Friday's protest rally in Bahrain
See also Palestine Feature: Communications Minister Resigns Over Blocking of Websites br>
Jordan Feature: Troubled "Reform" as Prime Minister Resigns br>
Friday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Just Another Protest Friday? br>
Friday's Syria Wired: The Latest from Social Media and EA's Readers
2235 GMT: We're taking a Saturday night break --- back at 0600 GMT on Sunday with the latest news from North Africa and the Middle East.
1718 GMT: Iraq. A Bahraini activist is reporting that human rights defender Said Yousif and former MP Sayed Hadi Al Mosawi, detained earlier today during a march in Manama (see 1525 and 1607 GMT), have been released.
1700 GMT: Iraq. Wladimir van Wilgenburg passes on reports of closed-door meetings today in Erbil in Kurdistan between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, Iraqiyya Party leader Iyad Allawi, and leading Shia politician Moqtada al-Sadr to discuss political tension over the national government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, embroiled in a number of disputes with other prominent politicians, was not present.
Van Wilgenburg evaluates that the session indicates that Talabani's opinion might not be that different from that of Barzani, despite earlier reports of points of disagreement. In contrast, Sadr met with al-Maliki in Iran before heading to Kurdistan, and a Sadrist spokesperson said they would not discuss withdrawing confidence from the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, Iraqiyya list member Salih al-Mutlaq, despite his opposition to al-Maliki, criticized Barzani's call for a referendum in September for Kurdish independence.
1645 GMT: Syria. A march in the Khalidiya section of Homs, amidst the devastation caused by regime attacks:
A Foreign Ministry statement said, "Moscow decisively condemns these barbarous acts. "Attempts by the irreconcilable opposition to increase tension even more and incite violence cause particular alarm....The aim is clear: to ruin a solution in Syria based on [United Nations envoy Kofi] Annan's plan, which has begun to be implemented."
1630 GMT: Bahrain. The Ministry of Interior's statement on today's arrests of protesters in Manama (see 1525 and 1607 GMT):
Group tried to go in illegal rally in Manama. The police warned&asked them 2 disperse. When they disobeyed legal procedures were taken— Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) April 28, 2012
1624 GMT: Morocco. Moroccan editor Rachid Nini, released today after completing his one-year sentence, has demanded an end to the imprisonment of journalists.
Amnesty International said Nini was punished for highlighting corruption and abuses by the kingdom’s authorities, especially the security services.
“I hope that I will be the last journalist to be imprisoned and tried under the criminal law,” Nini told reporters and supporters who gathered at his home near Casablanca. “We want a press law to try journalists and not to be treated as criminals.”
Nini was arrested in April 2011. A court ruled he was guilty of crimes including “discrediting a court, trying to influence the judiciary and publishing information about untrue criminal offences".
1620 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria reports that 25 people have died today, including 12 in Bakha'h and Zabadani near Damascus, five in Aleppo Province, and four in Idlib Province.
1611 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of soldiers massing in the Damascus suburb of Douma for house raids and arrests:
1607 GMT: Bahrain. Claimed footage of Bahraini police launching an attack on marchers near the Gate of Bahrain in the capital Manama, carrying out arrests, including those of prominent human rights activists and former MP Sayed Hadi Al Mosawi (see 1525 GMT).
Just before the attack, Al Mosawi can be seen in heated discussion with a senior police officer:
1548 GMT: Saudi Arabia. The head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, has addressed the Saudi regime over its "surprise decision" to withdraw its Ambassador and temporarily close its Embassy and Consulate in Cairo (see 1521 GMT).
Egyptian State news agency MENA said Tantawi working to "heal the rift", conducting "contacts with the Saudi authorities to work to contain the situation".
1525 GMT: Bahrain. Bahraini police have carried out another wave of detentions, including of prominent activists such as Said Yousif of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and former MP Sayed Hadi Al Mosawi, amidst a protest in the capital Manama.
Arrested now اعتقلوني— S.YousifAlmuhafda (@SAIDYOUSIF) April 28, 2012
An image of ex-MP Al Mosawi arguing with police, reportedly over the pepper-spraying of a woman in the eyes, before he was arrested:
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that the reason behind the diplomatic move was “unjustified protests” in Egypt, with attempts to storm the Saudi embassy and consulates which “threatened the safety of its employees".
Egyptians have been protesting outside the embassy against the arrest of lawyer and human rights activist, Ahmad al-Gazawi, in the kingdom.
