1900 GMT: Syria. The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria has released a statement suggesting that the UN should facilitate another ceasefire in order to achieve peace and preserve what is left of the country:
The great sacrifices that the Syrian people has been able to balance out the power of the regime, but it is still far from achieving a victory because of the international balance of powers that refuses to see the victory of one side over the other. The stalemate makes the continuation of the violence merely a path to the destruction of the Syrian state, society and being.
In order to minimize the painful cost of the desired change, and to protect what can be protected from our country’s infrastructure and our national unity, we at the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, which is an active part of the Syrian popular movement against oppression and one of the main forces against violence and foreign intervention, propose the following:
First- That all armed parties, the regime at the forefront of them, have to agree to a temporary ceasefire to be implemented as soon as possible, hopefully before the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. All parties are to agree not to conduct any military operations and not to attempt any changes to the current situation on the ground.
Second- During the first week of the truce, both parties are to release their detainees, captives, prisoners, hostages and the kidnapped, and to cease all such actions from then on. All such actions from then be treated as a criminal offence, their perpetrators are to be punished by law.
Third- The two parties are to allow relief agencies to deliver food and medical aid, and they are also to facilitate the treatment of the wounded in public and private hospitals under the auspices of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
Fourth- If the parties concerned implement the earlier points, then the atmosphere for a political solution will be present. Negotiations are then to take place between members of the opposition and a delegation from the regime, the delegation is to have full negotiating authority and has to consist of members that have not been responsible for any bloodshed. The negotiators are to agree on a state of political transition with a definite period -one year- that is to prepare the country for a democratic, pluralistic parliamentary system.
There are 15 martyrs in Damascus and its Suburbs; 15 in Daraa; 13 in Idlib; 10 in Deir Ezzor; 6 in Aleppo; 8 in Homs, two of whom were martyred in Aleppo; 2 in Hama and 1 in Lattakia.
That number includes civilians and insurgents, and does not include Syrian military, security forces, or shabiha. The Syrian state media has also stopped running death tolls months ago.
1542 GMT: Syria. According to the Local Coordinating Committees, the Free Syrian Army has ambushed a regime convoy in northern Idlib province, near a major border crossing, Bab al Hawa (map), that has been contested for many weeks:
Fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces were reported. The Free Syrian Army seized control of a tank and captured a captain of the regime's army.
Two videos spread by activists report to show a disabled tank at the head of a convoy while gunfire rings out:
1450 GMT: Syria. Homs has been heavily shelled today, but as we reported yesterday, the Free Syrian Army is now on the offensive. The Guardian's Mona Mahmood has spoken to a resident of the city, Hadi Al-Abdullah, who says that many areas that do not have members of the Free Syrian Army have also been shelled. Al-Abdullah suggests that these areas are filled with refugees from Rastan and Talbiseh, two embattled FSA strongholds north of the city, and the reason for the bombardment is revenge. He also suggests, however, that the FSA is prepared, and perhaps capable, of breaking the infamous siege of what was once Syria's 4th largest city:
Till now we have at least four martyrs and 50 wounded all over Homs. The FSA men are launching today a battle named "Homs siege break-up" or "Homs Liberation". For more than 70 days we've been asking for help and an easing of the siege on the city - there are 12 districts in Homs that have been under siege for 70 days - but no one is listening to us. There are more than 1200 families and 700 wounded who need urgent help but no one can help.The Red Cross came here for four times but it was useless as the Syrian army did not let its team get inside. Other humanitarian and legal organizations tried to help but they could not. They were denied access by the Syrian army.
The FSA men decided to break up the siege of Homs because they believe no one else will do it. All the fighting brigades in Homs city and its countryside declared their unity and coordination in breaking up the siege on Homs. Now, in the northern part of the countryside, heavy clashes are going on between the FSA and the Syrian regime. The FSA are attacking all the check points there to ease the siege on Homs and they won't stop until they liberate the whole of Homs.
1300 GMT: Bahrain. The Information Affairs Authority has posted the text of King Hamad's speech for Independence Day. The monarch, claiming reforms and progress, focused on a call for unity against troublemakers supported by outside forces:
We have had to endure this year through challenging conditions due to hostile ambitions and foreign intervention which are yet to cease. We stood as united front in the face of strife mongers. We faced them with determination and persistent willpower as our duty and responsibility makes it imperative to defend this homeland, we will maintain our national unity and protect Bahraini people. During the zenith of such difficulties, we upheld wisdom, patience and forbearance and opened the doors for dialogue and called for forgiveness and tolerance as we rely on Allah alone and trust in His guaranteed victory.
Nevertheless, we have been quite alert and well aware of hostile ambitions that could come from outside of the country. However. we are not unaware of our internal problems and we have always striven to solve and overcome them like other countries which respect their peoples’ and seek what is in their best interest and welfare....
Today, we have improved more than yesterday in all spheres. Nobody can deny this except those who are mistaken.
1230 GMT: Yemen. Rumours of a coup are circulating however, Iona Craig reports that all is quiet at the Interior Ministry - this entire event may be about money owed to the Republican Guards:
Can say that absolutely nothing going on or appears to have happened at Interior Ministry.— Iona Craig (@ionacraig) August 14, 2012
Craig reports that, "Apparently it's all over pay i.e. They haven't been. Soldiers I'm currently jammed in truck with (voluntarily) also say they're late being paid too."
1155 GMT: Yemen. This morning there were reports of gunfire in Sana'a, the country's capital. However, things may be more serious than we thought, as there is breaking news of an intense battle in the center of the city - a battle with a shocking-if-true twist:
AFP reporting Yemen Republican Guard, led by son of fmr President Saleh, is attacking Defence Ministry.President Hadi is currently in Saudi.— Tom Rayner (@RaynerSkyNews) August 14, 2012
1147 GMT: Syria. More trouble for pro-regime journalists - Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports:
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) August 14, 2012
#Syria Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Alam reporter Ahmad Sattouf, a Syrian had been abducted overnight Saturday-Sunday
The defected official, saying the government only controlled about 30 per cent of the nation, went on to ask the Syrian military to follow the lead of their Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts.
