Children in Rastan, which has been shelled by regime forces this month, protest by lying down in front of the cars of United Nations observers
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Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Day 2 of a Presidential Election br>
Thursday's Bahrain Live Coverage: Activist Zainab Alkhawaja Gets 1-Month Sentence
2054 GMT: Egypt. It was messy, it was long awaited, it was ovedue, it's going to be disappointing to some, but it's hard to argue that it isn't historic. There are the results of the first presidential election in Egypt:
1. Mursi 5,553,097 (25.30 per cent)
2. Shafiq 5,210,978 (23.74 per cent)
3. Sabbahi 4,739,983 (21.60 per cent)
4. Abul-Fotouh 3,936,264 (17.93 per cent)
5. Moussa 2,407,837 (10.97 per cent)
As we predicted earlier, the results will trigger a runoff election between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and Mubarak's last Prime Minister.
2035 GMT: Syria. Al Arabiya is reporting that a Russian ship filled with weapons is headed towards the Syrian port of Tartus, a weapons shipment designed to bolster the Assad regime. The allegation is not that unusual - we've heard it before, and at least one allegation of this nature was proven to be false. What is unusual, however, is the large amount of specific information in the report, and the fact that is was backed by several unnamed Western diplomats, according to Reuters:
Western diplomats said the report was credible.
One diplomat told Reuters that the vessel, which is called "Professor Katsman," is owned by a Maltese firm, which itself is owned by a Cypriot company that is owned by Russian firm.
Diplomats said the Russian firm might have been acting on behalf of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, though that was not clear.
Rosoboronexport, and the Russian government, have declined comment on the story.
2026 GMT: Syria. According to Free Syrian Army officers, an entire battalion of Syrian regular army fighters has defected near Damascus and joined the opposition:
Free Syrian Army [FSA] spokesman Colonel Khalid al-Hammoud informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “203 soldiers have defected from the regime, including 3 officers from the al-Qatifa area, which is close al-Qalamoun in the Rif Dimashq Governorate.”
He added “these defections took place after this operation was intensively pursued by FSA officers, convincing the entire battalion to leave the al-Assad army.”
The FSA spokesman revealed that “the battalion was subject to confrontation and bombardment by the Syrian army, with al-Assad regime forces targeting them with mortar strikes, resulting in the deaths of 5 soldiers…others were able to flee – with all of their equipment – by marching through orchards and farms, and they have joined the FSA.”
2016 GMT: Syria. The death toll in Houla, Homs, continues to climb, as reports of shells having hit homes continue to come in. According to the LCCS, more than 30 have died there. Many videos, including this graphic video, show scores of dead or dying men, women, and children.
1912 GMT: Syria. Another video reportedly taken today in Douma. According to the description, it shows a "rocket strike" in a residential neighborhood of the suburb. Could this rocket strike be the RPG hit seen in the previous video?
1858 GMT: Syria. The controversial claim of the day - according to the account that uploaded this video, it shows a soldier in the Assad army firing an RPG at shops and civilians in Douma earlier today, an effort to disrupt and deter the formation of protests:
The claim has been circulating for about an hour, and has now been posted by the LCCS. We'd note, however, that there are no distinguishable features of buildings or landmarks that are visible in the video could help verify the location or the narrative. As such, we stress that the video is unconfirmed.
1801 GMT: Syria. At least 5 people were killed today in Aleppo, as thousands took to the streets in protest. Here is another video, a screen grab from Al Jazeera Mubasher, showing the moment that the security forces open fire on the crowds:
1735 GMT: Syria. The death toll in Syria has likely topped 30 today. Almost an hour ago the LCCS put that number at 22, but new reports suggest that tally is already obsolete. Here is the breakdown of the old numbers:
9 martyrs in Hama, 5 martyrs in Aleppo, 3 martyrs in Homs, 3 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs (Zamalka, Dumair, Erbeen) and 2 martyrs in Daraa.