Al-Gazawi was initially reported to have been arrested, during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, for "defaming" King Abdullah. Saudi officials later said he was detained for possession of more than 21000 pills of the anti-depressant drug Xanax.
Egyptian activists contend Gazawi was seized for filing a complaint against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of Egyptian citizens in Saudi prisons.
1351 GMT: Syria. Dramatic video of a funeral protest in the Midan section of Damascus --- halfway through the clip, police fire tear gas into the crowd:
Alkhawaja, held incommunicado in a military hospital, is on Day 80 of a hunger strike.
One account said four insurgents and six civilians were killed, while the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said all those who died were army defectors.
Meanwhile, State news agency claimed regime forces north of Lattakia prevented "an infiltration attempt [by] an armed terrorist group" in inflatable boats, killing and injuring an unspecified number of troops.
SANA also said, from Lebanese channels, that a ship in Lebanon's territorial waters, loaded with weapons for Syrian insurgents, was seized.
1129 GMT: Egypt. Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the leader of the Salafist Nour Party who has been disqualified from the Presidential race, warned Friday of “the unknown reactions” of his backers to the injustice of his exclusion.
His comments came shortly after thousands of protesters marched at midnight to Egypt's Ministry of Defense. They chanted against Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed, and called for ending military rule and dissolving the elections commission.
Abu Ismail's supporters have also staged a sit-in in Tahrir Square for more than a week, protesting the Presidential Elections Commission's disqualification on the grounds his late mother had obtained American nationality.
The military police have blocked the roads to the Defense Ministry but the protesters, estimated to be around 2,000, stayed the night nearby.
An opinion poll by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies showed that, before his exclusion Abu Ismail led the Presidential poll with 26 percent of votes. Omar Suleiman, the Minister of Intelligence in the Mubarak regime and also excluded, had 21%.
1113 GMT: Syria. A rally today in Kernaz in Hama Province:
1001 GMT: Bahrain. A report comes in of retaliation against MP Osama Altamimi, a Sunni legislator who recently argued in Parliament that the Prime Minister, in place for the last 40 years, should now resign, adding that there had been claims of corruption on his watch.
The gym that Alamimi has now been attacked, with gunmen firing live ammunition at the building.
Al-Tamimi said at least 30 bullets were fired early Saturday at the gym in Sanad, about 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of the capital Manama.
0951 GMT: Bahrain. A clash with a twist in Nuwaidrat on Friday --- an EA correspondent notes the orange-coloured tear gas used by police and asks if it is a new, strong variety:
0949 GMT: Syria. A regime newspaper has accused United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of encouraging militant attacks in his criticisms of the country's leaders.
Following Ban's statement that the conflict has reached an "intolerable stage", the newspaper Tishrin said the Secretary-General had avoided talks about rebel violence in favor of "outrageous" attacks on the regime.
A protest rally this morning in Tafas in Daraa Province:
Everything in Yemen travels by road, and most water is drawn from the ground using diesel-powered pumps. During the unrest both roads and fuel supplies were often cut, so prices for basic goods rose fast. Many businesses closed, and farms suffered another year with little rain. Unemployment rose above 50%. In late 2011, the government decided to cut fuel subsidies.
As household budgets have shrunk, better-off Yemenis have had less to give their poorer neighbours. Many have taken to buying food and water on credit. Anisa has no way of paying off the 20,000 riyals ($90) she owes for water, and worries about getting more. She and her daughters now eat twice a day when others can spare food or money: tea, bread, rice, maybe some fish if they are lucky.
In March, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) reported that levels of food insecurity in Yemen had doubled since 2009. Today 5m people go hungry so often that it affects their long-term health. According to Unicef, the WFP’s counterpart for children, some 30% of kids in Hodeida are “acutely” malnourished, threatened with stunted growth and cognitive impairment. The 30% figure is twice the level the UN uses as a benchmark for crisis.
Al Jazeera English reports on the plight of Yemen's children:
0545 GMT: Syria and Bahrain. What do the Syrian and Bahraini regimes have in common? Well, here's one feature to note....
Syrian State news agency SANA: "The armed terrorist groups continued their criminal acts committed against civilians and security forces in several cities."
Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa in an interview in Der Spiegel: "(The opposition) is a movement of people which, in the modern world, we call a "terrorist group." This movement is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. What we are facing is exactly what the Americans are facing with terrorism."
So what were these "terrorists" doing on Friday? Doctors and teachers leading a demonstration in Bahrain:
Unarmed protesters --- and UN observers --- trying to evade gunfire in Daraa Province in Syria:
A rally in Tafatanaz in northwest Syria: