A December 2011 interview with filmmaker Bassel Al Shehade, killed on Monday as he recorded the conflict in Homs in Syria --- his contribution begins at the 2-minute mark
See also US and the World Feature: President Obama and the "Kill List" br>
Syria Audio: Scott Lucas on Monocle 24 "There is No Diplomatic Way Forward" br>
Tuesday's Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Annan in Damascus, Burning a Headquarters in Cairo br>
Tuesday's Bahrain Live Coverage: Activist Alkhawaja Ends His 110-Day Hunger Strike
14 martyrs in Homs, 10 martyrs in Daraa (Tayba, Nawa, Inkhel), 7 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs (Douma, Daraya, Thayabiya), 5 martyrs in Aleppo (Izaz and Atareb), 2 martrs in Idlib and 2 martyrs in Kafr Zeita, Hama.
According to the LCCS, only 2 of those killed were members of the Free Syrian Army - 38 were unarmed civilians.
2033 GMT: Syria. Two videos released today give an impression of the scale of violence reported in the Hamidiyah district of Homs today. The first, 2 minutes long (before it repeats without sound), shows shells falling on the district at the center of what was once Syria's 4th largest city. The second video, more than 10 minutes of nearly constant shelling and gunfire, as smoke fills the sky:
Earlier (update 1900 GMT) we posted video of some of the shelling, taken at street level.
2023 GMT: Syria. Earlier we received reports that Atareb, an area that has fallen to the Free Syrian Army, has been heavily shelled. The Local Coordinating Committees released this video showing smoke from homes set on fire during the shelling:
1900 GMT: Syria. Earlier we reported that there was shelling, and heavy fighting, in the city of Qusayr, south of Homs (see update 1414 GMT). Now, a graphic Youtube video appears to show a large amount of wounded and dead in a field hospital there. Some of the injured may be insurgent fighters, but most appear to be civilians.
Meanwhile, "Sammie," an activist in Homs, shares a video of central Homs being shelled earlier today:
Also, Sammie reports that there are shells headed in the direction of Houla, the villages of which are less that 15 miles from Homs proper:
1832 GMT: Syria. Things are bloody in Syria right now. According to multiple sources, the suburbs east of Damascus, from Hammoriyah to Douma, have been heavily shelled, and there is heavy gunfire reported on a major road running north and south between the Ghouta suburbs.
Things are even uglier in Daraa. The Local Coordinating Committees report:
The number of martyrs has reached 10, all killed by the regime's army. 6 martyrs were reported in the town of Al-Tibeh; 2 of them were run over by a BMP tank. 3 martyrs were reported in Inkhil, and there was 1 martyr in the town of Nawa.
Meanwhile, Houla, west of Homs, is once again under attack after it was shelled earlier in the day:
Heavy artillery shelling and missile launches were reported, and more than 50 shells landed in under 1 hour. There is an increasing number of wounded and the UN monitors are refusing to respond to residents' distress calls.
There are still scattered reports of violence elsewhere as well. It's safe to say that it's going to be a long night tonight in many parts of Syria.
1620 GMT: Syria. One would suspect that, faced with international pressure and increased scrutiny, Assad might decide to let up on his attacks against civilian populations. However, it appears that the opposite is true. While the average daily death toll has been somewhere around 30 per day, for several weeks, that average has significantly increased since Friday. Also, today there are widespread reports of artillery bombardment, arrest campaigns, and tank raids - from the Damascus suburbs to the countrysides of Daraa, Idlib, and Aleppo.
One interesting note - there are a series of videos released today that claim to show helicopters firing on ground targets in Idlib and Aleppo. This video, reportedly taken today in Ma'atrat Misrin, Idlib, reportedly shows an Assad helicopter firing on the town. It has been posted by several Youtube accounts, including the usually reliable Shaam News Network, and generally matches eyewitness reports from central Idlib. However, the video lacks landmarks on the ground to verify the location:
Near Damascus, heavy gunfire, and this video, are reported in Douma:
1605 GMT: Syria. The full text of the 4-point statement from the Syrian opposition meeting in Bulgaria has been released. In no uncertain terms, the opposition is stating that the Syrian regime must be stopped, and the international community must step in to remove the regime. Here is the most striking paragraph:
The Syrian regime remaining in power is leading to an escalation of risk to the country and to the region, thus confirming the need for the complete removal of the regime and its symbols. We urge the international community to support the Syrian people in achieving this goal as soon as possible.
