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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Story is Beyond Damascus

Mural on a wall in Aleppo, Syria: "Revolution is A Female"

See also Syria Audio Feature: "Assad May Be Slipping from Power" --- Scott Lucas with the BBC
Syria Revealed: The Quiet Planning for a Country After Assad
Sudan Feature: Can Activists Maintain Hope Amid Waning Protests?
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 217 Die Amid Question, "Where's Bashar?"

2113 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria claims that 131 people, including 18 defectors and 11 children, have been killed by security forces today.

2051 GMT: Syria. A large anti-regime demonstration tonight in central Aleppo:

2015 GMT: Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that regime forces have put down an uprising of almost 24 hours at the main prison in Homs, with two inmates found dead.

Activist Hadi Abdullah had said that prisoners had taken over one of the two wings of the prison on Friday night after several guards defected. By Saturday afternoon, tanks had deployed around the prison and security forces were firing on it.

"I spoke to one of my friends inside the prison and he told me that he saw four prisoners dying. I fear a massacre," Abdullah asserted. He said between 3,000 and 5,000 inmates, including political prisoners, were held in poor conditions, with 60 often crammed in one cell.


1830 GMT: Syria. A large procession at a funeral in the Yabroud section of Damascus:

1710 GMT: Syria. It looks like fighting in Aleppo is spreading. After footage of insurgent commanders making plans (see 1614 GMT), clashes have been reported in the Salaheddin and Sakhour neighbourhoods.

Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army troops entering Sakhour today:

Insurgents on the streets:

1651 GMT: Syria. The governor of Iraq's Nineveh Province has said that Syrian insurgents took control of the main crossing between Iraq and Syria on Saturday.

"Iraqi officials from the crossing called me and they said that at 5:00 pm , some gunmen took control of the Yaribiyah crossing and they were informed that the crossing is now in the hands of the Free Syrian Army," Atheel al-Nujaifi said.

Al-Nujaifi added, "Starting tomorrow, only Iraqis will be allowed to enter from Syria to Iraq. We don't know the nature of the side that we are dealing with and until then, we have to wait and see."

1646 GMT: Syria. Footage of the destruction in the Midan section of Damascus after six days of fighting between insurgents and the regime:

1614 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Free Syria Army battalion commanders planning to confront regime forces in Aleppo:

1602 GMT: Syria. Wladimir van Wilgenburg summarises latest news from Syria's Kurdistan on his blog:

Kurdish forces united in the YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) yesterday took over Efrin without resistance. A pro-Baath website in Dutch claimed the Syrian army handed over some Kurdish areas to Kurds in an "agreement", but a source within the Kurdish National Council (KNC) denied this. Kurdish parties called on the Syrian army to withdraw from Kurdish-dominated cities reports Rudaw.

There are claims Kurds took over some parts of Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in Syria, but others deny this. The city is vital for Kurds to control the Kurdish areas. But the problem is that the Syrian army and Syrian intelligence services are still there. While it was more easy to take over Amude (Hasakeh Province), Kobani (Ain al-Arab) and Efrin, Qamishli is more difficult. KNC member Heyam Aqil noted on Twitter that "some clashes were reported between YPG and Assad forces, but I think it'll take a bit of time before Qamishli is liberated".

She also says that 650 Syrian Kurdish defected conscripts who were trained in Erbil, Kurdistan region, by the security forces of Kurdish president Barzani, are preparing to enter Qamishli via the Iraqi Kurdistan border. This was also confirmed by

Van Wilgenburg adds in a note to EA that Kurdish forces now control Derik (Malikkya) near the Iraqi and Turkish borders.

1519 GMT: Syria. AFP, via Al Jazeera English, posts photos from State TV of insurgents slained or detained and handcuffed by regime forces after fighting in Damascus.

1511 GMT: Syria. As a cameraman films a house set on fire by shelling of Tafas in Daraa Province, another round falls near him:

1342 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees have updated today's toll to 59 dead, including 20 in Idlib Province and 11 in Damascus and its suburbs.

1330 GMT: Oman. Human Rights Watch has called on the Omani regime to drop cases against nine online activists and a demonstrator, convicted of “defaming the Sultan” following Facebook and Twitter postings that allegedly criticised ruler Sultan Qaboos.

The convictions this month follow a wave of arrests that began on 31 May, when authorities detained at least nine bloggers and writers who said the government had failed to carry out reforms promised in 2011 after nationwide demonstrations. On 11 June, the authorities detained at least 22 demonstrators who protested the arrests.

1325 GMT: Syria. The funeral of Assef Shawkat --- Deputy Minister of Defense and brother-in-law of President Assad, killed in the Damascus bomb on Wednesday --- in Tartous:

1245 GMT: Syria. A Turkish official has said that two more Syrian brigadier-generals fled to Turkey overnight, among a group of about 10 people that included colonels and other military officers.

The latest defections would be the 5th and 6th this week and bring the total of Syrian generals taking refuge in Turkey to 24.

The Local Coordination Committees reports the number of people killed by security forces today is now 45, including 12 in Idlib Province, 11 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 10 in Homs Province.

