LiveStream of Wednesday's shelling of Homs in Syria
See also Syria Document: UN Report on Regime's Abuses of Children br>
Iraq Latest: At Least 44 Killed as Bombs Target Pilgrims and Police br>
Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 109 Killed Amid Reports of "Children as Human Shields" and a "Plainclothes Army"
2105 GMT: Bahrain. Not only was a 5-year-old boy shot by police tonight, but his father was also injured, according to activists:
2052 GMT: Bahrain. Activists are reporting that police have shot a 5-year-old boy and his father with birdshot pellets from a shotgun tonight:
A video, posted today, claims to show police carrying the boy after they shot him:
We're not sure of the exact circumstances of the shooting at this time. However, Zainab AlKhawaja reports that she activists and family members who have tried to reach the boy, but have been blocked.
Police now not allowing activists and even some family members to see the injured child #bahrain— angry arabiya (@angryarabiya) June 13, 2012
2038 GMT: Syria. The Vatican calls what is happening in Syria a dissent into hell (see previous update. The Local Coordinating Committees would likely agree, as they report that 72 people have been killed today:
23 martyrs were reported in Homs, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Daraa, 10 in Hama, 9 in Idlib, 7 in Aleppo, 2 in Lattakia, and 1 in the Damascus Suburbs.
Obviously, the first number that jumps out is the high death toll in Homs province. All the major towns around Homs, and multiple districts in the city itself, saw another day of fierce shelling and air strikes from helicopter gunships.
However, the violence was fairly uniform in Daraa, Hama, Idlib, Aleppo, and even in Deir Ez Zor where today's violence may have marked an escalation in the region.
The Assad military is making a nation-wide push to regain territory from the insurgent Free Syrian Army. While they appear to be making some military gains, those gains are less substantial, and significantly delayed, than many predicted they would be. Those gains have also come at a high cost, to both civilian lives and to Assad's military.
2015 GMT: Syria. On Monday, I published a report about the Vatican promoting stories by a Catholic news service, Agenzia Fides, that said the Sunni insurgents in al Qusayr were threatening the Christians that if they did not leave they would be specifically targeted. I wrote that these allegations were almost certainly false, completely unsubstantiated, and that the Church's pro-Assad narrative was extremely dangerous to Christians in Syria.
Two news items signal that the Vatican has reversed course on this narrative, even after pushing the anti-opposition rhetoric harder in the last few days.
The first news, and likely most important, is that the Vatican's ambassador to Syria, Archbishop Nuncio Mario Zenari, has denied that Christians are being targeted by Sunnis. Archibishop Zenari said that for all people, "the descent into hell has started," and even cited UN reports of children being used as human shields.
Archbishop Zenari also signaled that the Church may be in a position to help negotiate:
"It is the Christians' mission to play the role of a link at all levels," he said.
"They're active in very painful situations, such as in Homs where we have priests, nuns and monks ... who are setting an example and risk their lives."
Concerning the issue raised in my original article (below), the Archbishop dismissed claims that Sunnis in the opposition were targeting Christians.
So far, I would say that Christians share the same sad fate as all Syrians (...) I would not say that they are the object of particular discriminations, less so persecutions," said Zenari.
The lot of Christians in Syria today does not compare to that in other countries in the region, he said. "Sometimes it is compared to Iraq, but you cannot compare this."
There are signs that the bishops on the ground have also dropped some of the rhetoric, and are currently working with both the Syrian military and with the Free Syrian Army to negotiate a ceasefire in Homs in order to evacuate civilians and provide aid to the injured. Bishops of several denominations are working together, according to the report, and are hopeful that a temporary ceasefire can be forged.
Initially, only days after coming under fire, Agenzia Fides published more anonymous accounts that they said confirmed the original story that Christians were being targeted by Sunnis in Al Qusayr. The Vatican news feed posted a link to the article.
This raises more questions. Has the Vatican has taken a hard turn on its stance on this issue? Will the Vatican pressure the Bishops in Syria to change tact as well? And perhaps most importantly, will the Vatican attempt to mediate a negotiated peace, now that the Vatican is apparently acknowledging that while Christians in Syria are suffering, their fate is no different than that of their Sunni countrymen.
1809 GMT: Syria. The campus of Aleppo University has been repeatedly raided by police. Many arrests have been made, possibly hundreds over the course of the last 15 months. Tear gas has been fired, professors detained, dormitories searched, and the campus was even closed down. Now, for the last week, artillery shells routinely fly over the campus, fired from positions in the south of the city towards the northern suburbs, a message to the students that the regime is strong. Still, after all of that, there are more protests today on the campus of Aleppo University:
1744 GMT: Bahrain. Ali Hassan, the 11-year-old boy detained for almost a month for allegedly participating in an illegal assembly, describes his experience to Al Jazeera English:
1607 GMT: Syria. Today, Russia defended its sales of weapons to the Assad regime by claiming that they were legal transactions. Russia also claimed that the United States is engaged in illegal transactions - namely, the supply of weapons to the insurgent fighters of the Free Syrian Army:
"We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts," said Sergei Lavrov, in response to a question about Clinton's comments at a news conference during a visit to Iran.
