A demonstration in the Salaheddin section of Aleppo last night
See also Bahrain Feature: UK Government and BBC Boost Regime's "Terrorist Explosives" Campaign br>
Syria Multimedia Feature: 27 "Torture Centers" Run by Intelligence Agencies br>
Bahrain 1st-Hand: Zainab Alkhawaja "The Day I Was Shot by Police" br>
Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Transition Plan Going Nowhere?
2005 GMT: Syria. Another interesting pickup by Bill Neely, who is in Damascus and has been to Douma today. He notes that while he has not personally witnessed this, he has seen and heard the shells fall and believes this is real:
1948 GMT: Syria. It's been another bloody day in Deir Ez Zor, as battles for control of key areas continue to rage.
Our understanding of the state of the battle there is, admittedly, a bit hazy. Our understanding that there IS intense battle there is more clear. This video purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers firing on Assad forces. Though we don't see what they are firing at, tactical they seem fairly secure and confident:
It's not the only sign of FSA success. Though we're not sure the location of the video, this video was also posted today by the same Youtube channel that has been supplying many Deir Ez Zor videos, and claims to show FSA fighters who have captured a tank. We cannot confirm the video:
Either way, there was thousands of reports saying that there are heavy battles in Deir Ez Zor. Exactly how heavy, or what the results are, we cannot say at this moment.
1914 GMT: Syria. The headlines in Syria may be about death and battle, but in many places the protesters still rule. This video, posted by the LCC, reportedly shows a large rally in Kobani, in northern Aleppo (map). As the area i very remote, we cannot verify the details:
This protest is important. First of all, this small town is located on the border between Aleppo and Turkey, a key area where insurgents could operate from. Secondly, the protesters carry Kurdish flags, yet another sign that the opposition crosses ethnic lines.
Other videos, such as this one also posted by the LCCS, showed protests on the campus of Aleppo University. We've seen video of several off-campus protests in Aleppo as well:
The protests are still the heart of the opposition. In areas where there is not intense violence, the protests have been raging for several weeks, a clear sign that the insurgents, not the regime, have overwhelming popular support in many areas.
In Aleppo, in particular, support of the countryside is firmly in the opposition's hands, and the insurgents are winning territorial and military victories there as well. Inside the city, Assad's supporters are less staunch than they once were, and the opposition is steadily growing, a sign that even in Assad's strongholds he is steadily losing power.
1527 GMT: Syria. Bill Neely reports that Irbeen, a key Damascus suburb that appears to be completely controlled by the Free Syrian Army (map). He also reports heavy fighting and artillery shelling in Douma (map). Dozens of videos posted today, similar to the one below, show widespread damage in the suburb.
1508 GMT: Bahrain. Gulf Daily News reports that MP Osama Al-Tamini "has entered negotiations to buy licence for the Arabic newspaper Al Waqt, which was forced to close two years ago due to financial problems."
Al-Tamini is controversial and outspoken Sunni MP, who has often criticised the regime and called for greater and more open democratic reforms. In April, a gym owned by Al-Tamini was attacked by gunmen just a few days after he had called for Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, Bahrain's Prime Minister for over four decades, to stand down. The attack was seen by some as an assassination attempt by loyalists keen to silence his critiques. Last year, Al-Tamini became the first Bahrain MP to be suspended from parliament, accused of insulting and threatening colleagues.
1503 GMT: Bahrain. Said Yousif, deputy leader of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has accused security forces of damaging a mosque during a recent crackdown in the northern village of Jannusan. Al-Akhbar quotes Yousif as saying:
"They have been attacking anyone and they have closed all the roads to the planned protests," he said.
"They even targeted one Shia mosque in Jannusan, they put a lot of tear gas inside and burned it."
1500 GMT: Bahrain. Continuing its current push to present a Kingdom committed to reform in the light of growing international criticism, Bahrain authorities announced earlier today that 15 policeman have been charged with "mistreatment" of detainees. Reuters reports:
"The latest complaints were made during the month of June and nine of the complainants have already been questioned, resulting in three of them being referred to forensic doctors," Nawaf Hamza, head of the Public Prosecution's Special Investigation Unit, said in a statement.
"As a result 15 policemen have been questioned and informed of the charges against them. The investigation of the remaining complaints and those involved is ongoing," he said in comments published by the government Information Affairs Authority.
The IAA said earlier that a number of policemen - it did not say how many - accused of mistreatment of detainees and use of excessive force had been sentenced to five years in prison.
1438 GMT: Syria. An "FSA is Strong" alert - this video, posted by a blogger, reportedly shows the defection of Colonel Mamedalamr and the formation of a new division of the Free Syrian Army. The significance - this rather large unit is reportedly being formed in Da'arrat I'zah, the location of several other large defections, and a town near some significant FSA victories, including the capturing of a military base last week (map):
This also means that the FSA has once again made major gains in the wider Aleppo province. A quick look at yesterday's interactive map suggests that the area around Aleppo is becoming a major battleground, with the Assad military quickly losing ground. More heavy violence is reported north of Aleppo today as the military tries to stem the tide of losses as assert control over the territory between Aleppo and the border with Turkey.