1120 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees reports 21 deaths so far today, including eight in Idlib Province.

1042 GMT: Syria. France 24 reports on villagers looting shops belonging to Rami Makhlouf, an ally of President Assad, as insurgents took the Bab Al-Hawa border post between Syria and Turkey.

The post was reportedly taken back by regime forces on Friday.

1033 GMT: Syria. Activists have posted footage claiming to be of clashes in the Sakhour and Tariq al Bab sections of Aleppo.

1026 GMT: Turkey. A pipeline carrying about a quarter of Iraq's oil exports has been set on fire in southeastern Turkey.

Security sources said the fire at the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, started on Friday at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Mardin Province near the Syrian border, was an act of sabotage by the Kurdish insurgency PKK.

Firat News, a website with ties to the PKK, also said the outlawed group was behind the attack.

1011 GMT: Syria. The website of the State news agency SANA is off-line for a second day.

1006 GMT: Syria. Activists claim clashes are ongoing in the Salaheddin section of Aleppo --- meanwhile, in the northeast, Kurdish fighters claim the streets of Amouda:

And this footage has been posted of the destruction of the police station in Yarmouk near Damascus, the site of a Palestinian refugee camp:

0924 GMT: Bahrain. The opposition society Al Wefaq puts out its version of yesterday's protests and clashes across the Kingdom, claiming 72 demonstrations were challenged by security forces:

0916 GMT: Syria. Residents leaving the Salaheddin neighbourhood of Aleppo --- scene of protests and clashes on Friday --- this morning:

0911 GMT: Syria. Back from a Saturday break to find this vivid passage in The New York Times of Syrians crossing the Lebanese border:

For everyone reaching Lebanon, there were hundreds more fleeing the capital into the Syrian countryside as the mood in Damascus shifted markedly — not least because the government warned residents that it would shell rebellious neighborhoods.

Many of those arriving were well-to-do young families, the parents saying all they wanted was to get their children out of harm’s way while they were sure they still could. Some were obviously coming for the long haul, cars stacked with extra suitcases and children’s bicycles and kitchen utensils like a colander.

Many regretted the decision to leave even as they relaxed a bit in getting out. “I would rather die in Damascus; you are a stranger anywhere you go except your own country,” said Ghada, a 41-year-old housewife fleeing with her husband and two children. She, like others, did not want her last name used for fear of being identified.

Some maintained they were just headed to Beirut to relax, and they would take stock in a week or so. Most said they were not political, just worried, although there was an occasional whispered political opinion like, “We want freedom.”

On the other end of the scale, a young man riding in the passenger seat of a glistening, charcoal Porsche Panamera with special government license plates rolled down his window and denied anything was amiss in Damascus.

“There is nothing,” he said before the car roared off.

0648 GMT: UAE. The Emirates Centre for Human Rights reports on the detention of three more men in the crackdown on dissidents --- Dr. Essa Al Suwaidi, a former director of the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone; lawyer Salem Hamdun Al Shehi; and activist Juma’a al Felasi.

Thirty activists are now being held, including 14 seized after the Abu Dhabi Attorney General announced on 15 July that there was a "plot" to undermine the regime.

See also UAE Interview: The Latest Crackdown on Human Rights Activists

0600 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria reports that 215 civilians and insurgents were killed by security forces on Friday, including 55 in the Damascus suburbs, 28 in Aleppo Province, 28 in Idlib Province, 26 in Damascus, 25 in Homs Province, 23 in Deir Ez Zor Province.

The activists add that 11 people have died so far today, including eight in Mastouma village in Idlib Province.

0540 GMT: Syria. Part of Friday's news was the sixth day of fighting between insurgents and the Syrian military in Damascus, 48 hours after a bomb had decimated the top ranks of the Assad regime. Al Jazeera English, for example, headlines, "Syria Strikes Back at Rebels in Damascus".

That headline is doubly misleading, however. While the regime was able to push the insurgents out of the Midan area in southern Damascus, insurgents continue to launch attacks. Areas such as Mezzeh are still being contested. EA's James Miller offered a useful summary:

What is clear is that after a massive counter-attack, the Syrian regime has regained some ground, but has still not asserted control over the capital and its suburbs. Also, if the FSA is withdrawing, rather than being pushed out, it means that they still have plenty of fight left to bring to the enemy, a situation that will surely keep the Assad military on edge in the next few weeks, at least.

Perhaps more importantly, this was a Friday with important developments beyond Damascus. To fight for the capital, the regime had to pull back forces from other areas. The evidence is that this, plus the momentum of the opposition, fed more gains by the insurgency, especially in the northwest of the country and on the borders with Turkey and Iraq.

And, in the development which we had been anticipating, both the mass protests and the street fighting reached Syria's largest city Aleppo. The clashes were still small, compared to the scenes in the capital, but it was a pointer that the regime may soon have a battle for what had been considered a bedrock of its security.

Put bluntly, the regime may win the battle for Damascus but lose the fight for its country.

There was also the reminder on Friday that this was not just a military story. The estimate of up to 30,000 people fleeing into Lebanon and thousands into Iraq in 48 hours was an indication of the scale of disruption and damage to civilians.

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