Within the last 30 minutes, however, the LCCS reports (and posts a graphic video of) 10 new martyrs and dozens of wounded in Houla (Hawle), west of Homs. This video shows shelling and gunfire, likely heavy weapons mounted on tanks or armored vehicles:
Among the other reports from the LCCS - heavy shelling of Kafer Naboda, west of Khan Shaykhoun and east of Qa'alaat al Madiq, and area where the Syrian regime has almost constantly been bombarding for months. Other villages and towns in Hama and Idlib are also reportedly under attack at this hour
However, arguably the most disconcerting reports are the reports of heavy fighting in Harasta, Irbeen, Jisreen, and other areas in the Ghouta suburbs, east of the capital (Map).
1613 GMT: Syria. While the Free Syrian Army is struggling to defeat Assad's military, and there is little hope for foreign intervention in the foreseeable future, there is another, even more dangerous, and much more imminent threat to the Assad regime - it could run out of food.
The economy has fallen apart, and the situation is only getting worse in Syria, but this crisis started at the same time that Syria was already importing huge amounts of grain to feed its people. Faced with a massive influx of refugees from Iraq, and agricultural problems partially due to drought, the Assad regime needed large quantities of imported food, much of which was heavily subsidized, in order to keep the population fed.
With sanctions making it hard for Asaad to find credit, and Syria's reputation finding it hard to find viable partners, the Assad regime is finding it increasingly hard to import grain, even though food is not covered by sanctions:
On Friday, in what might prove to be a turning point on a path toward a politically corrosive food crisis, government data showed the domestic grain harvest falling well short of target and the state grains agency failing to find a single acceptable offer to fulfill a major import tender it issued last month to buy animal feed for its livestock farmers.
"Syrian purchase interest has fallen off in the last 10 days or so," one trade source familiar with exports to Syria of wheat and other grains for human consumption and animal feed told Reuters. "Banks are becoming tougher in checking compliance with sanctions. It is becoming more difficult to get finance from any banks."
State currency reserves have been depleted and the Syrian pound has lost nearly half its value, adding to import problems.
As import problems persist, the price of importation is growing, adding to the budget crisis at a faster and faster pace. Assad may soon be faced with a stark choice - curtail his crackdown against Syria's popular uprising, likely leading to a stronger opposition, or cut food subsidies significantly, likely leading to a stronger opposition.
1603 GMT: Syria. BBC correspondent Paul Wood and cameraman Fred Scott have a must-watch report on the situation in Al Rastan, where the situation is not improving, and even the press cannot escape the falling shells.
And we've also found this video - a large protest in the Barzeh district in north-central Damascus:
But again, all is not peaceful. This video reportedly shows smoke rising from Jisreen, Damascus, after an explosion there.
1502 GMT: Syria. Digging into the latest numbers from LCCS (see last update) all the deaths in Aleppo, all five of them, are reported in the Salah el Deen or Bustan al-Qaser districts, both prominent and central areas where large protests have taken place (Map). Video posted earlier shows gunfire in Salah el Deen. (update 1352 GMT)
7 martyrs in Hama, 5 martyrs in Aleppo, 3 martyrs in Homs, 2 martyrs in Damascus suburbs (Zamalka, Dumair) and 2 martyrs in Daraa.
Cracking open the numbers, what's significant is that many of these reported deaths, and the other reports of violence, aren't just coming from the far flung corners of the country, but in the key cities and major suburbs of Hama, Aleppo, and Damascus.
Incomplete results from Cairo suggest a big lead for Sabahy in the capital. The leftist candidate is also comfortably beating Shafiq to second place in Giza.
Ahram Online which is still calling it as Morsi v Shafiq run off says we are still waiting for results from Cairo, Giza, Asiut, and Qalyoubiya governorates, where one third of electorate live.
Mohamed Abd el-Hamid calls for patience:
However, the results from Assiut are in and Morsi and Shafiq placed 1 and 2, with Sabahy a distant 4th. Basically, it may all come down to Cairo.
