See Also, Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Assad Shoos Away UN Envoy Annan br>
2100 GMT: Syria. The names of 12 of the 15 men whom, according to insurgents, were executed in a fertiliser plant outside Homs today:
1 - Mohammad Tawfik Bakkar br>
2 – Ibrahim Ismail Bakkar br>
3 – Khaled Abdel Najib Barro br>
4 – Adnan Omar al-Yassin br>
5 – Sulaiman Abdel Qader Satto br>
6 – Samer Mohammad Bakkar br>
7 – Abdel Kafi Hasan Bakkar br>
8 – Mohammad Abdo al-Zirai br>
9 – Maher Ahmad Taleb br>
10 – Hamed Saadiyeh br>
11 – Mohammad Mahmoud Satouf br>
12 – Yehia Sabri Buzan
A Facebook account linked with the Free Syrian Army in Baba Amr claims that the FSA found the men:
This picture is from the first to arrive of the massacre committed in Albuweyda Alsharqiyah today where 15 men from the fertiliser plant were abducted by regime thugs, tortured and executed with close-range bullets.
On the Facebook page that posts this news there are two extremely graphic videos of the FSA soldiers removing the dead. According to activist Zilal, at the end of the second video someone says today's date. Also, we consulted Shakeeb al Jabri, who said that activists in the area whom he has spoken with have also heard the report, but none of them have spoken with direct eyewitnesses.
As a result, we cannot yet confirm the report.
There are also rumours that the Free Syrian Army launched an attack near Baba Amr and further south (leading to the death of one prominent insurgent), and Baba Amr (like much of Homs) has been shelled today, as had Qusayr to the south.
1920 GMT: Syria. There is a myth about the opposition, one that is so far from accurate yet is so often repeated by the media. Today, after only an hour of radio and TV news, I heard CNN, CBS news, NPR and the BBC all repeat the myth - the Syrian opposition started as peaceful protests and morphed into an insurgency.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike Libya, the vast majority of those who started the peaceful protests have never taken up arms, and many never will. First of all, the Free Syrian Army is a wholly separate and independent manifestation of the opposition, and while many on the streets support the FSA, very few of the protesters have become insurgents, especially in Syria's largest cities. Instead, the FSA is made up of primarily of army defectors and secondarily of recruits.
However, there is a more important reason why this myth is problematic - it insinuates that the protests have been replaced by an insurgency. This is not the case, as the protest movement in Syria appears to be growing. Also, this myth infers that the strength of the opposition in Syria can be measured by the strength of the insurgents. In reality, if the entire insurgency was destroyed by Assad forces, what would be left is a majority of the population that is unwilling to live in a Syria controlled by Bashar al Assad, and is willing to let Assad know about it, both through protest marches and through labor strikes.
One look at the protests held today (a Thursday, not a day known for large protests) gives one the sense of how large the protest movement has become. Tomorrow, as the world remembers the violence in Houla, the Syrian opposition will rally in nearly every city and town across the country to remind Assad and the world that he cannot kill away dissent.
Khattab, a suburb of Hama:
Bizah, near Aleppo:
1640 GMT: Syria. The BBC's Frank Gardner summarises the line taken by the Syrian Foreign Minister in a press conference on last weekend's mass killing of civilians in Houla:
"[The number includes] 14 people who were summarily executed , 11 were executed in Qosair and 3 in Deir Ezzor. 27 martyrs in Homs, 3 in Damascus Suburbs "Daraya- Douma- Mouadamyeh", 3 in Deir Ezzor, 2 martyrs in Aleppo, 1 in Daraa and 1 martyr in Hassakeh."
1532 GMT: Syria. More fallout from the massacre in Houla...
The UN security council is scheduled to have en emergency meeting tomorrow. According to The Guardian, the council will agree upon a draft statement that calls for the establishment of an independent inquiry into the event that left over 100 dead. A sample of the text is below:
Deploring the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of Government artillery and tank shellings of a residential neighborhood,
1. [The Council] Condemns in the strongest possible terms such an outrageous use of force against the civilian population which constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitment of the Syrian Government under the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) to cease violence in all its forms, including the cessation of use of heavy weapons in population centres;
The draft document, which has 4 points, doesn't allude to any separate party that is responsible for violence until bullet point 3. In other words, the document is aimed squarely at the Syrian military. Though there is no direct statement that the Syrian regime is responsible for the massacre, the statement is that the military did conduct part of the attack. If passed it will be the strongest-worded statement yet from the UN Security Council.
Qusayr is an important location, as it is situated between Homs and the border with Lebanon. Qusayr has been heavily shelled for several straight days, but has been hotly contested for months.
Moon described the UN mission in Syria as an attempt to independently investigate and bear witness to the reality on the ground there. Moon argued that this is exactly what the observers did when they reported the details of the massacre in Houla. However, Moon said that simply reporting is not enough:
Let me state plainly, however: the UN did not deploy in Syria just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents. We are not there to play the role of passive observer to unspeakable atrocities.
The Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan, has expressed his concern that we may have reached a “tipping point” in Syria. The massacre of civilians of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war - a civil war from which the country would never recover.
I demand that the government of Syria act on its commitments under the Annan peace plan. A united international community demands that the Syrian government act on its responsibilities to its people.
Moon went even further, calling the reality in Syria "the old story of a tyranny seeking to hold power."
