See also Turkey-Iran Analysis: Why Ankara Maintains Its Golden Relationship with Tehran br>
Turkey Live Coverage (4 June): No Kurdish Problem At All? br>
Sunday's Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protest Renewed in Cairo, Ever-Present Beyond Damascus
2027 GMT: Syria. All day there have been reports that multiple towns across Daraa province have been heavily attacked by the Syrian military. Now, those reports continue to come in, despite the late hour. Let's sort the reports.
There are reports that Tafas has been subjected to heavy machine-gun fire coming from various outposts and checkpoints controlled by the Syrian military.
Yesterday, videos reportedly showed large fields of crops that were lit on fire by "shabiha," paramilitary supporters of the Assad regime.
Earlier there were reports of wounded and dead in El Naymah, closer to Daraa city. Earlier videos showed tanks rolling through the town and heavy gunfire ringing out, reportedly from dug-in army positions:
2010 GMT: Bahrain. The Bahraini government has banned a political party due to allegations that its leader has ties with Iran. The Islamic Action group (Amal), was also accused of "following a religious source of emulation who calls openly for violence and hatred" after it allegedly held meetins inside Shia houses without the proper permits.
The Iraq and UK-based cleric in question is Sayed Hadi al-Modarresi, an Iraqi who once lived in Bahrain before he was accusing of plotting a coup after the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Modarresi belongs to a school of thought within Shi'ism that believes that a group of clerical jurists should rule, rather than the single jurist who rules in Iran.
Amal says the government is trying to put pressure on the party to accept a national dialogue with the government aimed at ending the political crisis which grew out of protests that erupted 16 months ago.
Iran is the "boogie man" of the Bahraini revolution, according to activists who believe that the government is attempting to discredit the opposition by associating them with the Islamic Republic that is so reviled by so many in the West.
Activists are also concerned that this move is just the first of many - legal attempts to bully the opposition parties into directly negotiating with the Bahraini monarchy, on grounds of the government's choosing.
11 in Idlib, 5 in Homs, 4 in Damascus Suburbs, 3 in Aleppo, 3 in Daraa, 2 in Damascus,2 in Hama, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Deir Ezzor.
What we're seeing is a sudden change in the patterns of last week. Instead of Homs being the focal point for the military crackdown, we're seeing far more concentration on Damascus and its suburbs, Daraa, and Idlib province.
1625 GMT: Syria. Multiple sources report that many areas of Homs have been heavily shelled, with some neighborhoods seeing significant fires burning. This video was taken in the Qosour district of Homs. It corresponds to reports from the LCCS that the area was heavily shelled and several people were killed:
These fires appear to be over the Khalidiyah district (we believe):
And this video reportedly shows shells falling today over the Hamidiyah district. All 3 districts are in north-central Homs (map):
It appears that there is a massive military campaign against the suburbs east of Damascus, sometimes called the "Ghouta" region, with heavy fighting, shelling, and tank presence in nearly every location immediately east of the capital.
1556 GMT: Syria. Douma isn't the only place near the capital being stormed by tanks right now. The CFDPC has contacts who say Jisreen, further south, has also been stormed, and this video shows tanks in the area:
Another video shows tanks opening fire in a residential neighborhood in Douma. There is distant gunfire, and it is hard to tell if it is from other regime troops, or from insurgents. Either way, this kind of firepower, this close to the capital, is a good sign of how bad things have become just a few miles east from Damascus:
Another similar video has also been posted.
1530 GMT: Syria. Over the past 24 hours we've seen a few videos of tanks racing towards Deir Ez Zor. Now, the usually-reliable Sham News Network, posts a potentially significant video - an anti-aircraft gun in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.
What does this mean? A gun this size is clearly capable of clearing out an attack helicopter, and helicopters have been used in the region for reconnaissance, and according to some to strike ground targets in the region (we haven't see hard evidence Assad is hitting ground targets near Deir Ez Zor with air power, but we have seen the evidence he is doing this in Idlib and Aleppo). Also, the gun could potentially be used against regime tanks and ground positions.
But all of this misses the larger question - where did the Free Syrian Army get such a weapon? Either it has been supplied to them, likely through the nearby border with Iraq, it has been delivered to them by defectors, or it has been captured from the Syrian army, signifying that the FSA is much stronger in the are than we had previously thought.