1417 GMT: Egypt. It appears that there will be a runoff election, and as Al Jazeera's Sharine Tadros reports, the results are a lot different than many thought they would be only a week ago:
At Morsi HQ, press conference will be at 9pm tonight to announce their final results. Spokesperson says it's shafik vs morsi— Sherine Tadros (@SherineT) May 25, 2012
At shafik HQ they all seem shocked twitter.com/SherineT/statu…— Sherine Tadros (@SherineT) May 25, 2012
At shafik HQ: One of the campaigners just asked the guy in charge of counting whether shafik can catch up Morsi. Reply 'no way'— Sherine Tadros (@SherineT) May 25, 2012
Meanwhile, The Guardian posts this message from the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, who looks like he'll be in the next round of voting:
1352 GMT: Syria. Last week all eyes were on Aleppo, particularly on the University, where students returned to campus to protest after security forces shut the dormitories for more than a week during a raid that killed a half dozen students. Today there have been massive protests in the Salah el Deen area of Aleppo, south of the university.
However, security forces reportedly opened fire on the crowd. This video reportedly shows some of the violence:
Injuries are reported.
1337 GMT: Syria. This video was reportedly taken in Quddsaya, a few miles northwest of the center of Assad's power in Damascus. According to the LCCS and several eyewitness reports, these security forces attacked a crowd of protesters after they began to chant. It is unknown if there have been injuries or arrests.
1319 GMT: Syria. Things have already turned deadly today. Security forces reportedly opened fire on a crowd in Zamalka, Damascus, killing at least 1 person. The video below shows both the gunfire and the evacuation of a martyr. A second video, from a different account, shows a similar scene:
In this graphic video, reportedly taken today, a child lies dying in the streets of Irbeen, Damascus. The hook lying in the streets was apparently used to try to recover the body, but activists are worried that the sniper who took the shot is waiting for another target:
1305 GMT: Syria. Already today we are inundated with videos of large protests across many areas of Syria. It's very early, but today appears to have been another show of strength for the peaceful protesters, and the trend over the last month is that the protest movement is steadily growing.
In the war-torn town of Binnish, a strategic key point in Idlib province, the people have a simple message for the world - "We Are Not Terrorists."
Increasingly frustrated at international inaction, and increasingly targeted by the Assad regime, the always-defiant protesters in Kafranbel, Idlib, have this message:
"Obama! Learn that one man with courage makes a majority. Be America's President once before fading away - Occupied Kafranbel 25 5 2012"
This area was heavily attacked by tanks, artillery, and reportedly helicopter gunships earlier this week.
This video was taken in the Khalidiya district in Homs, outside the Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque, an mosque that has not seen protests since last year because of the nearly-constant attacks on the central areas of what used to be Syria's 4th largest city. The constant military attacks, and the threat of death, has clearly not weakened the resolve of many in Homs.
A central square fills with protesters in Al Bab, Aleppo:
El Waer district of Homs, another area always facing nearly constant threat of military shelling:
This was taken somewhere in the Jabal Al Zawiyah area of Idlib:
We've heard that a very large (activists are saying "massive") protest is growing in Ma'arrat al Nouman, an area that saw a significant spike in violence mid week. This is just one video that we've seen:
These are only a very small sample of the videos we've seen. There are some that are at least as impressive as these. If these protests appear like large, defiant, and strong challenges to the Assad regime, then one should note the theme of today's protests: "Our next rendezvous, Damascus."
Oh, and while we're talking about Damascus - Ad Dumayr:
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us to the afternoon.
1135 GMT: Egypt. A significant twist which indicates that the first round of the Presidential election is far from resolved....
Many observers had called the outcome as a run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Prime Minister in the Mubarak regime. However, Ahram Online is now reporting that Nasserite socialist Hamdeen Sabahi has overtaken Shafiq.
1130 GMT: Syria. A large demonstration in the Kobani area of Aleppo:
Jbeileh in Deir Ez Zor Province:
Talbiseh in Homs Province:
1040 GMT: Syria. A demonstration this morning in the al-Asali section of Damascus:
Ahmed belongs to the Bedoon (stateless) community and is one of five actvists arrested in 2011 for "publicly insulting" the United Arab Emirates President and other top officials. The five were found guilty in November but were pardoned and released a day after their conviction, having spent eight months in prison.