View Syria - 2012 July 2 - EA Worldview in a larger map
The regime appears to be bleeding territory, armored vehicles, and soldiers in both Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
In Aleppo, there were 9 martyrs, 8 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Daraa, 8 in Homs, 7 in Damascus Suburbs and 1 in Raqqa.
The numbers take over where yesterday's left off, with heavy fighting in Aleppo and Deir Ez Zor, as well as in Daraa and Hama provinces, and in the Damascus suburbs. There are also rumors swirling of more advances by the Free Syrian Army, and we'll try to pin down those reports as the day goes on.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage, with thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through the morning.
1250 GMT: Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again pointed to divisions among international powers over supposed agreement on United Nations envoy Kofi Annan's proposal for a transitional national unity government.
Lavrov said the proposal was an "important step" but added that Western governments had aread more into the final statement at last weekend's Geneva conference:
Unfortunately...some Western participants have started in their public statements to distort the agreements that were reached. These agreements are not there to be interpreted. They mean exactly what is said in the communiqué and we need to follow the agreements that were made.
Russia has insisted that there be no pre-condition of President Assad's departure from power, while the US has maintained this must be part of a resolution.
Earlier, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi had told reporters Tuesday that a "shift" in positions by Russia and its diplomatic ally China at the Geneva talks should not be underestimated: "Let's wait until the dust settles on this agreement and I think everyone will see that it was quite an accomplishment that was achieved here on Saturday."
The two-day conference opened on Monday, under the auspices of the Arab League, to forge a common vision for a political transition. However, the SRGC said it refuses to "engage in political disputes, which play with the fate of our people and our revolution" or accept "agendas which place the revolution between the anvil and the hammer of international conflicts and the criminal Syrian regime".
Jabbing at last weekend's international conference, the SRGC added, "Talking about unifying the opposition is hollow speech aimed at covering up for the failure of the Geneva meeting. The priority now is to continue to strengthen unity among the Syrian revolutionary forces, mainly the Free Syrian Army inside the country, and to secure support for this [military] option by all means."
The Free Syrian Army is also boycotting the Cairo meeting.
Why would I hold on to power if saving my people and my country was a question of me staying or leaving? I would not stay even for one day. If the contrary is true and my people don’t want me, then there are elections. If people want, they can make me leave.
0814 GMT: Bahrain. Is Washington taking a tougher line with the regime over "reform"?
US delegates will make a statement on the Middle East and North Africa to the UN Human Rights Council later today. The text has some strong words for Bahrain's leaders:
The Government of Bahrain has taken steps to implement the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), but it must fully implement the remaining important recommendations. For example, it needs to hold accountable officials responsible for human rights violations, including deaths in custody resulting from torture, to drop charges against all persons accused of crimes based on their political expression, and to ensure fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases, such as those of the medical professionals. The Government of Bahrain also needs to prevent the use of excessive force by the police and to diversify police forces to reflect the communities in which they serve. We also urge the Government to respect its citizens’ rights to free expression, free association and free assembly, and to facilitate access to Bahrain for journalists and civil society organizations.
While this will likely exacerbate the growing anti-American sentiment amongst hardline regime loyalists, it is significant that these voices have not softened US rhetoric. The statement is not tempered by the usual framing of "reform", and it only credits the Bahrain regime with having "taken steps" towards implementing the BICI recommendations.
However, words will not be enough to change the minds of many in the opposition who accuse the US of duplicity --- saying one thing publicly, whilst fully supporting the ruling AlKhalifa family behind closed doors, as evidenced by arms sales and similar deals. Last week, the US was criticised for not joining 27 other countries in a joint statement to the UN on the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain. That declaraton set out more serious criticisms, anchored to specific UN conventions and international agreements, and this is a form of leverage against the regime that Washington is currently unwilling to use.
It is also interesting to compare the US rhetoric on Egypt and Bahrain. Whereas the US says it "support[s] the Egyptian people as they pursue their aspirations for authentic democracy", there is no such recognition that the pro-democracy opposition movement in Bahrain is fighting for just that. Likewise, the Americans call strongly for the release of political prisoners in Egypt, urging the release of "peaceful protesters and all others held for simply exercising their universal rights",while their comments concerning Bahrain are more restricted, asking the regime "to drop charges against all persons accused of crimes based on their political expression".
0715 GMT: Syria. President Assad has spoken to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet of his regret at the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syrian forces on 22 June: "We learned that it belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100%, 'If only we had not shot it down'."
0540 GMT: Syria. Unlike many recent days, there was no headline incident on Monday --- the "massacres" at Houla and al-Qubair, the mass killing in the shelling of Douma, the attack on the Zamalka funeral --- marking the conflict. Instead it was just a day when 114 people died, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.
Meanwhile, Navi Pillay, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, criticised human rights violations on both sides and declared, "The provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents is fueling the violence. Any further militarisation of the conflict must be avoided at all costs."
Pillay called the situation "a non-international internal armed conflict", the legal term for a civil war, and renewed her appeal for the UN Human Rights Council to take the issue to the International Criminal Court.
While the Commissioner said that both the regime and the insurgents appear to have committed war crimes and said she could "not exclude the possibility that some of the killings were perpetrated by armed opponents", Pillay asserted that the "the bulk of the information gathered to date points to the involvement of government-supported Shabiha militia responsible for many of the killings, and the use of indiscriminate fire of heavy weapons by the government".