See also Syria Video Feature: Friday's Protests Across the Country br>
Syria Transcript: Kofi Annan's Speech to the UN General Assembly br>
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: More than 140 Die as US and Russia Talk of "Plan B"
2105 GMT: Syria. The Salaheddin section of Aleppo tonight:
2035 GMT: Syria. Security forces fire at protesters in Aleppo today:
2010 GMT: Bahrain. Videos of the use of tear gas by police against protesters today (see 1654 GMT):
1942 GMT: Syria. We've spoken to Zilal, who is associated with the CFDPC. She reports that there is heavy gunfire and shelling in the Qaboun district. At least 3 people have been killed there. The situation in Jobar, another suburb east of Damascus, is also degrading rapidly tonight:
Jobar, 10 pm: sounds of explosions were heard and stopped just 10 minutes and then started again. Sounds of gunfire inside Jobar and at the checkpoints. Reports of people injured but not severely.
1921 GMT: Syria. For weeks we've been talking about Assad's growing problems with the Syrian capital, Damascus. We've also been saying that the Free Syrian Army appears capable of suddenly appearing in the capital, a sudden surge of insurgency that, at nearly a moment's notice, can give the Syrian military pause. Today, we saw that those prediction appear largely accurate.
The Free Syrian Army currently fighting the Syrian Army in the capital, is not a traditional force with large units employing traditional tactics. The FSA differs greatly there than it does in the countrysides of Idlib, for instance. Instead, it has much more in common with American “Minute Men” and resistance fighters, able to quickly gather a few people on the streets, hit quickly and melt back into the population. This has been the pattern for months, and is the reason why the Assad regime both has a heavy presence in Damascus and its suburbs and yet cannot quite control those areas.
This FSA attack will draw the Syrian Army into the city, forcing it to commit tanks and armored vehicles, as well as large numbers of troops into the heart of the Syrian capital. If the situation is bad enough, the army may also have to use artillery in the suburbs. This will cost the Assad government civilian lives, disrupt commerce and weaken the confidence of the ruling regime and its supporters. This attack will also likely cost Assad soldiers, both through casualties and defections, not to mention the costs of fuel and ammunition that the constant redistribution of forces costs the military. After this spate of fighting, the Free Syrian Army will likely return to their lives in and around the city, leaving the Syrian Army to spend the next weeks making arrests, an increasingly brutal crackdown which will only strengthen the opposition in and around the capital.
17 in Idlib, 10 in Damascus Suburbs, 10 in Homs, 6 in Damascus, 4 in Daraa, 3 in Hama and 1 martyr in DeirEzzor.
The most noticeable trend today is the high casualty count in Damascus and its suburbs. Though there are now gunfights in many areas, activists report that the gunfights only erupted after security forces stormed many areas of the city, and some of the suburbs were shelled. Protest marches were fired upon, some were dispersed with teargas, and others were met with widespread arrest campaigns, according to residents.This video reportedly shows damage to a home in Hamidiyeh after this shell fell through the roof. We cannot confirm it's authenticity.
1824 GMT: Syria. The sun has gone down in Syria, but we're still hearing reports of violence. We're also still collecting videos from earlier (Youtube videos from Syria are usually at least a few hours behind, especially since the internet is out in many areas).
About an hour before sundown we received an eyewitness report that activists were trying to cut some of the roads into Nahr Eshe and Kafer Souseh in order to slow the advance of the Syrian military. This video shows activists erecting the roadblocks while gunfire rings out in the background:
Heavy gunfire in the Qaboun district, on the eastern edge of the border between Damascus and its suburbs:
1812 GMT: Syria. Back after a quick break to find that Paul Danahar, who has been busy reporting on the situation in Qubair, has returned to Damascus to find that the situation in the capital is also extremely jarring:
There is huge plume of black smoke hanging over Damascus & we are being diverted away from the central highway. I'm trying to find out why— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
So far we've been tracking reports of widespread violence in the western and southern districts of the capital, but now the LCC reports that fighting has broken out in the east, Harasta and possibly some of the other Ghouta suburbs:
Damascus Suburbs: Harasta: Loud sounds of huge explosions can be heard from the direction of Air Force Intelligence branch; heavy gunfire from most of regime's army checkpoints can be heard and smoke columns can be seen rising in the sky above the city.
1654 GMT: Bahrain. Large crowds of protesters marched today in what they called "Friday of Self-Determination," expressing their frustration at recent arrests of activists, their general frustration at what they believe is repression of human rights, and in order to voice their resolve to resist the rule of King Hamad. Those protests, according to activists, have been disrupted by teargas:
1642 GMT: Syria. Another video of the fighting in Kafer Souseh, southwest of the heart of Damascus:
I have seen the most appalling things frankly. I have just walked into a single-storey breeeze block and there are bits of people's brains lying around on the floor. In the corner, there is a mass of congealed blood someone has tried to mop up and then frankly given up halfway through. There is a tablecloth or sheet in front of me with flowers on it at one end and bits of flesh and blood at the other. It is an appaliing scene. Whoever did this carried out a scorched earth policy. It wasn't just human beings, it was butchers.
