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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A UN Envoy in Damascus

A demonstration in Daal in southern Syria on Thursday night

See also Syria Snap Analysis: Kofi Annan - Lost on the Road to Damascus
Palestine Opinion: Have Hunger Strikers "Reinvigorated Resistance"?
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A "Pretty Devastated" Section of Homs
Turkey Live Coverage (8 March): Erdogan's Kurdish Problem

2130 GMT: It's been another bloody day in Syria. The LCCS now reports that 82 have died at the hands of security forces, "33 martyrs in Idlib including 25 martyrs who were killed in Ain Larouz massacre , 26 martyrs in Homs,7 martyrs in Yabroud in Damascus Suburbs 6 martyrs in Daraa, 4 martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Damascus 2 martyrs in Lattakia and one martyr in each of Bokamal and Aleppo/"

However, there are reports that the gunfire in Hama and the shelling in Al Rastan, north of Homs, have continued into the night. After another day of defiant protests in the face of violence, there will be yet another bloody night in Syria.

We'll end the day where we started. Kofi Annan said that a political solution was the only viable way to end this conflict. I made the assessment that such a solution was not possible because the opposition leaders refuse to consider it, the opposition in the street refuses to consider it, and too much blood has already been spilled.

82 dead Syrians seems like a lot, but it's now a fairly typical day. That's 82 people who had families, friends, and maybe coworkers, 82 people who have lost a loved one at the hands of the regime. And this story has had a constant narrative from the start - every life lossed is just strengthening the resolve of the opposition, and the chants in the street aren't getting any quieter.

"The people want the fall of the regime. The people want the execution of the President. We bow to no one but Allah."

2123 GMT: China has offered to send $2 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian government:

The aid was being offered to improve the humanitarian conditions in some regions of Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said on Friday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

2030 GMT: There are several opposition groups that tally up the death toll in Syria, and it is nearly an impossible task to reconcile the different numbers. Earlier, the LCCS reported than more than 70 people had been killed. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, for its part, has confirmed 54 deaths, and their report flushes out some of the details of today's clashes:

- 16 people were killed in Homs. 10 people were killed during the shelling of the neighbourhoods of Dir Balbaa, Bab Al-Duraib, Kerm Al-Zeyton and Ashira. One person died in the town of Talbeesa from injuries sustained few days ago. 3 people were killed in the town of Maheen in gunfire during a protest and a woman was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the city of Al-Qusaire.

- In Hama, 4 people were killed in gunfire by the Syrian military forces in the town of Al-Taremeessa.

- 24 people were killed in Idlib district. 13 people were killed when the Syrian forces stormed into the village of Ain Laroz. The forces were searching for defected soldiers the regime accused them of abducting the residents. And 6 people were killed in gunfire in the village of Al-Muza in Zawiya Mountain. 5 people including a woman were killed in the village of Al-Luje.

- One person was killed in gunfire by the Syrian forces who were trying to disperse a protest in the city of Jarabulus in the rural area of Aleppo.

- One person was killed yesterday after midnight in the neighbourhood of Kefer Susa in the Capital Damascus.

- In Daraa district, one person was killed in the village of Al-Messayfera in gunfire by the regular forces.

- One person was killed in gunfire in the city of Al-Bukamal in Deir Ezzor.

- And one person, from the city of Lattakia, was killed in gunfire the area of Al-Najeyya, in Idlib district, where she was hiding.

Meanwhile, 5 dead bodies were found in the neighbourhoods of Baba Amr in Homs.

2020 GMT: The LCCS reports that a 14 year old boy and a man were killed by gunfire from security forces in Douma.

Fierce clashes by automatic weapons at Badran barrier and Misraba crossroad after some soldiers defected in the city.

Earlier, activists posted this video, reportedly showing protesters ducking down a side street as anti-riot vehicles opened fire just moments before on the main road:

2011 GMT: The Ugarit News Network posts this video, reportedly showing heavy machine gun rounds slamming into a mosque in the Refai district of Homs, Syria:

1936 GMT: The Associated Press is now saying tens of thousands, or "nearly 100,000" people protested today in Bahrain. Remembering that Bahrain has less than 1 million permanent residents, this is quite a large number, but matches our estimates.

