Protest last night in the Salaheddin section of Aleppo, Syria's largest city
See also Syria Special: 16 Months Later, A History of the Insurgency --- And What It Foreshadows for the Regime br>
Syria Opinion: Annan Endorses Assad as the "One Authority, One Gun" br>
Bahrain Opinion: This is "Reform" --- The Imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab br>
Bahrain 1st-Hand Special: The Coupled Suffering of Younis and Amina Ashoori br>
Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: An Assad-Annan Plan?
1812 GMT: Egypt. In the latest chapter of the battle between Egypt's President Morsi and the former regime(see update 0535), Morsi has no said that he will respect the latest court rulings, despite disagreeing with them, over the parliament issue:
In a statement Wednesday, the president says he will seek dialogue with political forces and judicial authorities in an effort to ease tensions over the dispute.
CNN's Ivan Watson has this analysis - "Morsi blinks."
1722 GMT: Syria. Shells fall in a neighborhood of Deir Ez Zor:
1559 GMT: Syria. This video was reportedly taken in Muhassen, Deir Ez Zor, and shows artillery shells landing. The LCC also reports that Khasham, Al Tabia, and Deir Ez Zor itself have been heavily shelled in the last few hours (map):
The violence in Deir Ez Zor is once again intensifying. Keep an eye on this, as Deir Ez Zor is strategically important. Without Deir Ez Zor, the regime has a gaping hole in its defenses to the east.
1405 GMT: Syria. The excellent blogger, Brown Moses, has dug up some interesting dirt. While researching a series of pictures and videos, he has discovered evidence that the Assad regime is using cluster bombs against civilian populations, Furthermore, he has discovered that the particular bombs they appear to be using are old, and have a high failure rate. This raises two obvious questions - how many civilians will die if the use of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel weapons continues to escalate, and what does the use of old ordinance say about the state of the Syrian military?
The SNC's leader Abdel Basset Sayda has expressed more annoyance with Russia after his meeting with foreign minister Lavrov.
AP quoted him telling a news conference: "The Syrian people are suffering because of Russia, because of the position it has taken, because of its veto in the UN Security Council.
Sayda also said the SNC is demanding that "all representatives of the ruling regime" in Syria step down and no dialogue with the regime is possible until Assad leaves power.
1338 GMT: Syria. We have finally published an in-depth analysis of the history of the insurgency in Syria, it's current status, and what it means for the outcome of this crisis.
There are several key conclusions - the Assad regime is vulnerable, far more vulnerable than many analysts have previously stated, and it is possible that a sudden wave of insurgent attacks, coupled with a wave of defections, could topple the regime in Damascus.
Whether the regime falls suddenly, or whether that scenario is avoided, there is almost no evidence that Assad is waging an effective military or counter-insurgency campaign. History is Syria is marching, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, in a single direction - the fall of the Assad regime.
This has many implications. First of all, a negotiated peace that does not remove the regime will likely never be accepted by the opposition, even if Assad were genuinely willing to negotiate (which is, in our estimation, doubtful). It also means that if the regime does not fall suddenly, then this conflict could rage for a long time, as a poorly-armed insurgency slowly grinds away at the pillars of the regime. This, in turn, has significant implications for the total loss of life that could be the result of such a drawn out conflict.
1208 GMT: Bahrain. Another report from John Horne:
Opposition parties in Bahrain have released a joint statement following the banning of the opposition party Amal and the imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab for 3 months for his tweets. The statement reads in part:
The Bahraini opposition parties consider the decision by the Administrative Court on Monday 9th July, to ban opposition party Amal, to be a politicised and irrational action that is an attack on political activity in Bahrain. The decision shows no willingness by the regime to find a political solution to the crisis, but instead intends to take the country towards increased volatility.
The opposition parties stressed that Bahrain is currently under an unannounced martial law with the regime escalating its crackdown. This is manifested in an increase in attempts to prevent freedom of expression, a higher level of repression, arrests and house raids. This is happening in parallel to ongoing unfair trials against citizens for simply expressing their opinion freely.
The opposition parties added, “We will not call this is a black day for justice in Bahrain, because there is no justice in Bahrain”, confirming the reports of Human Rights Watch and other international NGO’s. A main demand that took people to the streets was for a fair and independent judicial system that guarantees justice for all citizens and is separate from other powers, and the people continue to call for this today.
The statement comes a day after the Bahrain Center for Human Rights issued an urgent appeal to the United Nations and international community calling on them to "assume their responsibility in protecting the people of Bahrain" in the fact of "massive and continued human rights violations".