1519 GMT: Syria. More escalation near the capital - this nearly 6 minute video (it repeats without sound) shows part of a large military convoy storming Douma. According to witnesses, dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and buses filled with soldiers, as well as perhaps thousands of infantrymen, stormed the eastern-Damascus suburb today:
1511 GMT: Syria. In my initial briefing this morning, Scott Lucas told me that he believed that the fighting in Douma, a Damascus suburb, and across parts of Idlib, were heavier and more significant than many initially thought. That's a significant assessment, as yesterday, we reported heavy fighting in Douma that left at least 7 dead and 100 wounded (video), hardly a blood-free day.
Today, however, some activists are claiming that the Free Syrian Army inflicted fairly substantial damage to the regular army in yesterday's fighting in Douma:
The Assad regime has to worry about Idlib. Opposition sentiment runs high, there are many places for the growing number of insurgent forces to hide, and Idlib shares a key border with Turkey.
However, the regime really has to worry about the situation around Damascus, and it appears that the Assad army is stepping up attacks against Darayya (south of the capital), and the eastern suburbs of Douma, Saraqeb, and Hammoriyah. Also, with significant protests in and around the capital, one gets a sense by looking at a map of battles and protest areas that the capital is surrounded, even infiltrated, by opposition activists and members of the Free Syrian Army.
The FSA is weak now, too weak to directly confront the Assad regime. But what happens if the dynamics in and around the capital do not improve, or even get worse, for Assad, at the same time that the FSA grows stronger and Assad grows weaker? Based on the amount of military activity reported in Damascus and its suburbs, that question has occurred to Assad's military commanders as well.
1435 GMT: Libya. Though the crisis at the international airport in Tripoli may be over, the fact that a group of heavily armed militia were able to storm the runways and stop all flights should be a wake-up call for Libyan security. This picture, a close-up, shows the kind of firepower that the militiamen used:
While it looks bad, things need to be put into context. Many Libyan activists are trying to remind people that scenes like this have never been that foreign to Libya, and no gunfire appears to have been exchanged. In fact, it appears that this crisis was a relatively calm one, and smacks more of an outdated way of doing business than a full-blown warning sign that the sky is falling.
Still, in the 21st century, nobody likes seeing armed militiamen on a tarmac of any airport, anywhere in the world, at any time.
11 in Idlib, 3 in Aleppo, 2 in Damascus (Mezzeh and Qaboon),2 in Damascus Suburbs (Zamalka and A'arbeen), 1 in each of Raqqa, Daraa, Hama, Homs and Deir Ezzor.
With reports of heavy shelling and military activity in Daraa province, we fully expect that number to rise.
1425 GMT: Syria. We've been watching and listening to a live-stream (now ended, though the videos are available for viewing) of a protest in Aleppo. About 3 minutes into the last video, however, the tone of the crowd changes, and at the very end of the video the crowd appears to be fleeing the area. We're not quite sure what happened yet, but will continue to follow:
1415 GMT: Libya. There are now multiple reports that the militiamen who had taken control of Tripoli's main international airport have left the runway, and the airport is back in control of the government:
#Libya al-Ahrar reporting that Tripoli airport seziure is over after MAJ negotiates with Tarhuna representatives— Mohamed Madi (@m_madi) June 4, 2012
1412 GMT: Libya. According to a Swedish international journalist, the crisis in the airport in Tripoli is ending, but this is unconfirmed:
1407 GMT: Libya. Journalist Jenan Moussa shares this photograph from Tripoli's airport:
Mohammed el-Gharyani, a member of Tripoli Security Committee, says militiamen from the city of Tarhouna occupied the airport runway on Monday. Flights were diverted to Metiga air base in the city’s center.
He says the militiamen are angry over arrest of their commander, Abu Elija, on Sunday.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage from Scott Lucas.
A Russian, said to be the coordinator of the group, was sentenced to life imprisonment while the others were handed 10 years’ hard labour.
1215 GMT: Syria. Today's funeral in the Qaboun section of Damascus for a victim of the security forces:
A protest in Tafas in Daraa Province:
1205 GMT: Bahrain. Activists claim that a video file posted on the Bahrain Forum, a pro-regime site, has tried to humiliate human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer. The footage showed him in his bedroom with his wife.
Last November's Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report said al-Tajer had been threatened with humiliation by regime forces, who detained him for several months for making a speech during the protests in February 2011. During the detention and abuse, he was told that he been videotaped sleeping with his wife and this might be made public.
1200 GMT: Kuwait. A 26-year-old man,, Hamad al-Naqi, has been given a 10-year prison sentence for endangering state security by insulting the Prophet Mohammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media.
The sentence was the maximum possible. Al-Naqi had said he did not post the messages, as his Twitter account had been hacked.
1118 GMT: Egypt. The Associated Press reports on the controversy surrounding the work of US-funded NGOs:
Two months before Egyptian police stormed the offices of US-backed democracy organisations last year, seven Egyptian employees resigned from one of the American groups to protest what they called undemocratic practices.
They complained that the US group, described as nonpartisan, had excluded the country's most popular Islamist political organisation from its programmes, collected sensitive religious information about Egyptians when conducting polls to send to Washington, and ordered employees to erase all computer files and turn over all records for shipment abroad months before the raids.
"Our resignation is a result of many different practices we have been witnessing that seem suspicious and unprofessional," the Egyptian employees wrote in their 17 October resignation letter.
This wasn't the democracy that Dawlat Soulam, one of those who quit, said she had hoped to deliver to Egypt when she went to work for the International Republican Institute.
Issandr El Amrani offers a critical assessment, both on the case and on the presentation in the article:
Overall this uncovers one important element — contrary to its mission and its statements IRI [International Republican Institute] was engaged in biased political activity, and in doing so has damaged any similar efforts by other organizations. In the overall take of the story, however, apart from the over-funding of IRI and NDI [National Democratic Institute], the article gives the impression of US conspiracy against SCAF [the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] and the MB [Muslim Brotherhood]. This is hardly true, since the US has collaborated closely with the military and engaged vigorously with the MB. The money and efforts spent trying to support the "liberal" parties is minimal and not very effective.
There is no conspiracy to empower liberals in Egypt, there is only a focus on retaining core interest --- military cooperation, Israel --- no matter who is in power. Beyond that, democracy promotion through things like party training does very little except make US politicians who fund it feel good and give officials a talking point. I don't know whether the US can encourage more democracy in Egypt, but it can certainly encourage less autocracy --- by stopping the military aid to the country.
The British-based Observatory claimed its information was from opposition fighters from units from Damascus to Idlib Province, who said they killed more than 100 soldiers. The Observatory said it was able to confirm the names of 80 through local doctors.
1100 GMT: Iraq. Officials say at least 22 people were killed and 65 wounded when a suicide bomber reportedly detonated an explosives-packed car in Baghdad, outside the offices of the organisation which looks after Shia religious sites.
The endowment's headquarters were destroyed in the attack.
1030 GMT: Bahrain. The Daily Tribune levels a new allegation at Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was recently released from detention:
Soldiers, angry that salaries have not been paid, fired at the convoy of Ali Nasser Ahmed as he was checking on forces fighting insurgents.
Jamal al-Aqal, the governor of Abyan, downplayed the incident, saying the soldiers are new recruits and only fired gunshots in the air to protest.
The province has been the site of heavy fighting between Government troops and insurgents, who control much of the area, including the provincial capital Zinjibar.
The vote to elect 200 representatives, who would draft the Libyan Constitution, was scheduled for 19 June. Authorities say they need more time to vet the 4000 potential candidates.
0944 GMT: Egypt. In the aftermath of this weekend's verdicts in the trial of former President Mubarak and his allies, the Egyptian Parliament, led by Muslim Brotherhood MPs, has decided to draw up a committee tasked with investigating judicial corruption.
Parliamentary Speaker Saad El-Katatni said that, although Parliament fully respected the principle of the separation of powers, it could not help commenting on a ruling that provoked the anger of much of the Egyptian public. "No sooner had the judge issued the verdict than the people began calling for another revolution," said El-Katatni, adding that the verdict "came as a shock to the families of the victims of the revolution, to the protesters and to all Egyptians who had expected justice"
El-Katatni and other MPs agreed that the acquittal of six of Mubarak's former security chiefs of charges of killing unarmed demonstrators during the uprising had left Egyptians in a state of dismay. "People wonder: if they were innocent, then who killed the protesters?" said El-Katatni.
El-Katatni and fellow MPs also charged several state agencies, especially the general intelligence and national security apparatus, of destroying evidence against the six defendants.