We don't know who did it. What we do know is something very terrible happened ...
We've spoken to a man from a nearby village who said that after the attack took place a civilian pick-up truck arrived and took the bodies away ...
It is a terrible sight. No-one will be able to claim that some brutal killings didn't take place here because despite the best efforts of the people that carried out, the evidence is still lying on the floor.
1619 GMT: Syria. Another video of the fighting in the capital - this was reportedly taken somewhere in the Mezzeh district:
We'll also note rumors that there is fighting in the Nahr Eshe district to the south. Also, we believe that the mosque featured in the video below is here, in the southern Kafer Souseh area, but we're not sure.
The fighting, it seems, wraps around from the western districts to the south.
1558 GMT: Syria. There is a gun battle reported in Kafer Souseh, a district in the center of the capital, Damascus, and an area where many government buildings are located. HEavy fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the regime military is also reported in the Qadam and Mezzeh districts. These videos reportedly show the Kafer Souseh area:
Not only is there gunfire this close to Assad's center of power, but there are open battles only a few miles from his palace, a sure sign of how desperate things are becoming in Syria's capital city.
1548 GMT: Syria. More details about the Qubair massacre from the BBC's Paul Danahar:
The flies found the evidence of the Qubier massacre before UN got there. They buzzed & swooped around what remained of the tiny community— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
The first house had been gutted by fire but thestench of burnt flesh still hung heavy in the air. The scene in next house was even worse.— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
Blood was in pools around the room. Pieces of flesh lay among the scattered possession.— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
Butchering the people didn'tsatisfy the blood lust of the attackers so they killed the live stock too. Their carcasses rotting in the sun— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
The only clue to where the bodies of the people may have gone are etched into the road. UN said they were tracks made by military vehicles— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
Who ever did this may have acted with mindless violence but attempts to cover up the detaills of the atrocity are calculated & clear #Syria— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
1500 GMT: Syria. An alleged video from the Qubair, site of Wednesday's reported massacre:
While we cannot confirm the video, the town looks somewhat similar to photos taken of the village before the incident. Still, we'll know soon enough if this is the village, as the UN and BBC are on the scene.
One note - those black marks on the ground match the appearance of burned human flesh.
Meanwhile, another report from BBC's Paul Danahar:
The largest of the two houses on the hill top in Qubeir has been gutted by fire. The stench of burnt flesh is still strong— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
1444 GMT: Syria. The people of Kafranbel, Idlib, are famous for their wit, their strong opposition to Bashar al Assad, and their disgust with the international community's handling of the crisis. "Pop Eye" is President Assad, and the Russian and Chinese flags are on the "spinach can.":
1437 GMT: Syria. Homs is often hit hard, but even for Homs today's shelling has been extremely heavy. This video was taken somewhere on a street named Mimas (we think approximately here), a road that runs through the intersection of Al Qosour, Hamidiyah, and Khalidiyah - the three districts that are being heavily shelled today:
Eyewitnesses in Damascus report heavy security on the streets, and there are reports that military aircraft are surveilling the suburbs to the east of the capital, areas where clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and the military are a regular occurrence.
In front of me there is a piece of brain,in the corner there is a mass on congealed blood. This is a house in Qubeir #Syria— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
1334 GMT: Syria. Every Friday is a big day for protests in the Middle East because people are already gathered in the streets and in the mosques to observe the holy day in the Islamic tradition. Therefore, in Syria, Friday is a big day for cracking down on protests. Therefore, the Assad military often targets mosques as the center of their efforts to curb protests. And in the Al Qosour district of Homs, the Syrian regime has reportedly shelled this central mosque:
Massive shells fall in the Khalidiya district of Homs. The shelling started at dawn:
2 more shells fall.
6 more shells fall.
1329 GMT: Syria. There has been plenty of violence today, but the primary story, the fuel that is driving both the opposition and the violence against it, are the protests in the streets. For at least 4 weeks, those protests have grown exponentially, but they have steadily grown since the start of the uprising.
Today, protests are once again large and plentiful, and viewing them gives one a clear sense of the strength of the opposition to the Assad regime. With all of the news breaking, and with the sheer size and scale of the protests in Syria, Scott Lucas has begun collecting the most important videos into a separate video feature.
1312 GMT: Syria. Earlier we posted an discussion on Al Jazeera about a video, filmed in March, that reportedly shows a massacre in Idlib province. NPR's Andy Carvin shares the unedited )and extremely graphic) version:
We have confirmed with Carvin that this is the same video.
Carvin, and other activists, have noted that it appears at one point that not everyone in the video is dead. And it's possible that the soldiers go on to kill them:
The video is being translated, and we'll have a more in-depth analysis when it is done.
1306 GMT: Syria. The BBC's Paul Danahar is traveling with the UN in Qubair, Hama province, and has reached the site of the reported massacre:
We are here. In front of a burnt out building is carcass of a donkey inside the buildings are gutted. The UN have not found any people yet— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
It is important to note that the government sealed of the small village and would not allow observers in yesterday, so nobody knows what the military has been doing for the last day and a half.