1202 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
Younis Ashoori, the 61-year old hospital administrator sentenced to three years by a military court last year, will be spending still longer behind bars after his appeal was adjourned for the ninth time this morning.
Younis was arrested in March last year and subject to harsh torture, before being charged with taking oxygen to the site of a protest (see separate feature, 1st-Hand Special: The Coupled Suffering of Younis and Amina Ashoori). His case has been under appeal in a civilian court since February. Six witnesses have testified to his innocence, whilst the single government witness is an alleged accomplice to his torture. A final verdict had been expected last month, days after the 20 medics received theirs. However, the judge decided to request voice recordings from the Ministry of Health which has resulted in three further court dates, including todays, because the recordings haven't been handed over.
Todays delay is a further blow to Younis's family, friends and colleagues who have been very concerned about him, particularly given his ongoing health problems. It also raises yet more questions about the regime's commitment to reform and the justice being delivered in Bahrain's courts.
1148 GMT: Syria. NPR's Debra Amos reports on the situation in a refugee camp in what many are calling a defacto buffer zone in northern Syria. The safe area, created by Turkish anti-aircraft guns and insurgent military victories, has provided an area where families affected by the violence can regroup, on both sides of the border:
It's a good report, except for it's dubious last sentence - while it's true that the Free Syrian Army has been "unable" to establish a safe zone elsewhere in Syria, that's remarkably negative spin. The fact that the FSA has been able to control large parts of northern Syria is a testament to the regime's weakness, and this "safe zone" appears to be expanding, nearly every day.
Also missing from the analysis is that while the Syrian military is trying to recapture this territory, it appears to be failing - at least for now.
1135 GMT: Syria. The Syrian military has renewed a shelling campaign against Zabadani, northwest of Damascus (map), one of the first cities to fall to insurgents back in the first months of this year, and a place that the regime has struggled to control. The video below shows the shelling, as do several others, and videos show wounded, but it is still too early to know how bad the damage is:
1113 GMT: Syria. Among more reports of rocket and artillery strikes on the towns north of Aleppo, more arrests in Damascus, and a renewed military campaign in Daraa, the LCC reports an interesting report - that the town of Ain al Arouz, in the mountains west of Ma'arrat al Nouman (map), has been raided by the Syrian military. This is interesting because the town does not appear to be partiicularrly geographically important. What's more interesting is that the Free Syrian Army reportedly defended the town, and heavy fighting has been occurring in the area.
The town is very remote, and it was hard to find any information coming from the area beyond the LCC report. However, we'll monitor the news to see if this develops further.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
1032 GMT: Syria. A signal out of the meeting in Moscow between the opposition Syrian National Council and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov --- SNC head Abdel Basset Sayda has asserted, "The events in Syria are not disagreements between the opposition and the government but a revolution," comparing the events to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
1015 GMT: Iraq. Wladimir van Wilgenburg writes for EA amid this week's news of disputes over oil deals (see 0935 GMT):
In future, Iraqi Kurds might say petrol is the biggest friend of the Kurds,
rather than the mountains that were a safe region for Kurdish rebels hiding from the State for hundreds of years. Rather than relying on the international discourse of human rights and their suffering, Iraqi Kurds can now offer cash and business, which often carries far more impact.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are trying to use oil deals to protect the security of the region. So far, it seems to be working. Although firms like Shell and BP still prefer to deal with Baghdad, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani once said: "Exxon is an oil giant that equals 10 military troops; it would, for its own interest, defend the territory where it is established."
The same may apply to Turkey. According to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, who visited Erbil several times to discuss oil-related issues, the trade between Kurdistan and Turkey is not illegal. At the same time, Ankara is going to export oil from Basra in southern Iraq.
These manoeuvres are likely to grab headlines, but the problem with Kurdistan's supposed best friend may be elsewhere. The "oil curse" is one of the reasons why the Kurds are in conflict with the central Government over disputed territory such as Kirkuk and that curse also results in nepotism, corruption, and oil hand-outs, making the Kurdish population demand cash instead of paying taxes for services. And it might be said that, amid the oil, Kurdish business is more focused on building shiny malls and hotels and making short-term gains, rather than the harder task of hospitals, schools and universities, infrastructure, and roads.
0947 GMT: Palestine. On Tuesday, Israeli authorities released Mahmoud Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian national football team who had staged a 96-day hunger strike to protest "administrative detention".
Sarsak met well-wishers in Gaza after three years in Israeli custody without charges or trial. He was accused of involvement in Islamic Jihad.
