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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Deadline Passes as 160 Die

Al Jazeera English reports on Monday's attack by Syrian forces on a refugee camp in Turkey, causing several casualties

See Also Syria Document: "Executions by Syrian Security Forces and Pro-Government Militias" (Human Rights Watch)
Monday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Deadlines of Diplomacy and Death

2020 GMT: Back from a development break to find that today's deathtoll in Syria has reached 101, according to the LCCS. The Deir Balbaa district of Homs suffered the hardest hit, but the deaths were distributed as follows:

56 in Homs, 22 martyrs in Hama, 12 martyrs in Idlib, 6 martyrs in Daraa, 3 martyrs in Aleppo, 1 martyr in Harasta in Damascus Suburbs and 1 martyr in Deir Ezzor.

At this late hour, the LCCS also reports that the Assad military is raiding Qa'alat al Madiq, in Hama province.

So, on the day that withdrawal was supposed to start, there has been an escalation in Homs and Hama, a continuation of the campaigns against Idlib and Daraa provinces, and though Aleppo suffered far fewer action than previous days, it too is reporting casualties at the hands of the regime.

A friend of EA's quips that every time Kofi Annan speaks, Assad seems to kill a few dozen people, so for the sake of all of Syria we should hope that Annan gives up his mission of peace.

1550 GMT: The violence in Syria has clearly not stopped. However, the UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, says that the plan is not a failure. According to Anna, the Syrian government was supposed to begin withdrawal today but stop all violence by the 12th.

"We still have time between now and the 12th (Thursday) to stop violence," he said. "I appeal to all, the government in the first place ..." to halt fighting. He also said that the violence must stop without conditions.

With an escalating death toll, it's hard to see exactly how the Syrian government is complying.

Also, Syrian state news is reporting that 22 funerals were held today and 25 yesterday for soldiers and police officers killed in the conflict. While some of these were doubtlessly killed by insurgents (as of yesterday there were still reports of fighting in many areas), the opposition continues to report that defectors, as well as soldiers and police who refuse to follow orders, are still being shot by government forces, and the government is blaming the opposition for those deaths as well.

1534 GMT: In Syria, a major activist network is reporting that 62 people have been killed so far today:

In Homs alone, there were 26 martyrs, 8 in Idlib, 20 in Hama, 5 in Daraa and 1 martyr in each of: Aleppo, Harasta (Damascus suburbs) and Deir Ezzor.

1524 GMT: Bahraini authorities have arrested 4 people in connection with yesterday's attack on police in the village of Al Ekr.

Al-Wefaq, the main opposition bloc, said that security forces arrested four people in the village of Akr, south of Manama, and “brutally” beat up relatives of those wanted by authorities in a crackdown which also left several wounded.

The arrests came hours after state news agency BNA quoted public security chief, General Tareq al-Hassan, as saying that an improvised bomb exploded late Monday near a police checkpoint at the entrance to Akr “wounding seven policemen, three of them critically.”

Hassan added that the initial investigation “revealed that the explosion was caused by a pipe bomb attached to a container full of gasoline.”

There are some interesting quirks about the incident and the way it was reported. Initially, there were reports that the police were injured by Molotov cocktails. Molotovs are now a common sight, as they have been thrown by police as well as frustrated members of the opposition.

However, there were reports that the village was sealed before the attacks. Also, the device that the police claim was used in the attack sounds more sophisticated than anything we've seen yet.

Adding to the confusion - a suspicious pattern among government supporters on Twitter. Yesterday, regime supporters on Twitter seemed to know details of the attack before they were publicly released, and the story was that trip-wire was used to trigger the device (some sort of gasoline canister, according to the reports). Also, there was a rumor that US servicemen were involved in the attack. Pro-regime accounts were also circulating a graphic picture of one of the injured police officers. However, as it turns out that picture was part of an even more graphic report about animal attacks that was posted years ago. These reports all came while EA sources in the country were reporting that the village was completely blocked off, and all information was extremely scarce.

1440 GMT: A network of activists who focus on Syria's capital, the Coalition of Free Damascenes For Peaceful Change, post this report from the important Kafer Souseh district:

Large participation in the funeral procession for Hamze Yassin, 50 year old, who died after he was arrested yesterday during the wide campaign of arrests carried out by regime forces in the Kafarsooseh area of Damascus.