Language this strong is a turning point - the SNC has previously doubted whether international intervention should be called for, or what shape and scale that intervention should take. Initially, many members of the Syrian opposition have been highly reluctant to call for a full-scale international intervention with the stated purpose of removing the Assad regime. This statement goes much further than ever before, further than the calls for the arming of the opposition or the establishment of no-fly zones or humanitarian corridors.
There are now only two questions - will this new unity group be accepted by the opposition at large, and will the international community respond positively to the new request?
1456 GMT: Syria. There is little doubt that the massacre in Houla has altered the entire dynamic of the international community's response to the Syrian crisis. Many of the strongest voices in the UN have kicked the regime's ambassadors out of their countries, Kofi Annan sounds less hopeful than ever, and the world is paying attention - the leading headline on my local NPR station was the regime's renewed shelling of several locations across the country, and my barber knew and was eager to discuss the details of the massacre in Houla. The event may prove a turning point, as it seems to have inspired large portions of the world to call for action.
But the significance of the event does not seem to have been lost on the Syrian opposition living outside the country either. There has been a meeting of more than 40 prominent activists in Sofia, Bulgaria, to attempt to unify the expatriate activists into a single party with a single vision. Those who met were members of the Syrian National Council, the Kurdish National Council, and the National Bloc of the Syrian Tribes. The Bulgarian foreign ministry released this statement:
Against the background of what has happened in Houla, today we must do everything possible to convince the international community to be more active to stop the violence, said the host of the meeting, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov.
The Syrian opposition representatives adopted a joint declaration saying that “condemnations from the international community are no longer sufficient to protect the Syrian people” and calling on the United Nations Security Council to assume its responsibilities through decisive and unequivocal resolution under Chapter Seven.
In the declaration, the participants called on the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to provide humanitarian assistance. The three groups reiterated the need for complete removal of the regime. The participants urged countries that still were backing the Bashar al-Assad regime to instead support the revolution and the achievement of democracy, which is a goal shared by all elements of the Syrian opposition.
Perhaps even more interesting - the statement closes with a hint about what the next step for the Syrian opposition may be:
Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council, said that if the UN Security Council does not assume its responsibility, it was hoped that the “Friends of Syria” group would.
Unity of the opposition would be a guarantee of the success of the revolution, said Abdulhakim Bashar of the Kurdish National Council.
So the opposition leaders outside the country are prepared to unify? If so, it appears that their first step would be to call for international effort to remove the regime, either under the UN's authority, or under the authority of the "Friends of Syria."
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, timed this announcement with the news that Bulgaria has also expelled its Syrian diplomats. Mladenov also hinted that the opposition is now closer to unity, and closer to calling for international intervention.
"The massacre in Houla sped the processes inside Syrian opposition. Serious progress was achieved at this meeting. They sat together, joined around common opinions and ideas, and are now ready to work together, to ask more firmly for the overthrow of those in power," said Bulgaria's top diplomat.
1442 GMT: Syria. According to Martin Chulov, Houla, the site of this weekend's massacre that left over 100 dead, is once again being shelled by the Syrian regime:
The new shelling in #Houla is coming from the north and west of the town. Residents tell us checkpoints have been relocated today.— Martin Chulov (@martinchulov) May 30, 2012
The head of UN observers in Syria, Major-General Robert Mood, said 13 bodies had been discovered in the east of the country, with their hands tied behind their backs and signs that some had been shot in the head from close range.
The bodies were discovered late on Tuesday in the area of Assukar, 50km east of Deir al-Zor.
"General Mood is deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act," a statement issued by the observer mission said on Wednesday.
"He calls on all parties to exercise restraint and end the cycle of violence for the sake of Syria and the Syrian people."
The Guardian shares a graphic video, showing the bodies of the 13, killed at close range.
A note on the video - Assukar is between Deir Ez Zor and the border with Iraq. No weapons were reported in the room with the victims, and they appear to be dressed in civilian clothing. So far, it is unclear whether the dead were supporters of the opposition or the Assad regime.
Whoever is to blame, with the international community growing tired of scenes like these, this is just another piece of evidence that Assad is either perpetrating these crimes or is unable to stop them.
1414 GMT: Syria. There has been heavy fighting today in Qusayr, south of Homs. According to the Local Coordinating Committees, warplanes attacked ground targets in the city, and heavy gunfire and shelling has been reported. However, Activist Shakeeb Al Jabri offers this video as a clue to what may really be going on there. According to this report, and others we've heard today, there are heavy firefights between the a Free Syrian Army brigade and the regime regular army forces, and the FSA has made at least some progress, destroying some tanks:
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for taking us to the afternoon.