"They are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government," he said on Iranian state television, speaking through an interpreter.
The decree, drafted earlier this month and announced in the state official newspaper on Wednesday, is reportedly based on Military Judiciary Law 25 of 1966. According to the ministry, the law will remain in effect until a new constitution is drafted.
Though the decree still requires parliamentary approval, some are seeing it as a warning sign that the military may not be willing to relinquish as much power as its statements suggest.
The group says the two Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and one ICRC staff member were traveling with other aid workers from Aleppo to Idlib when the blast hit their marked vehicles Wednesday.
A spokesman for the ICRC in Geneva says the aid workers were taken to a medical facility and that their injuries are minor.
The Guardian reports that an ICRC spokesman has expressed concern that the incident may jeopardize the entire humanitarian mission in Syria, a mission that is already highly constrained:
This kind of incident is completely unacceptable. It comes at a moment when the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) are the only organisations able to deliver assistance on the ground, despite the increasing security problems.
This incident may put at risk the only humanitarian action taking place in the country at a moment when the needs are steadily increasing.
The ICRC and the SARC take such incidents extremely seriously. We will continue our work but we will have to review the situation on the ground accordingly. The safety of the ICRC and SARC teams is vital for us to be able to continue to help those in need.
1400 GMT: Syria. After the UN cars trying to reach Al Haffeh (Map) were shot at (see update 1232), the Syrian government is now asking for the UN monitors to return to Al Haffeh now that the "terrorists have been cleared."
Authorities have restored security and clam to al-Haffeh district after clearing it from the armed terrorist groups which terrorized citizens and sabotaged several public and private properties.
The authorities also seized huge amounts of advanced weapons used by armed terrorist groups, including sniper rifles, explosive devices, RPG launchers and a large amount of ammunition.
1350 GMT: Syria. Earlier (update 0925) we posted video of explosions and smoke in Al Rastan, while a helicopter flew overhead (Map). Now, we have this disturbing video which reportedly shows the dead, including two children, in the back of a truck, reportedly killed by "bombing and missiles," by which we believe the activists mean missile strikes from aircraft, likely helicopters.
The video is graphic, more graphic than we usually post, but scenes like this are too frequent recently in Syria:
It's not possible to tell what is on fire (perhaps just the vegetation near the airport), but an insurgent strike on such an important base could be significant. We'll keep an eye on this development.
1324 GMT: Syria. Homs has been heavily shelled once again today, but so have the towns of Al Talbiseh and Al Rastan to the north (Map). This video was reportedly shot near the two towns, allegedly showing a field hospital filled with injured children:
8 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 7 in each of Homs and Aleppo, 3 martyrs in Idlib, 2 martyrs in Lattakia and one martyr in each of Daraa, Hama and Damascus Suburbs.
1250 GMT: Syria. Syria has been so filled with violence for days on end, and EA writers have been so busy trying to document and report that violence, that another narrative has been nearly forgotten...
The protests continue. In fact, some areas have seen extremely large protests over the course of the last few days, despite the violence that is a constant threat to both those who defy Bashar al Assad and anyone who lives in many cities and towns across the country. The protests are a sure sign that the opposition is not weakening, and is in fact strengthening. Also, the sentiment at the protests is clear - the Free Syrian Army is a friend of the people, and the Syrian military is the enemy. The Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Center has this report from a protest at a funeral in Bosra, Daraa (Map):
Bosra is a town of about 30,000 in Daraa province. It is also an UNESCO site because of the very well-preserved Roman theatre and other ancient ruins, including early Christian sites and one of the world's oldest surviving mosques. The video shows the funeral of the martyrs from yesterday's massacre there, when the town was shelled by Assad's forces.
1232 GMT: Syria. The UN has released more official video, this time showing the bullet holes and other damage done to the UN vehicles as they tried to reach Al Haffeh (Map), a town that was captured by regime military forces today after the insurgent Free Syrian Army retreated last night.
According to FSA fighters and civilians who fled to Turkey after leaving Al Haffeh, the city has been continuously shelled, attacked by helicopters, and burned:
Recovering at a hospital in the Turkish city of Antakya, a wounded Free Syrian Army fighter described the assault on Haffeh by government forces and how he was shot trying to rescue the wounded.
"First, helicopters attack the villages, later the tanks attack, and then at the end soldiers enter the houses, loot them and set fire to them," said Mohammad, a 25-year-old fighter who had been shot through the shoulder.
At least 50 wounded have been smuggled across the border to Turkey from Haffeh over the past few days but many more are trapped by fierce fighting and those that try to escape are fired on by President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to rebels in the southern Turkish province of Hatay.
Video taken over the last several days, most of which was taken from outside the town, seems to confirm these reports.
1212 GMT: Syria. James Miller takes over today's coverage from Scott Lucas, and anticipates another long and bloody day of conflict.