Also, the CFDPC posts these details of regime attacks against Harasta which we reported earlier:

Assad forces stormed the eastern area of Harasta (in particular al-Khams and al-Bastara areas) since early morning with about 5000 members supported by tanks and armored vehicles carrying out a campaign of raids and arrests that included dozens of civilians. Kasem Dabbas died as a result of the violent campaign of raids and arrests carried out by regime forces.

Assad forces smashed farms and houses and sounds of big explosions have been heard in the whole suburb followed by intensive shooting. Helicopters flew at low altitude over the area, in particular over the eastern area of Harasta.

Assad forces deployed also along the main road leading from Harasta to Duma, and an anti-aircraft was placed on the rooftop of a building overlooking the Harasta-Arbeen main road.

1436 GMT: Despite the ongoing violence in Syria there are reports of large protests in several areas. NPR's Ahmed al Omran shares two videos:

1430 GMT: The Bahraini government has released the records of a medical examination of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja.

The Government of Bahrain Commissioned two international independent experts to conduct an evaluation of the medical condition of Abulhadi Al Khawaja of who has been on hunger strike for more than 55 days at the time of their request, and this was the reason for this medical assignment.

The undersigned medical experts visited Abdulhadi Al Khawja on 8th as well as the 9th April 2012 on the premises of the Bahrain Defence Force Royal Medical Services hospital. Where he was hospitalised on the second floor of the new hospital since April 5th around 11.00 pm. He stated he did not want to be hospitalised in this hospital because he did have some bad memories of the previous hospitalisation approximately one yeara ago.

According to the report, AlKhawaja had lost a lot of weight and his fat tissue "was totally disappeared." However, the report suggests that AlKhawaja was awake, able to communicate, and was not in anything that would resemble a health crisis.

1327 GMT: The main representatives of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council, reports that 1000 people have been killed in the last 8 days by the Assad regime. The Local Coordinating Committees (an organization which is reliable, but conservative, as they have a verification process that appears to be fairly robust) puts that number at more then 600.

In other words, in the week leading up to the "ceasefire" deadline set by Kofi Annan, today, the Syrian government markedly escalated its attack against Syrian cities and civilians.

By all accounts, that violence has not stopped.

1310 GMT: The LCCS is reporting that regime forces attacked the town of Tafas, in Daraa province. Meanwhile, this video was reportedly filmed today in Al Harak, showing that the regime tanks have not withdrawn but are still in Daraa province (see a map of the area). This video matches other reports that we've seen today.

1302 GMT: More claims from the Syrian opposition that the regime's onslaught against civilians has not ended. Possibly, it hasn't even slowed.

According to the LCCS, 45 have been killed today by Assad forces, "25 in Homs, 8 martyrs in Idlib, 7 martyrs in Hama, 3 martyrs in Tafas in Daraa, a martyr in Harasta in Damascus Suburbs, and a martyr in Deir Ezzor."

This now means that the LCCS, a network of activists working inside Syria to document and confirm the violence against civilians, is reporting confirmed deaths in 6 regions, from the north to the south, east and west.

1253 GMT: The head of Formula 1 Racing, Bernie Ecclestone, has indicated that the April 22 race will not be cancelled, despite recent violence, according to the Daily Mail.

'We've no way we can force people to go there,' he said.

'We can't say "you've got to go" - although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn't go - but it doesn't help.

'Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them.

'I've had no-one say anything other than "we're going to be racing in Bahrain".'

Though Ecclestone was aware of yesterday's violence, he did not know the details. However, despite the violence, and the ongoing protests, and other humanitarian concerns, Ecclestone suggested that the promoters, whom F1 has a contract with, and the host country, are the only two entities that can cancel the race at this point.

These statements seem to run contrary to the information we posted at 1148 GMT that suggested Ecclestone is extremely concerned about the current political and security reality in Bahrain. It's hard to say which statements came first.

1248 GMT: Bahraini activist Abdulhadi AlKhawaja will not be released on humanitarian or medical grounds, according to the New York Times:

Bahrain has ruled out sending the jailed activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, to Denmark for medical treatment despite a request from the Danish government to do so.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, Alkhawaja's appeal is scheduled for April 23.