1246 GMT: Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry has continued its challenge to the US, European, and Arab States pursuing a tough line with the Assad regime. Having warned against further United Nations action (see 0922 GMT), the Ministry has asserted, "The expulsion of Syrian ambassadors from the capitals of several leading Western states seems like a counterproductive step to us....[Western nations] do not want to listen to Damascus and that ... does not improve matters in the current situation."
Claimed footage of a General defecting from Syria's 18th Tank Battalion:
1036 GMT: Syria. The Red Cross and Red Crescent went to the area of Houla, site of last Friday's mass killing, on Tuesday. In Burj al-Qa'i village, they found about 5,000 displaced people, mostly women and children, staying in schools or with local families.
The agencies provided the displaced with food parcels, fresh vegetables, bread, mattresses, supplies for infants, soap, and candles. Water tanks were installed and some medical items supplied.
1026 GMT: Syria. United Nations officials report the UN Refugee Agency registered 6326 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan in May, the largest number since the beginning of Syria's mass protests in March 2011./p>
There are now more than 21,200 registrations.
The UN reports 51.1% of the refugees are from Homs and 26.5% from Daraa.
Jordan, which grants refuge to all Syrians who cross into the Kingdom legally or illegally, has received more than 115,000 Syrians since March 2011.
1009 GMT: Syria. Japan and Turkey are the 12th and 13th countries in the last 24 hours to order the expulsion of Syrian diplomats.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said the Syrian Ambassador had to leave because of concerns about violence against civilians in Syria.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, giving Damascus's representatives 72 hours to leave the country, announced, "It is out of the question to remain silent and without any reaction in the face of this action which amounts to a crime against humanity."
On Tuesday, the US, Australia, Canada, Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain announced expulsions.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, ""We believe that a review now by the Security Council of any new measures on the situation would be premature. It is essential to give the plan of [UN envoy] Kofi Annan time to work.”
Gatilov repeated Moscow's call for a "balanced" approach, rather than an emphasis on blame on the regime: "It is also important for all the outside players --- including our Western partners –-- to put corresponding pressure on the opposition."
0706 GMT: Bahrain. Human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja, released on Tuesday after a 39-day detention and still facing charges for illegal protest (Photos: Associated Press):
0659 GMT: Syria. Sudarsan Raghavan posts an overview for The New York Times: "In Yemen, U.S. Airstrikes Breed Anger, and Sympathy for al-Qaeda":
"These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.
Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.
But as in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. drone strikes have significantly weakened al-Qaeda’s capabilities, an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population.
The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network’s most active wing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
0650 GMT: Syria. On Tuesday, James Miller noted the significance of insurgent claims that they had taken the town of Al Atareb, west of Aleppo and near the Turkish border: "Atareb is situated between Aleppo, a city which the regime cannot afford to lose, and Idlib, a region that Assad has arguably already lost."
Activists continue to assert that the Free Syrian Army holds Al Atareb, posting video of regime shelling of the town and helicopters overhead:
Al Shahade had taken a leave of absence from a fine arts programme to cover the conflict. He told a journalist, "I couldn’t be away when the revolution is happening. I needed to come back. You can always study later."
Claimed footage of the funeral procession for Al Shehade and three other victims on Tuesday night:
0555 GMT: Syria. It was a busy Tuesday on the Syrian front. The United Nations issued a damning report on Friday's killings in Houla, finding that most of those slain --- at least 108 civilians, including 49 children, were executed at close range. In a co-ordinated move, countries from the US to France to Bulgaria expelled Syrian diplomats. This morning, The Times of London declared a "tipping point" and called for Britain to intervene, including the deployment of its troops. And activists claimed that at least 73 people had been slain at security forces.
The headline, however, was President Assad's firm statement to UN envoy Kofi Annan in Damascus that the conflict and the deaths would continue.
Of course, Assad did not say this directly. But his line to Annan, put out by Syrian State media, amounted to a smack-down of the envoy's six-point peace plan. Assad's insistence that the plan initially deal with "terrorists", ensuring they were defeated or laid down arms, as well as their "international supporters", amounted to a declaration not only that regime forces would hold their positions in towns and cities, but also that they would continue to press the fight with shelling as well as direct assaults on insurgents.