The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood [Mohamed Morsi] will face former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister [Ahmed Shafiq] in a runoff to become Egypt’s first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday morning....
Mr. Shafik’s law and order message resonated with voters, helping him to overtake the two candidates previously considered, along with Mr. Mursi, to be the front-runners. One was Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mr. Mubarak and former head of the Arab League, who had offered a softer but similar message. In the final weeks of the race, Mr. Moussa’s support appears to have all but collapsed in favor of Mr. Shafik....
[Former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim] Aboul Fotouh came in third, according to multiple tallies. But in the final weeks of the campaign, some of his more secular-minded supporters appear to have shifted their allegiance to another dark horse, Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserite socialist, who appeared to narrowly trail Mr. Aboul Fotouh in the vote count.
0850 GMT: Yemen. In a week when aid agencies warned of a "catastrophic food crisis" and international donors considered billions in assistance to Yemen, Al Jazeera English's Inside Story considers the situation:
0810 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of shelling of the Jobar section of Homs this morning:
0806 GMT: Egypt. Partial results indicate that the two men who will proceed to the run-off election for the Egyptian Presidency are the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, former Prime Minister in the Mubarak regime.
Brotherhood officials are already declaring this as the outcome. They claim that, with votes counted from about 12,800 of the roughly 13,100 polling stations, Morsi has 25% and Shafiq 23%. Former Brotherhood official Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh has 20% and Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabahy 19%.
We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough.
I submitted my resignation precisely to say that this path of division between Islamist and secular doesn't work, and I think the Syrian regime has won in that respect because since the beginning it has tried to play on this division.
0607 GMT: Syria. Cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zoaby, the head of the Free People of Syria, has said that Syrian insurgents will today free two of 13 Lebanese Shia men kidnapped this week: "After benign efforts and contacts done by the Sheikh...two of the Lebanese will be released today. The regime is responsible for their safety."
The statement said efforts were being made with groups in Lebanon, Europe and some Arab countries to secure the release of the other 11 men.
0600 GMT: Bahrain. The US State Department has issued its 2011 "Country Report on Human Rights Practices" for Bahrain. Despite the dry language and conservative approach --- for example, sticking with the statement of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry of 35 killed in the conflict, rather than the more than 80 claimed by activists --- this passage is striking in its casting of blame:
The most egregious human rights problems reported in 2011 included the inability of citizens to peacefully change their government; the dismissal and expulsion of workers and students for engaging in political activities; the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands, including medical personnel, human rights activists, and political figures, sometimes leading to their torture and/or death in detention; and lack of due process.
Other significant human rights concerns included arbitrary deprivation of life; detention of prisoners of conscience; reported violations of privacy and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. In some instances the government imposed and enforced travel bans on political activists. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect persisted, especially against the Shia population. The government demolished multiple Shia religious sites and structures during the year. There were reports of domestic violence against women and children. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign workers continued to be significant problems.
0500 GMT: Egypt. After two days of voting, the count is underway in the Presidential election.
Eleven candidates are vying for two spots in a run-off ballot on 16 and 17 June, assuming no one gathers a majority of the vote today.
The Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that its candidate Mohamed Morsi is leading the count, an assessment supported by other observers. The heated chatter right now, however, is who will finish second. Speculation says Ahmed Shafiq, the former Prime Minister in the Mubarak regime; former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh; and --- unexpectedly --- Hamdeen Sabahi, the leader of the Nasserist Dignity Party, are all in contention. So far, the biggest "loser" is former Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who is reported to be far behind.
Syria. A far different day in Syria, where protests rather than peaceful ballots are likely to be the story.
The dramatic headlines of violence have faded this week, with all sides appearing to re-assess and re-group. However, the Local Co-ordination Councils of Syria report that 40 people still perished across the country on Thursday.