The Opposition party AlWefaq posts this picture:

1903 GMT: Joshua Landis reports that the Syrian pound, while briefly dropping in value to more than 100 per US dollar, has now settled at 90 pounds per dollar after government intervention:

Reports are that the central bank sold only 2 million dollars. Yes, only 2 million dollars in order to calm the market. One friend reported paying 113 pounds for a dollar in Aleppo on Wednesday 7 March. On Thursday morning, the pound had risen to a range between 89 and 91 per pound. Six hours later it hit 103. The rate was bouncing all over the place between 85 to 113 per dollar; there was no real price.

If the Central Bank can hold the price of pound below 90 per dollar, it will be doing very well. That is where it really belonged before the revolution. Syria had been pursuing a suicidal strong-pound policy for years. The artificially high rate of 47 pounds to a dollar ignored imbalances in the economy. It undercut Syrian exports and inflated the cost of doing business in Syria, which has too many impediments and too few attractions for foreign investment.

Most important, however, was that the strong currency encouraged Syrians to buy foreign goods well beyond their means. In effect, the government was giving Syrians free foreign currency to buy cars and other goods that the country could ill afford.

1854 GMT: According to the activist network LCCS, 77 people have been killed today by Assad forces, "28 martyrs in Idlib including 20 martyrs who were killed in [the] Ain Larouz massacre, 26 martyrs in Homs, 7 martyrs in Yabroud in [the] Damascus Suburbs, 6 martyrs in Daraa, 4 martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Damascus, 2 martyrs in Lattakia and one martyr in each of Bokamal and Aleppo."

1840 GMT: Turning back to Syria, Damascus was once again the site of several large protests. Perhaps the most impressive one was this funeral for Mohamad Srayji, who was killed by security forces this week, in Kafer Souseh, an important district:

An opposition group with contacts in Damascus posts this video of the same protest:

1830 GMT: An EA correspondent in Bahrain sends along this video of today's protests there. While foreign news outlets are reporting that 10s of thousands attended, our correspondent says that the number was much higher. Looking at the impressive videos and pictures that we've seen, it's easy to see how he could thing that perhaps more than 100,000 protested today:

And a reader submits this video:

1824 GMT: The UN Human Rights chief, Valerie Amos, is still trying to get humanitarian relief into the Baba Amr district of Homs. In statements today she said that there was some indication that the Assad government was willing to allow aid into the neighborhood, perhaps within the week.

"I put to them a quite comprehensive agreement which I had hoped to get signed," she told the BBC.

"They have agreed to a limited preliminary assessment to try to find out where people are and what they need, but I would like something much more comprehensive.

"They have undertaken to look at that and get back to me and I don't know how long that will take."

1618 GMT: According to a prominent Syrian activist network, pro-Assad security forces have killed 70 people today, "including two women and 10 children, 28 martyrs in Idlib including 20 martyrs who were killed in Ain Larouz massacre, 26 martyrs in Homs, 6 martyrs in Daraa, 4 martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Damascus, 2 martyrs in Lattakia and one martyr in each of Bokamal and Aleppo."

Also, a note on our last post, the LCCS reports that there have been more than a dozen arrests after large protests today in the Kurdish city of Qamishli.

1610 GMT: The Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Center has posted this note about a major anniversary being observed by the Kurdish members of the Syrian opposition:

Today is the Friday of loyalty to the Kurdish Uprising, talking about the events of March 2004. Clashes at a football game in Qamishli on 12th March 2004 escalated into protests by Kurds across Syria which were met by a brutal crackdown in which dozens were killed and hundreds arrested. The video shows today's protest in Qamishli. Many people are holding pictures of Mashal Tammo, the Kurdish leader who was assassinated last October.

1604 GMT: These protesters, reportedly somewhere in the Midan district of Damascus, are taking a very large risk by challenging a wall of security forces at the end of the alley:

1559 GMT: There are large protests across Syria, and if the last year has taught us anything, it's that where there are protests there is gunfire.

