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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Aleppo "A Nail in Assad's Coffin"?

See also Egypt and Syria Feature: Comic Artists Get Serious
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Inside and Outside Aleppo

1921 GMT: Syria. The Guardian has a pair of stories on the growing role of jihadists in the conflict. Martin Chulov, drawing from residents and a Turkish smuggler, reports on the growing number of foreigners crossing into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some saying that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join the battle.

Many of the men reportedly come from the Caucasus, while others have arrived from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Gulf Arab states.

Insurgent leaders say about 15-20 foreign fighters have been crossing each day since mid-July, trying to join up with an estimated 200-300 foreigners already in the country.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad speaks to Syrian fighters who claim connections with Al Qa'eda and car bombings.

1629 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army attacks on regime forces in the Engineer's building, City Centre building, and police headquarters in Homs:

1556 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Minister of Interior Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz has described prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, shot and detained in the Eastern Province earlier this month, as mentally ill: "Nimr Nimr is someone who stirs sedition....The way he speaks reflects a mental deficiency and imbalance."

The Minister claimed that authorities do not discriminate against the family of Nimr, but warned that those affected by his "deviation" should be stopped.

Al-Nimr is still in hospital.

1542 GMT: Syria. The commander in charge of the Free Syrian Army near Aleppo, Colonel Abdel Naser, has given more details on the insurgents' takeover of the Anadan checkpoint, three miles from Aleppo (see 0817 and 0836 GMT).

Naser said Free Syrian Army fighters had overwhelmed the Hryatan army base, next to the checkpoint, at around 5 a.m. this morning:

It was a successful operation. We took eight tanks and 10 armoured vehicles, as well as mortars and lots of weapons. We also took prisoners....Two tanks and one armoured vehicle managed to escape.... Two tanks and one armoured vehicle managed to escape.

1535 GMT: Bahrain. Six medics who were arrested during last year's unrest and tried before a military court, will receive the verdict on their appeal on 1 October.

The medics were in the Court of Cassation today to challenge convictions that were upheld by a civilian court in June (see 0620 GMT entry

1442 GMT: Syria. Footage of slain Syrian soldiers in Aleppo, with the Hamdaniya-Salaheddin road in the background:

1430 GMT: Syria. Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced that the Syrian chargé d’affaires, Khaled al-Ayoubi, has left his post.

The FCO claimed:

Ayoubi has told us that he is no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people, and is therefore unable to continue in his position. Ayoubi was the most senior Syrian diplomat serving in London. His departure is another blow to the Assad regime. It illustrates the revulsion and despair the regime’s actions are provoking amongst Syrians from all walks of life, inside the country and abroad.

The statement continued, "We urge others around Bashar Al-Assad to follow Ayoubi’s example; to disassociate themselves from the crimes being committed against the Syrian people and to support a peaceful and free future for Syria."

1330 GMT: Syria. Official United Nations video of the new head of UN monitors, General Babakar Gaye, visiting Homs and Rastan on Sunday:

1306 GMT: Syria. Insurgents stopping and checking vehicles in Aleppo:

1253 GMT: Bahrain. A large protest marched last night through the village of Mahazza on Sitra, the island which has been nicknamed the capital of the Bahrain revolution, with pro-democracy demonstrators chanting for the downfall of the AlKhalifa monarchy.

Opposition party Al-Wefaq claimed that police attacked the protesters, resulting in around 25 injuries, some with deep wounds from a reportedly new type of weapon. Activists shared this video of the march:

1224 GMT: Syria. Insurgents on streets of the Ansari section of Aleppo as a regime helicopter flies overhead:

1214 GMT: Syria. The Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army has put out a "national salvation" proposal for a political transition with military and civilian figures.

The draft proposes the establishment of a Higher Defence Council charged with creating a Presidential Council, which in turn would appoint six military and civilian officials to lead a future transition.

The Higher Defence Council should include "all Military Council leaders in Syria's cities and provinces, as well as all the high-profile defected officers and others who have contributed to the revolution", the Joint Command statement said. Among the proposed Presidential Council's responsibilities would be "to put forward draft laws for referendum restructure the security and military apparatus".

1017 GMT: Iraq. David O'Byrne of the Financial Times reports on the complex "oil diplomacy" amongst Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Iraqi central government:

Ordinarily, news of six road tankers carrying tiny quantities of unrefined crude oil 700km to a coastal port would not warrant much comment.

But the fact that six Turkish tankers have carried crude from the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Iskenderun is a different matter.