1238 GMT: The Egyptian administrative court has blocked the newly-formed constitutional assembly, apparently to address concerns that the Assembly was dominated by Islamists and excluded secularists, despite the fact that the Islamists were split into several parties.

The court’s ruling appeared to address complaints about the decision to evenly split the panel between lawmakers and people outside of parliament. Even with that split, critics argued that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafi al-Nour Party and Islamist sympathizers held about 60 percent of the seats. The Brotherhood’s party controls about half the seats in parliament’s lower house.

1224 GMT: James Miller takes over today's live coverage from Scott Lucas. And so far, the "peace" in Syria appears to be going as well as Scott predicted it would this morning. The LCCS is reporting that 23 people have been killed already today across the country, "among them 3 children and 4 women. 17 martyrs were reported in Homs, 3 in Idlib, 2 in Hama, and 1 in Tafas in Daraa."

Looking at the numbers, the deaths are reported in four different regions, from the southern Daraa to the northern Idlib provinces. This suggests that the majority of the most contested areas of Syria have seen no cease-fire, no withdrawal. The only areas that are typically contentious that are not on this list yet are the areas around Aleppo and Damascus, but there are also reports of protests and clashes between university students and police in Aleppo.

1200 GMT: The activists of the Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria have claimed the need to implement the six points of the Annan "peace plan" while denoucing the " criminal regime’s intentional non-compliance" with increased deployments of military forces and militia and escalated operations.

1148 GMT: A series of revealing messages from Bahraini economist and activist Alaa Shehabi about a conversation with Bernie Ecclestone --- it looks like the situation over detained hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja has unsettled the head of Formula One, 10 days before the Grand Prix arrives in Bahrain:

1140 GMT: A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced a writer to seven years in prison for offending Shiites on social networks.

The criminal court found Mohammad Al Mulaifi guilty of the charges of insulting a segment of the Kuwaiti society by claiming that they had allegiance to other countries, based on their historic backgrounds and religious beliefs.

1130 GMT: More shelling of areas of Homs today, including Khalidiya and Bayada according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. The activists say 12 people, including four women and three children, have been killed.

1000 GMT: Index on Censorship summarises the recent arrests of a lecturer and a journalist for Facebook posts critical of the Palestinian Authority.

On 28 March, Palestinian Preventative Security Forces detained lecturer Ismat Abdul-Khaleq “after they read a quote on her Facebook page accusing President Mahmoud Abbas of being a traitor and demanding he resigns", according to lawyer Issam Abdeen of the Palestinian rights group al-Haq.

Abdul-Khaleq was told that she will be held for two weeks while the Public Prosecutor’s office “searches for evidence”.

On 1 April, journalist Tariq Khamis was arrested after discussing Abdul-Khaleq’s arrest on Facebook. He sid that during his three-hour interrogation, “I was questioned on my work as a journalist, and they confiscated the files on my laptop". He added, “the authorities are afraid of journalism.”

0955 GMT: Earlier today we reported on police use of tear gas and batons against a march on Monday in the Tunisian capital Tunis. David Charles offers a first-hand account:

Suddenly, as if a sprint-race starter's pistol had sounded, a great chanting rose up from the crowd of bystanders. They turned as one and started to march towards the clock tower that marks the centre of Tunis. These were no bystanders - this was the march! I cackled with glee when I realised that our small, timid group of kettled friends were merely a decoy for the police.

And with whistles and chants and defiance, we marched on and on. The protesters broke through three lines of police, the first barred our way with linked arms, the second with riot shields and the third with batons and tear-gas canisters. Or at least, we broke through until the tear gas was fired and the batons were beaten. Then we ran.

Men, women and children burst out around me, staggering under the clouds of gas, stampeding at the cracking of the batons on helmets and the canisters' explosions ↑ . Down the street and around the corner, people hacked up poisoned phlegm into the gutters and damped their eyes with handkerchiefs. The shops and restaurants hurriedly pulled down their shutters, dragging customers and bystanders inside for shelter.

0935 GMT: Speaking to the press after his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Syrian Foreign Minister Walim Moallem announced, "We pulled back some vehicles from some provinces", in accordance with United Nations envoy Kofi Annan's plan.

