dealing with protests against its rule.

The Brotherhood said the Cabinet of Ganzouri, who also served as Prime Minister in the Mubarak regime in the 1990s, had been worse than its predecessors.

1945 GMT: In Morocco, tens of thousands of people staged a pro-Palestinian march in Rabat on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in the Moroccan capital said at least 40,000 people joined the march called by the Islamist party Al-Adl Wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality). A senior police officer put the number at 11,000 while organizers said 100,000 had turned out.

The march was Al-Adl's first since December, when it pulled out of pro-democracy protests.

Ali Anouzla, a political analyst and editor of Lakome.com news portal, said Al-Adl sought to send a message to Moroccan authorities that they remained a force, even after withdrawing from the pro-democracy protest movement.

"Al-Adl's withdrawal from the February 20 Movement has tremendously reduced pressure on the PJD. With this march, Al-Adl is trying to make a comeback and sends a message to skeptics who raised doubt about its support base," Anouzla said.

1925 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria say 58 people have died today, including 16 in Homs, 11 in Hama, 10 in the Damascus suburbs, and 10 in Idlib Province.

1915 GMT: Meeting in Seoul today, President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have focused on the situation in Syria.

The summary of the one-hour and 45-minute discussion was general, with Obama saying he and Erdogan are “very much in agreement” on the need for a transition to an acceptable government. Erdogan sid it was unacceptable to stand by and that more needed to be done to protect Syrians within the framework of international law.

Erdogan, due to visit Iran next week, told Obama he would press the regime to stop providing support to Damascus, according to a US official.

1627 GMT: Bahraini protesters trying to reach Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic centre of the demonstrations, face armoured vehicles:

Police reportedly used tear gas in Jidhafs after the funeral for Ahmed Abdul Nabi, who reportedly died from gas inhalation on Saturday:

1622 GMT: The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria report that 30 people, including three children, have died today across the country. Eleven of the deaths were in Homs.

1512 GMT: In Egypt, members of Islamist parties make up a sizable majority of a 100-member panel tasked with drafting a new Constitution.

Of the 50 lawmakers selected by Parliament's two chambers to sit on the panel, 37 are from the Freedom and Justice Party, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafist Noor Party. The other 50, also selected by lawmakers, are public figures who include enough Islamists to give them a comfortable overall majority.

A handful of Christians and women were selected and there were only a few names from the revolutionary movement that pressed for the removal of the Mubarak regime.

The new constitution will determine the balance of power between the President and Parliament, and define the country's future identity, including the role of religion and minority rights.

1504 GMT: Bahraini police seize a man in Sitra on Saturday as women and journalists watch:

1500 GMT: Shells and mortars fall close as a man speaks to camera in the Safsafa section of Homs in Syria:

1105 GMT: Phil Sands of The National posts an account of this week's assault by Syrian forces on Deir Ez Zor in the northeast:

The latest surge in violence, which has killed more than 30 people according to rights monitors in the province, began last Sunday when security forces attacked a safe house used by the [Free Syrian Army].

Similar raids and sweeping arrests had been taking place for days but on this occasion some civilian residents of the eastern workers district took up weapons and went to help the rebels.

Accounts from inside the city suggest this only enraged government forces, who later trapped 15 opposition members of a leading tribe on top of a multi-storey building, executed them and threw their bodies from the roof. A video purporting to show the event --- shakily filmed from a nearby window --- was posted on the internet.

Although it cannot be independently confirmed, a prominent tribesman from the region said the incident had taken place and had provoked uproar.

"That was a turning point, it was a big crime. It's bad enough to kill people, it's another thing to throw their corpses off a roof," the tribesman said on condition of anonymity. "They are treating people like insects, like rubbish, the security forces have gone crazy."

All of those killed were from the Albu Khabour tribe, activists said. Its members have played a significant role in the uprising in Syria's eastern desert region....

Tensions escalated further this week when, in retaliation, the Free Syrian Army captured four security personnel.

A prominent community figure from Deir Ezzor said a government mediator sought to broker a deal whereby the FSA would release them in exchange for the remains of killed activists being handed back to their families for burial.

The government mediator also insisted that all defectors surrender their weapons, something the community leader said they would not do.

"The FSA responded to the negotiation attempt by saying they would kill 1,000 regime men for every one opposition man killed," said a source involved in the indirect talks between government and rebels.

"The opposition don't believe the regime wants to negotiate; they tried that in July and the tanks came," he said.

0955 GMT: Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian forces of endangering local residents by forcing them to march in front of the army during recent operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria.

Witnesses from the towns of al-Janoudyah, Kafr Nabl, Kafr Rouma, and Ayn Larouz in Idlib Province said they saw the army and pro-regime shabiha force people to march in front of the advancing troops during the March 2012 offensive to retake control of areas that had fallen into the hands of the opposition.

0945 GMT: Egypt has asked for assistance from Arab countries to ease its fuel crisis.

State news agency MENA, quoting a high-level military official, said Cairo was trying to cope with the crisis, which has lasted for three months. Protesters have demanded that the government take action in various governorates, and cars have queued for several kilometres outside petrol stations in some areas.

0705 GMT: Clashes continued for a second night between Egyptian police and football fans in Port Said, after the city's football club, al-Masry, was banned for two seasons following deadly stadium clashes during a game in February.

One person has died and more than 100 have been injured:

0705 GMT: We start with a summary of Saturday's death toll in Syria, as another 45 people perished in the violence.

Within that number are a couple of significant stories. President Assad's forces are continuing their bombardment of several sections of Homs, such as Khalidiya --- 24 people died in the city on Saturday. And continuing its effort to crush the Free Syrian Army in the northwest, the Assad military moved on Saraqeb in Idlib Province with troops and tanks. Ten people were slain amidst fighting and mass arrests.

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