1310 GMT: Syria. Yesterday we posted some incredible footage of the bombardment of the Hamidiyah and Khalidiyah districts of Homs. There were some reports of renewed violence earlier today. But now we are beginning to see the aftermath:
1253 GMT: Syria. It's early (3:53 PM local time), eyewitness reports are usually delayed (it takes time to verify them), and yet it has already been a bloody day in Syria. According to the Local Coordinating Committees, a network of activists inside and out of the country, 18 people have been killed so far today.
10 martyrs in Homs, 3 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs (Daraya- Douma- Mouadamyeh), 3 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 1 martyr in Daraa and 1 martyr in Hasakeh.
The 3 killed in Deir Ez Zor were summarily executed by Assad forces or loyalists, according to the report.
1246 GMT: Syria. Time for a bit of snap analysis...
Rumors have been circulating that the Free Syrian Army has given an ultimatum to the Assad regime (and Kofi Annan) - stop the killing before tomorrow, or the Free Syrian Army will break the ceasefire and attack.
There are reasons to basically dismiss this issue on multiple levels. First of all, those claims have been denied by Colonel Riad al-Asaad, the commander of the FSA (see update 1125 GMT). Secondly, the Free Syrian Army basically did abide by the ceasefire for some time, but as I've previously pointed out, somewhere around May 13-15 the FSA launched a fairly substantial offensive in several areas, particularly rural Homs. At the same time the FSA commander, Colonel Riad al-Asaad released a statement saying that the FSA would no longer sit back and watch Assad break the ceasefire. It was time to resume the fighting.
Even if Colonel Asaad did want to hold fire for another 24-48 hours, that might be hard to do. The FSA has been locked in battle in several places for days, and the Syrian regime has also escalated attacks against a few locations in Homs (Houla, Qosayr, and the central districts of Homs proper), in rural Aleppo, around Daraa, and around Damascus. Such a hasty plan would likely fail.
The last reason to dismiss this - the violence today hasn't stopped, so there is not even a hint that the Assad regime has let up its attacks against the civilian populous. As a result, the supposed deadline will pass in a short period of time, and nothing will have changed, making the whole conversation a moot point.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us to the afternoon.
At least eight people died from a car bomb at a busy restaurant in the Shia district of Shula in the north of the city, while at least four other explosions were reported in other areas of the capital.
1135 GMT: Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims a member of the security forces was killed and five others wounded when an improvised explosive device was set off at Aleppo University. UN observers are reportedly at the scene.
The university was closed earlier this month after protests and a raid by security forces that killed several students.
State news agency SANA reports that "500 persons who got involved in the recent events in the country but did not commit murders" were freed from detention on Thursday.
SANA claims more than 1600 prisoners have been given an amnesty since January.
1125 GMT: Syria. Back from an academic break to find conflicting statements over the "ultimatum" supposedly given by the Free Syria Army to the Assad regime to adhere "the United Nations Security Council resolution and other international legitimacy" by Friday.
FSA commander, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, based in Turkey, has said, "There is no deadline, but we want Kofi Annan to issue a declaration announcing the failure of this plan so that we would be free to carry out any military operation against the regime."
However, the FSA's "Domestic Command" says that it stands by the ultimatum, despite Al-Asaad's denials.
The Yemeni Defence Ministry said four militants and three soldiers died during the attack late on Wednesday night.
Fighters of Ansar al-Sharia briefly seized Radda in January but left the town after striking a deal with the authorities.
Ansar al-Sharia said Wednesday's clash began after Government troops surrounded the home of a resident named Nassr al-Hattam and pounded it with tank fire. It said its fighters attacked troops surrounding the house and a Republican Guard checkpoint at the entrance of Radda.
The images, taken on Saturday morning, show the location of forces around the town. Analyst Forbes McKenzie asserts: "These images display a prominent footprint by the Syrian military in the locality of the massacres. We assess that it shows where 122mm artillery rounds were fired from on to the site of the massacre."
0500 GMT: Syria. Last August, EA's James Miller first used the term "new normal" to describe the situation in Syria:
Military shelling and occupations during the day, from Hama to Deir Ez Zor to Binnish in the northwest, punctuating moments such as deaths in funeral processions or the fall of the minaret in Deir Ez Zor yesterday, the contest of rival stories and claims, and anti-regime protests through the night: that is the pattern, and we do not expect it to end any time soon.
Throughout the spring, there has been the claim that the six-point peace plan of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan would break this "new normal", with regime forces and insurgents ceasing fire as opposing sides were brought together for talks on a political resolution.
We were sceptical from the start that a halt to fighting was likely, and a political settlement appeared distant, to say the least. It is not a question that the "ceasefire isn't holding", as Al Jazeera English opens its report (see top of entry); it was never there in the first place.
The events of the last week, marked by the killings of more than 100 civilians in Houla, have only confirmed that evaluation. On Tuesday, President Assad sent Annan packing with no more than a regime declaration that it would continue --- in the name of defeating "terrorists" --- its attacks. The mainstream media picked up yesterday on a story, reported by the Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria a day earlier, that 13 bodies of bound and executed men had been dumped in Deir Ez Zor Province.
And the Free Syrian Army ratified what it is already in place with the illusory declaration that if the Assad regime did not adhere to "the United Nations Security Council resolution and other international legitimacy" with troop withdrawals by Friday, then the FSA would resume its operations.