LCCS posts this video, an armored vehicle firing in Dumair, a Damascus suburb:

1538 GMT: In Bahrain, perhaps 10,000 or more protested on a major highway, one of the largest protests in months:

The march was called as a show of resolve by a Shiite-led rebellion against Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy more than a year after the Arab Spring-inspired protests began. The main procession was mostly peaceful, but breakaway groups were driven back by tear gas as they headed toward Pearl Square, which was the center of the uprising for weeks last year until it was stormed by security forces.

The demonstration is also a reply to Bahrain’s Sunni leadership, which has portrayed the uprising as losing steam ahead of next month’s lucrative Formula One Grand Prix car race. It was canceled last year because of violence on the tiny island.

The march stretched for miles. Some opposition leaders estimated the crowd at nearly 100,000, which would make it one of the largest protest gatherings since the street rallies erupted in February 2011.

The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement is also covering today's protests, and they have posted this picture:

This video, showing only a small part of the march, was sent to us by an activist:

Religious leader Sheikh Issa Qassim attended the march, according to activists:

1520 GMT: Like nearly every Friday since March 2011, there have been large and impressive protests today in Syria. Here are just a few highlights.

This is a large protest, reportedly today, inside the central Zain Abdeed Mosque in Midan:

Dael, Daraa:

Kafar Owaid, Idlib Province:

1508 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, a network of activists on the ground, reports that 62 people have been killed today, "including two women and 10 children, 27 martyrs in Idlib including 20 martyrs who were killed in [the] Ain Larouz massacre , 22 martyrs in Homs, 5 martyrs in Daraa, 4 martyrs in Hama, two martyrs in Damascus and one martyr in each of Lattakia and Aleppo."

In their latest report, they say that the "massacre" was the murdering of two entire families, 20 people in all, in the town of Ain Larouz (we have not been able to find this on a map yet). They also post several videos, most of which show large protests today.

More than 40 were killed yesterday.

1436 GMT: Bahraini activists are sharing this video, a protest in one of the villages in Bahrain last night in solidarity with Bahraini women on International Women's Day:

1430 GMT: James Miller takes over today's live coverage from Scott Lucas. Thanks to the readers for being patient this morning while Scott is on the road.

According to The Guardian, the there are two big developments in Syria. The first, "two Syrian army generals, a colonel and two sergeants have defected to Turkey, Turkish officials said."

The second development was foreshadowed yesterday by the leadership of the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun has condemned statements by the UN's Kofi Annan suggesting that a political solution in Syria is possible, and desireable:

These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day. It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again ...

Any political solution will not succeed if it is not accompanied by military pressure on the regime ...

As an international envoy, we hope he will have a mechanism for ending the violence ...My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts.

I've posted my "snap analysis" in a separate article, Syria Snap Analysis: Kofi Annan - Lost on the Road to Damascus

0730 GMT: Insurgents claims that four high-ranking officers have defected from the Syrian armed forces over the last three days.

The men fled to a camp for Syrian defecors in southern Turkey, according to Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. He said seven brigadier generals, the fifth-highest rank in the Syrian army, have now joined the opposition.

0630 GMT: James Miller ended our Thursday Live Coverage with this juxaposition:

The UN/Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, has said that a political process, not a military one, is the only way to end the crisis in the country: "I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation. I believe any further militarization will make this situation worse. We have to be careful that we don't introduce a medicine that's worse than the disease, and we don't have to go very far in the region to find an example of what I'm talking about," said Annan.

Compare these statements to those made by a high-ranking commander in the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, made earlier today: "The Syrian people will not accept any form of dialogue with this criminal regime. The Syrian people want to bring this regime down and will never give it another chance."

But it is not just the insurgents who are sceptical about Annan's arrival in Damascus today. Al Jazeera English highlights these comments:

"We reject any dialogue while tanks shell our towns, snipers shoot our women and children and many areas are cut off from the world by the regime without electricity, communications or water," Hadi Abdullah, a resident of the bombarded city of Homs, said on Thursday night.

Another activist told Reuters that Annan's call for dialogue sounded "like a wink at Bashar" that would only encourage Assad to "crush the revolution".

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