The trucks entered Turkey on Thursday carrying crude extracted by companies operating in northern Iraq in defiance of the central government. Their final destination was unclear but it appeared the crude would be exported from one of several port facilities around the bay of Iskenderun, two of which are operated by Botas, Turkey’s state pipeline operator.

0938 GMT: Syria. Another Turkish convoy of troops, missile batteries and armoured vehicles has left its base in Gaziantep Province and headed towards Kilis Province near the Syria border

Television footage from Dogan News Agency showed at least six armoured vehicles atop trucks traveling along an asphalt road. Buses and covered trucks that appeared to be personnel carriers were also in the convoy of about 20 vehicles.

Turkey also sent convoys to the border on 28 June and 22 July.

0929 GMT: Syria. A 28th general and the deputy police chief of Latakia has defected and fled to Turkey overnight with 11 other Syrian officers and 600 other people, a Turkish official has said.

0920 GMT: Yemen. Ian Pannell's first-hand report from Aleppo this morning on BBC radio, talking about "intensified fighting" and "increased suffering" among civilians:

0912 GMT: Yemen. About 100 armed tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the Ministry of Interior on Sunday, demanding to be enlisted in the police force.

The tribesmen briefly held employees hostage but continued to occupy the building.

Later, gunmen kidnapped an Italian embassy security officer.

0906 GMT: Turkey. Mehmet Ezer of Turkish Weekly reports on the effect in southeastern Turkey of the Syrian conflict:

Hatay, on the border between Turkey and Syria, is feeling the brunt of the unrest in the neighboring country with many local businesses on the brink of bankruptcy. Some firms are unable to pay their debts tourism is almost nonexistent>.

The southern province of Hatay, which borders Syria to the north, has never before seen a crisis like the one currently unfolding, Hatay Industrialists and Businessmen Association (HASİAD) President Gülay Gül has said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.

Gül said many companies in the province had reached the brink of bankruptcy because of the crisis in Syria and its impact on the local economy. Two years ago 2.5 million people passed through Hatay’s two border crossings for tourism, but now this number has dropped to zero, she said.

“Industrialists, logistical firms, exporters, importers, tourism firms and the agriculture sector have all been impacted very seriously. Local tradesmen, merchants and businessmen have also been hurt economically. The local population is tense,” said Gül. She also noted that companies that had taken out loans to grow their businesses are really suffering and that those with debts to banks were on the verge of bankruptcy.

0836 GMT: Syria. Footage of the fighting and the aftermath at the Anadan checkpoint, three miles northwest of Aleppo, seized by insurgents this morning after a ten-hour battle (see 0817 GMT):

0832 GMT: Syria. There are competing claims this morning about the fight in the Salaheddin district of Aleppo.

A "security source in Damascus" has claimed, "The Syrian army took control of part of Salaheddin district and continues its offensive"; however, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Free Syrian Army military council of Aleppo, denied the report and said regime troops had "not progressed one metre". He added, "We launched a new assault from Salaheddin during the night, and we destroyed four tanks."

0826 GMT: Syria. The BBC's Ian Pannell reports from Aleppo:

A hole-in-the-wall bakery had just reopened its doors after being closed for more than a day. Most food shops in the turbulent districts are now closed.

Rebel fighters tried to marshal the crowds as hundreds of hungry and increasingly desperate residents clamoured for the thin round loaves.

Suriya had finally reached the front of the queue and the middle-aged mother thrust her hand through the railings outside the bakery, grasping for the bread. Like many poor Syrians she has a large family to feed and with no fresh fruit or vegetables available this is her only chance to get food.

"A lot of poor people are suffering from a lack of food and water," she complained. "Many are going to bed hungry."

Pannell also writes, amid bodies, from a school being used as an insurgent base:

She was the girl with no name. When we returned to the rebel base, she was lying on her back on the floor, where she appeared to be sleeping. The teenager had a pale complexion and wore a pretty red dress, her lower body draped in a blanket.

I noticed our translator, sat at her side, was crying. I had been wrong, the girl was not sleeping - she was dead, killed in a government artillery strike, the blanket masking her wounds.

"Who is she?" I asked. No one knew. She had been found in the road near to where the shell had landed.

0817 GMT: Syria. An AFP journalist reports that insurgents have seized a strategic checkpoint, securing free movement between Aleppo and Turkey.

"The Anadan checkpoint, five kilometres (3 miles) northwest of Aleppo, was taken this morning at 5:00 am (0200 GMT) after 10 hours of fighting," said insurgent General Ferzat Abdel Nasser.