0938 GMT: Yemen. The UAE has announced food aid of 500 million dirhams ($136 million) to “alleviate the suffering and ensure the availability of basic needs” to enable Yemenis to achieve “better security, stability and prosperity".
Last month, an international conference considered billions of dollars in assistance for Yemen, where 44% of the population do not have enough to eat, according to aid organisations.
There had been fervent chatter about closer links among the states, especially between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, before the Saudis pulled back last month after pressure from other GCC states. Despite this, Bahraini leaders have continued to push the idea of union.
The GCC Secretary-General said a report on the proposal will be discussed at the GCC Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Tuesday.
As was typical on a Friday here and in many other parts of the country, shortly before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, as the protests began, Syrian troops positioned around the area began firing artillery and heavy machine guns to break up the demonstrations.
Whether the rebel attack was in response to the intensity of the shelling or whether the shelling intensified in response to the attack is unclear. But Houla residents described scenes of chaos as people sought shelter from the unusually heavy bombardments, attempted to rescue the wounded or tried to flee to calmer areas.
Away from the shelling, on the southwestern edge of Houla, a more sinister development began to unfold. A 25-year-old woman who gave her name as Fatima said she saw men in uniforms arriving in the late afternoon in a nearby street where members of the extended Abdel-Razzaq family lived.
Fatima said she assumed that the soldiers were conducting a routine raid, but then she began to hear shooting, which continued for at least an hour.
According to the videotaped testimony of the few survivors, the soldiers were accompanied by irregular shabiha militiamen from surrounding villages and moved through the homes shooting everyone they found.
We thought that you would support us in our hunger strike, but instead you have stood on our wounds and our pain.
From here, we cry out to you, to our brothers, to dignified people, that you bear your responsibility, for after God, we have no one but you and the freedom loving people of the world to bring victory to our cause.
Sarsak and Rikhawi have been refusing food for 78 and 59 days, respectively. They are protesting conditions and Israel's "adminisrative detention", which holds prisoners indefinitely without charge.
0900 GMT: Lebanon. Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera English reports from Tripoli, where troops moved in after 15 people were killed this weekend in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syria's Assad regime:
Most shops, centers and schools in Tripoli are closed today for a strike protesting the events.
0750 GMT: Syria. China's top State newspaper, the People's Daily, has warned against foreign intervention in Syria, saying the abandonment of United Nations' envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan could plunge the country "into the abyss of full-scale war".
The outlet of the Communist Party wrote, "It is not hard to imagine the sort of chaos that will be unleashed once Syria descends into full-scale civil war, thereby triggering Western military intervention. Mass civilian casualties, enormous property losses, an increasingly turbulent society....The lessons learnt from mistakes made in Libya are still fresh."
0708 GMT: Egypt. A telling moment from this weekend's reaction to the verdicts and sentences on former President Mubarak, his sons, and officials of his regime. When a reporter in Suez tries to say that the people welcome the outcome, he is challenged by those around him, who explain that they are far from happy from the lenient result:
Amal spokesman Hisham Sabbagh said the Ministry was trying to put pressure on the society to accept a "national dialogue" promoted by the monarchy. Sabbagh said the alleged violations referred to party meetings in unlicensed premises in 2006 and 2008.
Amal's chairman, Mohammad Ali Al Mahfoodh, has been detained since May 2011.
0645 GMT: Syria. The spotlight in Syria on Sunday was on the political front, as President Assad used the occasion of a new Parliament to deliver a 70-minute address pronouncing on a "real war".
Of course, this war was not against the Syrian people, whom Assad called upon to support the regime, but upon the "outside forces" of terrorists and the countries backing them. An incident such as the mass killing of civilians in Houla on 25 May was the work of "armed terrorists", even if "media whores" tried to blame Damascus.
The take-away of the speech, cutting through all the rhetoric, was that the regime would not be proceeding on the basis of the six-point peace plan of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan, who saw Assad last week. Assad insisted that he had pursued reforms, such as the election of the MPs who made up his receptive audience, and that some of the opposition were "inside this dome". However, there would be no let-up in the fight against those who carried out their challenge on the outside: "We have to fight terrorism for the country to heal. We will not be lenient. We will be forgiving only for those who renounce terrorism.''
As for the supposed international response bringing a resolution to the violence, symbolised by Annan's mission, Assad had this comment: "The masks have fallen and the international role in the Syrian events is now obvious."