1234 GMT: Syria. A UN advance team has reached Qubair, the site of Wednesday's alleged massacre that may have left more than half the village dead. According to The Guardian and the BBC, they are assessing the security situation - there are no reports yet from the forward team.
Yesterday the UN observers were shot at, blocking their entrance to the village.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
1009 GMT: Syria. Activists are claiming that regime forces have been shelling the Khalidiya section of Homs in an effort to drive out insurgents. A video supposedly showing an attack:
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English is pushing a video from March which allegedly shows Syrian troops mocking the dead in Idlib Province:
There will be 39 seats for representatives of parties in the lower house of Parliament, the People's Assembly, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party. Six seats on the constituent assembly also would be given to judges, while nine would go to experts in law, with one seat each for the armed forces, police and the justice ministry.
Thirteen seats will be given to unions. Al-Azhar University, one of Sunni Islam's most important institutions, will be given five seats and the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt will get four. Another 21 public figures will be chosen at a meeting on Tuesday.
0949 GMT: United Arab Emirates. The Independent of London reports on the effort by UAE officials to deport activist and blogger Ahmed Abdul Khaleq to Thailand.Abdul Khaleq was one of five mens who spent eight months in prison in 2011 after signing a petition with more than 100 academics and other activists calling for universal suffrage. He was initially told he would be sent to the Comoros Islands, off the coast of Madagascar.
Last week, seven members of Al Islah, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, lost their battle to sue the Ministry of Interior over its decision to strip them of citizenship after they were accused of perpetrating "acts threatening the national security of the UAE". They have spent two months in jail after refusing to sign a pledge promising to seek citizenship elsewhere.
Al-Sharif publicly defied the country's ban on female drivers by posting a video of herself driving through the streets of Khobar in April 2011. She was arrested and imprisoned for nine days.
Al-Sharif was to be honoured on Wednesday in Washington organised by Vital Voices, a US-based group which campaigns for women's rights. However, al-Sharif said by e-mail that she had received death threats after her recent appearance at the Oslo Freedom Forum.
A march of solidarity last night with Hassan:
Five years ago this month, following Palestinian legislative elections in which Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and removed Fatah officials from office, Israel and Egypt announced a heightening of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Although some aspects of the restrictions on the flow of goods and people into Gaza have been eased by Israel and Egypt since 2010, many believe the blockade still amounts to a collective punishment of the Gazans. By live blogging a day in Gaza we are attempting to show what everyday life is like there for its 1.7 million people.
0723 GMT: Bahrain. The February 14 Youth Coalition has issued a statement that it will be resuming demonstrations, "After more than six months in suspension, the Youth Coalition of Feb 14 Revolution has suddenly decided to resume the 'self-determination' anti-regime protests, which they organized throughout the last year."
The Pearl Revolution Political Center suggests in response that the objectives should go farther:
Why did the Coalition call for self-determination and the Al-Khalifa dynasty is still in power? Does the Coalition have their own perception of self-determination? Do they rely on the UN to support self-determination vote in Bahrain?
The Coalition should clarify their vision to the people and the people should demand the answer if not already provided. This is critically important to avoid repeating past mistakes and for the revolution to maintain its real path – to overthrow the illegitimate regime of Al-Khalifa and build a truly democratic system.
0659 GMT: Syria. A meeting to watch today -- US State Department official Fred Hof is in Moscow to discuss steps on Syria with Russian counterparts.
0655 GMT: Yemen. Writing for PBS Frontline, Azmat Khan outlines, "You Aren't Hearing About Yemen's Biggest Problems", including a "dire water shortage", "impending famine", "deep divisions and proxy war", and hundreds of thousands of refugees.
0525 GMT: Syria. Thursday was a day on the diplomatic front, dominated by the presentations of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and the representatives of individual countries at the UN General Assembly. It was a day of denunciations, most of them of the Assad regime, and declarations that something must be done to stem --- in Annan's words --- "brutal suppression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war".
The outcome, if there was an outcome, was a loud tension --- maybe a contradiction --- captured in a single sentence from British Foreign Secretary William Hague, "The Annan plan has clearly failed so far but it is not dead, all hope for it is not lost."
So all are now sweeping away the illusion that the envoy's six-point proposal brought a ceasefire; Syrian opposition groups said yesterday that more than 2200 people have died since it took effect. At the same time, to pronounce that the conflict has not been eased, and indeed has gotten worse, since Annan's initiative is to risk an admission of failure with no other prospect in the short- or long-term.
Thus, the diplomatic bandage is that the Annan plan is being re-fashioned, with an "international contact group" to discuss a proposal for President Assad to step down in a political transition. But there is little clarity about what "transition" means --- transition to whom, exactly? --- and no sign that the regime or the opposition will countenance this.
And then what? Hague, even as he was trying to project the line of "not lost", gave away the real vision:
If the Annan plan does not work at all, if no-one, even then, is prepared to ensure that it is implemented, well, then we have to return to the UN Security Council to debate more robust and effective measures. But, of course, any idea of such measures has been blocked in the past.