The AFP journalist said the insurgents captured seven tanks and armoured vehicles, and destroyed an eighth vehicle. Six soldiers were killed and 25 were taken as prisoners, General Ferzat said, adding that four of his own men died in the fighting.

0811 GMT: Syria. Activists report regime attacks on insurgent positions in Aleppo early this morning.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission said the southwestern district of Salaheddin, where insurgents entered Aleppo this morning, has been shelled, while the Local Coordination Committeessaid the eastern neighbourhood of Sakhur was hit by shells and by machinegun fire, with regime forces deploying helicopter gunships.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes between troops and insurgents erupted near the Air Force's intelligence headquarters in the Zahraa district.

0646 GMT: Bahrain. The February 14 Youth Coalition has announced a series of daily protests, starting today and culminating on Saturday with a demonstration in solidarity with political prisoners.

0643 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of insurgents attacking a building with pro-regime shabiha militia in Aleppo on Sunday:

0638 GMT: Kuwait. Thursday's arrest of a member of Kuwait's ruling family for tweeting political opinions has been strongly criticised. AFP reports:

In tweets that Sheikh Meshaal wrote over the past few days, he said he would contest the next parliamentary election becoming the first royal in Kuwait to do so, and also vowed that if he became an MP he would expose corruption among top officials.

He also complained that the Kuwaiti constitution entrusts power to only one branch of Al Sabah family --- the descendants of Mubarak Al Kabeer, who ruled Kuwait from 1896 to 1915.

0634 GMT: Bahrain. Last Thursday, opposition society Al Wefaq launched "Darkness Gangs", a campaign to raise awareness of "constant attacks on homes" by Bahrain police since the start of the uprising in February 2011.

The Ministry of Interior reacted with a statement on Saturday, put out by Bahrain's PR firms into the Western media:

Bahrain's Interior Ministry says it is opening investigations into possible rights violations by police during crackdowns on opposition protesters....

Bahrain has said before that it will look into abuses but this is one of the most forcefully worded pledges.

0631 GMT: Iraq. Six people were killed by car bombs on Sunday with a further 21 wounded.

One bomb was detonated at a market in Al-Muqdadiyah, killing four people, with the other bomb killing two policemen just east of Fallujah. In Kirkuk, "a magnetic 'sticky bomb' wounded Major Rabih Nadhim of the Oil Protection Force."

0625 GMT: Syria. The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sayda, is reportedly visiting Iraqi Kurdistan in a bid to convince Kurdish leaders to join the opposition.

A high-ranking official in the Syrian Kurdish National Council said Sayda arrived in Erbil on Sunday and will meet the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massud Barzani, and other senior officials. The meetings will include Syria's Supreme Kurdish Council.

The official said that Sayda, who is Kurdish, had made a secret visit to Kurdistan to meet Barzani and other leaders after he was chosen in June to head the SNC.

0620 GMT: Bahrain. An appeal by six medics, currently facing prison sentences between 6 months and 5 years, will be heard before the Court of Cassation this morning.

Last year, the medics were arrested, abused, and tried before a military court. This June, as nine of their colleagues were acquitted, the six medics had their sentences reduced but their convictions were upheld.

On Saturday, Physicians for Human Rights called upon the court to overturn the remaining convictions:

“The charges against these medical professionals are representative of a broad and systematic attack on Bahrain’s health system by the government of Bahrain," said Richard Sollom, deputy director of PHR. "Dropping all charges against the medics—whose ethical duty was to treat all injured people—is imperative if there is to be true justice and political reform in Bahrain."

0520 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees of report that at least 114 people died at the hands of security forces on Sunday, including 41 in Damascus and its uburbs, among them 36 slain in the suburb of Moadamiyeh'; 33 in Daraa Province, most in Sheikh Meskeen massacre; and 11 in Aleppo Province.

0500 GMT: Syria. We start with a comment by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Sunday as he started a tour of five Middle Eastern countries:

If [the Syrian regime] continues this kind of tragic attack on their own people... I think it ultimately will be a nail in [President] Assad's coffin.

What Assad has been doing to his own people and what he continues to do to his own people makes clear that his regime is coming to an end. It's lost all legitimacy.

It's no longer a question of whether he's coming to an end, it's when.

The situation on the ground is not as clear-cut. Fighting continued in several neighbourhoods on Sunday, with an estimated 200,000 of Aleppo's 2.5 million residents having left Syria's largest city. Despite the use of helicopter gunships, tanks, and intense ground fire, the Assad military failed to dislodge the Free Syrian Army from areas it has occupied for more than a week.

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