There is already a difference in the patterns from today's reports, however. Citizens report that Deir Ez Zor has been shelled (Map). The video below shows smoke rising, and distant explosions. The LCC posts another video showing smoke rising above the city, and another depicting the sound of gunfire echoing through the city.
While the shelling continues in Talbiseh, Rastan, and Homs, as well as areas in Idlib, Lattakia, and Daraa, Deir Ez Zor hasn't been heavily shelled like this. If it continues or intensifies, it could signal that the regime has grown desperate to reassert control there as well.
1047 GMT: Syria. Bankers in Damascus report that the Syrian regime is risking inflation by putting new banknotes, printed in Russia, into circulation to pay salaries and finance its deficit.
Four sources told Reuters that the banknotes have been put out in trial amounts in Damascus and Aleppo. They are not just to replace worn out currency but to ensure that salaries and other government expenses are paid.
THe Free Syrian Army's Military Council described the retreat as a tactical move "to avoid falling into the regime's civil war trap" and "to avoid a massacre by regime forces of Al-Haffe's remaining residents", adding that it had evacuated the injured, dead, women, and children from the area.
The FSA asserted, "The town and villages of Al-Haffe were subjected to aerial, tank and rocket bombardment, as well as a suffocating siege by regime forces and thugs," the FSA said, adding that its fighters retreated."
Assad supporters prevent UN observers from entering the Al-Haffeh area on Tuesday:
0937 GMT: Bahrain. What does the Bahraini regime gets for its $40,000 per month to the US public-relations firm Qorvis?
The latest report from Qorvis for the Foreign Agents Registration Unit sets out details of articles written for the regime and placed into media, payments to Facebooks and website hosts, meetings set up with high-profile journalists, and requests for corrections in articles.
The clash started yesterday when the Mashasha stopped a Zintan military contingent heading to Sebha at a makeshift road block near Mizdah. Local tribes chose sides in the conflict.
There has been ongoing tension between the Zintanis, who played a prominent role in last year's uprising against the Qaddafi regime, and the Mashasha, who did not support it. Last December, there were clashes in which four people died.
0925 GMT:Syria. We have put a LiveStream of today's shelling of Homs at the top of the entry --- a clip of attacks on nearby Rastan:
0921 GMT:Syria. The spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, has said, "China expresses its great concern over the development of the situation in Syria. We believe the situation in Syria is at a critical juncture. We hope parties in Syria can do everything they can to protect civilians."
The diplomat said the Free Syrian Army received the weapons via Turkey with the implicit support of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT.
FSA members said they had received multiple shipments including Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry from Gulf countries, with Turkey assisting in the delivery of the weapons. Insurgents said the arms arrived at a Turkish port via ship and were then driven to the border without interference from Turkish authorities.
Hosni Mubarak's condition stabilized Tuesday but his lawyer said the 84-year old former president does not trust his doctors in the prison hospital and fears they are out to kill him.
There have been conflicting reports about Mubarak's condition since a court convicted him on June 2 of failing to prevent the killings of protesters in the uprising that ousted him last year. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Since his arrival at the prison, the 84-year old Mubarak has been suffering from high blood pressure and breathing difficulties and is diagnosed with deep depression, according to security officials at Torah prison. On Monday, doctors used a defibrillator on him twice after they could not find a pulse.
One motivation for the reports may be Mubarak's efforts to be moved back to a military hospital --- three requests have been turned down by the authorities.
A UN observers' car on Tuesday ran over three residents in Lattakia countryside while they were trying to explain their suffering due to the acts of the armed terrorist groups.
The civilians are Amer Mohammad Zamzam, Mustafa Hikmat Kamel and Issam Ma'rouf Mahmoud, two of them are in critical condition.
Mustafa Kamel said that he was among the people who gathered at a point between al-Sheer and Set-Kheiris villages on Lattakia-Aleppo highway when members of the UN delegation, who refused to listen to the citizens' demands, kept on moving across the gathered crowds, causing several bruises to Kamel's body and creating an atmosphere of panic among people.
0755 GMT: Syria. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary-General of NATO, has criticised the Assad regime but insisted, "A foreign military intervention is not the right path in Syria."
I strongly condemn the behavior of the Syrian security forces and the crackdown on the civilian population. It is absolutely outrageous what we are witnessing and [there is] no doubt that the regime in Syria is responsible for violations of the international law.
I strongly urge the Syrian leadership to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and introduce freedom and democracy.
0500 GMT: Syria. We begin with the response of Herve Ladsous, the head of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, when asked if Syria is now in a state of civil war: "Yes, I think we can say that."
I am not sure that headline confirmation is significant in itself. However, it is telling that Ladsous then explained that the regime faces a divided country: "Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control."
And, although Ladsous did not make this statement, this is the logical extension. The "cease-fire" under UN envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, which never took effect --- despite rhetoric to the contrary --- is no now officially gone.
As Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN explained, "What we've seen in the last five days is a huge upscaling of the military confrontation. [It's by] both sides, at a huge cost to the civilian population."
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria report that 60 people died across the country on Tuesday.
Protest in the town of Beza'ah in Syria on Tuesday night