During his hunger strike, the 25-year-old Sarsak lost nearly half his weight. He ended the fast last month as part of a deal for his release.
0939 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of three regime tanks destroyed in Izaz, between Aleppo and the Turkish border --- there were reports on Tuesday that insurgents had taken control of the town:
Claimed video of the attack on the tanks:
0935 GMT: Iraq. An item from Monday --- Faisal Abdullah, spokesman for Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussein al-Shahristani, has said crude-oil exports from the semi-autonomous northern region of Kurdistan to Turkey are "illegal", with Baghdad threatening to take "appropriate action".
A Kurdish source familiar with Kurdistan's oil exports said currently only four trucks a day are carrying crude across the border to Turkey.
Abudllah said, however, "This is an illegal and unconstitutional business that we will take the right decision against. The Oil Ministry solely reserves the right to export crude oil, gas or oil products to other countries."
In April, the Kurdish Regional Government suspended crude-oil exports of nearly 100,000 barrels a day through a Baghdad-controlled export pipeline, protesting that the central government was delaying payment of around $1.5 billion that the region needs to pay to contracting companies.
Beyond an extension of the mandate of the UN monitors --- who are currently holed up in Damascus hotels, unable to carry out observations because of violence --- for three months, there is little substance. Indeed, the thrust of the resolution is support for Kofi Annan's efforts through a call for "urgent, comprehensive and immediate implementation of all elements of the Envoy's six-point proposal".
0705 GMT: Syria. An Aleppo doctor, Adbul-Baset Arja, has been shot and killed. State media claim he was slain by an "armed terrorist group", while activists believe he may have been assassinated by regime supporters for treating injured protesters.
0655 GMT: Bahrain. Extracts from an interview with human rights activist Nabeel Rajab (see video in our separate feature), moments before he was taken to prison on Tuesday to serve a three-month sentence for "insulting" Twitter messages:
They thought the nearly two months in jail before was enough to keep me quiet. But they realized no, that did not keep me quiet. So maybe (they think) these three months will....
I will not stop and I’m teaching people not to stop. If everybody will keep quiet after putting them in jail, then it’s a disaster. We should challenge that. We should be willing to pay the price for the struggle for the freedom that we fight for. And this is the price....
The dictators of this country think that by imprisoning me, it’s an end of an era and they’re going to silence the nation. But I think it’s the beginning of an era. The determination I’ve seen among people convinces me that our struggle will continue. The coming few days or few weeks will prove if what I am saying is right or if it is wrong.
0625 GMT: Saudi Arabia. The New York Times summarises last night's mass protests in the Eastern Province (see videos in EA's Live Coverage), and Toby Matthiesen offers this analysis of the shooting and arrest of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which sparked this week's demonstrations:
The timing seems strange, and indeed counter-productive. The protests in the Eastern Province had stopped, many youth activists were frustrated that after one and a half years of protests they had not achieved any political goals, bare the death of several martyrs and the mobilization of a particular segment of shabab, young men. Now, however, they have a new battle cry that they will use to mobilize other segments of Saudi Shiite society.
But the calculations of the Saudi and perhaps U.S. security establishments seem to be that, with Nimr behind bars, the protests will eventually stop, and above all, in the event of a confrontation in the Gulf, a popular figure that could rally protesters is eliminated.
It is difficult to predict which way things are going to turn out. But this untimely arrest, particularly after shooting the cleric in the leg, may well be a shot in the foot and give new momentum not just to the protest movement in Eastern Saudi Arabia, but also in Bahrain. There, the youth activists have shown that even with the most prominent opposition leaders in jail, they can sustain organized demonstrations, and have increasingly returned to the pre-2011 tactics of street fighting with police.
The Court ruled last month that elections for the lower house were invalid, because of irregularities over the contests for independent seats. On Sunday, Morsi ordered the convocation of the People's Assembly, with new elections to be held within 60 days of the adoption of a new Constitution.
On Tuesday, before the Court's latest ruling, the 508-seat Assembly met for five minutes.
0515 GMT: Syria. We continue to focus on --- and wonder about --- this week's mission by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan, first to see President Assad in Damascus and then to consult with Iran, who have been shut out of international conferences by US and European objections.
In particular, we have been struck by Annan's statement in Tehran, "Very serious plans will have to be made to collect arms that are in the wrong hands and ensure that the government – or the government that emerges or the government of the day – will have control of the use of firearms and weapons. In other words, one authority, one gun."
What does this mean? EA's James Miller has a strong opinion, which he offers in a separate entry: "This grants Assad a carte blanche license to continue the killing, in the name of hunting down an illegal insurgency."