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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: "A Divided and Dangerous City"

State TV footage of scene of this morning's double explosion in Syrian capital Damascus (see 0655 GMT)

2130 GMT: Palestine. An official with Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer has said that Israel's prison service has offered to ease restrictions on Palestinian prisoners in a bid to end a mass hunger strike.

About 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are fasting to protest administrative detention, under which Israel can hold people indefinitely without charge. They are also challenging solitary confinement, detention without charge and restrictions on family visits, education, and other privileges.

Two of those protesting, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, are on th 72nd day of hunger strikes.

The Addameer official said, after a meeting on Wednesday night in Nafha Prison between the Prison Service and leaders of the hunger strike, "There might be a positive response in the next few days." She said the Prison Service "agreed to allow visits for families from Gaza" and to revoke a range of restrictions on prisoners, including a ban on education and other privileges. She added that an agreement on moving prisoners out of solitary confinement was also on the table.

Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman confirmed the Nafha meeting, saying it was part of an ongoing process of consultations between detainees and a committee examining prison conditions.

2110 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a funeral procession for one of today's victims of the Damascus bombs:

2030 GMT: Syria. Back from an academic day away to find the statement of the opposition Syrian National Council condemning today's double explosion in Damascus and blaming President Assad's forces:

These kinds of explosions can only be planned and executed by the regime itself because of its proximity to heavily guarded security and intelligence offices and the amount of explosive materials used. The massive strength of the explosions also point to the involvement of the regime's armed forces. In orchestrating such acts, the regime seeks to prove its claims of the existence of "armed terrorist gangs" in the country that are hindering its so-called "efforts of political reform.

The SNC places full responsibility for these acts solely on the regime's already blood-stained hands.

In contrast, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has said, in reply to a letter from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: "These crimes show that Syria is targeted by a terrorist attack launched by organisations armed and funded by parties who proclaim their backing to terrorist crimes."

The ministry said that "300 soldiers and members of the security forces have been killed by armed terrorist groups since April 12", when United Nations envoy Kofi Annan announced a cease-fire was in effect.

1455 GMT: Syria. Back from an extended academic break to find that the death toll in the Damascus bombs is now at least 55 with 372 wounded.

0855 GMT: Syria. State media say 40 people are confirmed dead and 170 wounded in the Damascus bombs.

Claimed footage of a video being shot as the second bomb exploded:

0835 GMT: Syria. Samir Nashar, of the opposition Syrian National Council's executive branch, has declared, "The regime is behind" this morning's blasts in Damascus.

Nashar said the explosions are warning to United Nations observers that they are in danger, impressing upon the international community that the regime is battling "terrorists".

0745 GMT: Syria. State TV says 28 people are confirmed dead in this morning's double explosion in Damascus.

The head of the UN observers mission, General Robert Mood, has reportedly visited the site. The outside wall of a military intelligence headquarter is said to have collapsed, although the rest of the building is intact.

Al Jazeera English's report on the explosions, "the biggest in Damascus since the uprising started":

State news agency SANA has added graphic photos of the damage and casualties:

Video of smoke rising over the scene:

0715 GMT: Syria. Wondering what happened in this week's Parliamentary elections? You will to wait an undetermined while longer --- this tangled announcement from State news agency SANA:

Chief of the Higher Committee for Elections, Councilor Khalaf al-Azzawi, said that the Committee will announce the date of announcing the final results of the People Assembly elections one day prior to the date, and media will be called to attend the announcement of final results.

0705 GMT: Algeria. Algerians vote in Parliamentary elections today. Mohamed Ben-Madani offers a preview for The Guardian:

Despite the government's efforts to persuade people to vote, some well-known politicians, such as Sid Ahmed Ghozali, a former prime minister, and Said Sadi, are calling for a boycott on the grounds that the election will be "a foregone conclusion". On 29 April a group of civil servants held a protest in the centre of Algiers, calling for a total boycott of the election.

The Algerian press has reported that during the election campaign, political party leaders have not been able so far to convince people to vote. Reporters have said that their speeches contain simply attacks on other political parties and no programme for the future.

All political parties except the Islamists have included some female candidates for this year's election. The National Liberation Front chose Asma Benkada, former wife of the TV preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, but she has no political experience and has lived in Qatar for many years. The women selected by other parties are all university graduates and have worked as lawyers, civil servants and journalists. In the last national assembly, only 11% of MPs were women.

Beyond this week's parliamentary election, questions are also looming about the presidency. President Bouteflika's mandate ends in 2014 but, as a result of his past illness, some observers doubt he will complete his term of office. This means Algerians will go to the polls again in 2014, if not before.

0655 GMT: Syria. State TV claims "dozens" have been killed or wounded in two explosions in Damascus at about 7:50 a.m. local time (0550 GMT).

The explosions were reportedly in the al-Qazaz neighborhood, where an intelligence agency has its headquarters. State news agency SANA has posted a set of photographs (see top of entry).

0515 GMT: Syria. Another report of tension within a Syrian city, this time from Mariam Karouny of Reuters:

"Security-wise maybe we are still okay here in Damascus, but for how long? We feel it is getting closer and closer," said Mervat, a 33-year-old woman whose husband is a clothes merchant in central Damascus.

"All this shooting at night terrifies the children. Three days ago the clashes were in my street," she said....

"It is getting close. My house is very close to the town of Jobar. I feel that one night I will wake up to find the gunmen at my door," said a 46-year-old shopkeeper in Damascus, adding it was not clear who was behind the shooting.

"I don't care who is to blame, right now this does not matter. Our lives have been ruined. We want an end to this. We want to live in peace," he said, declining to give his name.

0435 GMT: Egypt. The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission has announced that Presidential elections will still be held on 23-24 May, despite a ruling by an administrative court suspending the vote.

The court in the Nile Delta city of Benha cited administrative errors, claiming that the law does not give the SPEC ultimate powers to call for elections.

A judicial source said the ruling will be appealed in Cairo today.

Earlier Wednesday, just before the official copy of the court's decision, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement that the elections would be held on time.

0415 GMT: Syria. Lyse Doucet of the BBC has been in Homs, Syria's third-largest city and scene of some of the violent confrontations in the 15-month conflict:

Travel through parts of Homs and you move through a virtual ghost town.

Sprawling neighbourhoods stand deserted, desolate, destroyed in a haunting monument to months of brutal conflict.

On some streets, you walk on a carpet of glass. Every window in every building is shattered.

Gunfire rings out night and day, with occasional bursts of shelling. There is no ceasefire here and there will not be for some time....

The neighbourhood of Baba Amr was its biggest target in a city activists now call the "capital of the revolution".

Not a single building seems to have escaped the government's ferocious assault. Structures still standing are peppered with shrapnel, blackened by fire, fingers of concrete.

Indiscriminate bombing ripped away entire floors of large residential blocks....

Homs is a divided city, and dangerously so.

The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria claims 20 people died across Syria on Wednesday, seven of them in Homs Province.

A demonstration in Harasta, northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus, on Wednesday night:

A rally in the Kafr Batna suburb of Damascus:

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