However, Moallem held out against acceptance of observers, saying Damascus would have to give its approval for monitors in any new international mission and this "must be simultaneous with the end of violence".

Lavrov said, "We told our Syrian colleague...we think their actions could be more active, more decisive in regard to the fulfillment of the points of the plan." He called on foreign states with influence on Syrian opposition groups to use this to promote an immediate ceasefire.

0805 GMT: US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, at a press conference on Monday, indicated that Washington is pressing for a "humanitarian solution" in the case of detained Bahraini activist Abdulahdi Alkhawaja, on Day 62 of his hunger strike:

MS. NULAND: We are very concerned about the case of Mr. al-Khawaja particularly with regard to his health. We are in touch with the Bahrainis and with our international partners, and we are urging a humanitarian solution.

QUESTION: Do you know how – when you say we’re in touch, do you know who has been in touch with who?

MS. NULAND: Jeff Feltman’s been in touch – Assistant Secretary Feltman. We’ve been in touch at the embassy level, and more contacts are planned.

0800 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced firing by Syrian forces on a refugee camp inside Turkey, which reportedly wounded four Syrians and two Turkish staff on Monday.

“It was a very clear violation of the border. Obviously we will take the necessary measures.”

0730 GMT: In Tunisia, police used tear gas and batons Monday on thousands of protesters in Tunis as they defied a ban on demonstrations.

The government barred protests on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the central thoroughfare of the capital, after clashes between "liberals" and "ultraconservatives", including trouble during rival marches on 28 March.

Police first used tear gas and batons on Saturday when a few hundred members of a group, protesting unemployment, tried to march from the nearby headquarters of the national labor union.

0710 GMT: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem is in Moscow today for talks with Russian officials.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, "There is the Annan plan, it contains concrete points and we fully support this plan," despite little chance that its provisions would be met by a Tuesday deadline.

0650 GMT: Today is Day 62 of the hunger strike of detained human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, with no move by the regime to free him after it rejected Denmark's request to allow Alkhawaja, a Danish-Bahraini national, to go to Copenhagen.

A letter of appeal --- which can still be signed --- is being delivered to the Bahraini Embassy in London today, while the Project on Middle East Democracy has posted a statement, "Dear Obama: Alkhawaja Must Be Released Immediately".

Meanwhile, regime officials are claiming that seven policemen were injured, three of them critically, in Aleker last night by an explosion. Activists and residents assert that police, some armed with shotguns and birdshot, sparked clashes when they entered the village.

The opposition society Al Wefaq issued a statement that it "did not have access to detailed information so far, as there are no credible official agencies in the news that can be trusted, in addition to the inability to reach the area now as a result of the heavy siege by the security forces". It repeated "condemnation of violence by any party and emphasised its vision of preserving life and public and private property" while demanding the security authorities to respect the Constitution and the law and its commitments to human rights in dealing with security incidents".

0630 GMT: We open in Syria with a simple, tragic, and pessimistic summary. Today is the deadline, set by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan, for the Assad regime to begin withdrawing its military from cities and towns, yet on Monday 160 people reportedly died in violence.

According to The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria, at least 40 women and children were among the dead, as well as eight members of the Free Syrian Army. More than 50 people perished in Homs Province, 45 in Aleppo Province, 36 in Hama Province, and 16 in Idlib Province.

In addition to the LCCS toll, there was the Monday drama of killings on and beyond Syria's borders. Six people were reportedly wounded when regime forces, in the midst of clashes with the Free Syrian Army, fired on a refugee camp in Turkey (see video at top of entry), and a Lebanese journalist was killed near the Lebanon border.

Barring an unforeseen development, the deadline will pass with more deaths and no pull-back from violence. The regime effectively dismissed the Annan Plan at the weekend, saying that it would not begin withdrawal without a guarantee that the opposition would stop attacks and that foreign supporters would stop funding. The opposition said there was nothing to discuss until the regime ceased fire.

This morning the LCCS reports gunfire in Daraa Deir Ez Zor, and Douma, shelling near Aleppo, and "large military reinforcements" near Rastan, sealing off parts of the town.

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