Hijab also invited the opposition abroad to "unite and unify the ranks. To remain united on the same goal".
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said Hijab, a Sunni with Baathist connections, "could be an ideal candidate if there is going to be a compromise", who could serve as a "conciliatory figure who can reach out to the Baathists".
However, Hijab said "I confirm that I do not intend to take on any office, presently or in the future".
We're doubtful about the possibility of "compromise," in the sense that we don't see much hope of a negotiated settlement between the opposition and the regime, at least not anytime soon. However, Hijab may make a good candidate as a transitional leader, particularly if he's been working with the Free Syrian Army since before he became Prime Minister.
We're also not sure about this claim that Assad only has control of 30% of the country. On one hand, Assad is unchallenged, by our estimates, in far less than 30% of the country. On the other, Assad still has some presence, and thus some control, in most areas. Still, the generalized claim, that the regime does not have control over the majority of the country is entirely possible.
1119 GMT: Syria. The overall death toll in Syria has topped 20,000, according to the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria. Most of those killed have been civilians, but many citizen journalists have also been killed while trying to document protests, crackdowns, battles and shelling.
But the opposition isn't the only side claiming dead journalists. Attacks have been launched against Syrian media, TV and radio headquarters. Yesterday, 2 pro-Assad journalists were killed near Damascus and their camera crew has gone missing. Today, a small group of journalists who work for Syrian state media, SANA, have staged a protest in Damascus over the dead journalists:
Syrian journalists at the state news agency Sana stage a sit in in Damascus on 14 August 2012 in a show of solidarity with the four Syrian employees at al-Ikhbariya TV channel, who were allegedly kidnapped by armed groups on 10 August in al-Tal in Damascus suburbs and to mourn the death of their colleague, Ali Abbas, who was assassinated on 10 August in the Damascus suburb of Jdaidet Artouz by unknown gunmen.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through the morning.
1050 GMT: Syria. Former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who defected earlier this month, has given a press conference in Jordan. He told journalists, "I assure you from my position as Prime Minister and experience: the Assad regime is weak, paranoid, and does not control more than 30% of Syria."
Calling on the opposition to unite, Hijab denied he had political ambitions, "I confirm that I do not intend to take on any office, presently or in the future."
0933 GMT: The appeals court has handed down verdicts for some of the 57 detainees in hearings today, but has deferred a ruling on 13 high-profile political activists --- including Ibrahim Sharif and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja --- until 4 September.
Opposition activists claim that the judge angrily suspended the session of the 13 men because "people were shouting Long Live Bahrain".
Maryam Alkhawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports the case of her sister and fellow activist Zainab has been adjourned until 28 August, with Zainab --- suffering from a leg wound after being shot by police --- remaining in detention.
0922 GMT: Syria. Valerie Amos, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has arrived in Damascus. She is scheduled to meet with officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, and staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Meanwhile, Bouthaina Shaaban, an advisor to President Assad, is in Beijing and will Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi today.
0915 GMT: Syria. Interviewed by Russia Today, long-time political activist Dr Abdul-Aziz Al-Khair expresses concern how peaceful protest, met by the military response of the regime, has been supplanted by an insurgency in "a situation where everybody is losing" --- he calls for a cease-fire, negotiations, and the departure of President Assad from office until elections can be held:
We have planned for a number of contingencies that could take place and one of those possible contingencies is developing a no-fly zone. But we've also pointed out difficulties in being able to implement that. It's not on the front burner as far as I know.
Media chatter about the no-fly zone spiked last weekend after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Turkey, said that the US and Ankara were setting up joint working groups to consider a range of measures to aid the Syrian insurgency.
Activists are not happy with a stipulation in a draft that considers women to be “complementary to men”. They want to maintain a 1956 law that grants women full equality with men.
The protesters carried banners that read “Rise up women for your rights to be enshrined in the constitution” and “Ghannouchi clear off, Tunisian women are strong”, referring to Ennahda’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi.
0845 GMT: Bahrain. Today is Independence Day, with King Hamad scheduled to speak at 1000 GMT. Protesters marked the occasion with marches last night throughout the country:
0840 GMT: Syria. Miriam Korouny of Reuters offers another profile (see separate EA feature, "The Irish-Libyan Commander and His Brigade Fighting the Regime") of the Libyans fighting with the Syrian insurgents:
Hussam Najjar hails from Dublin, has a Libyan father and Irish mother and goes by the name of Sam. A trained sniper, he was part of the rebel unit that stormed Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli a year ago, led by Mahdi al-Harati, a powerful militia chief from Libya's western mountains.
Harati now leads a unit in Syria, made up mainly of Syrians but also including some foreign fighters, including 20 senior members of his own Libyan rebel unit. He asked Najjar to join him from Dublin a few months ago, Najjar said.
The Libyans aiding the Syrian rebels include specialists in communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons, he said. They operate training bases, teaching fitness and battlefield tactics.
0610 GMT: Bahrain. Lots of activity in courts today, with 57 detainees appearing --- among them are 13 prominent political activists --- some serving up to life in prison, including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who was on a hunger strike of more than 100 days earlier this year --- and human rights activists Zainab Alkhawaja.
The 13 men, sentenced in June 2011 by a military court, are boycotting their closed-door session, protesting a gag on reporting by the media. Amnesty International has been allowed to send an observer.
Maryam Alkhawaja, daughter and sister of Abdulhadi and Zainab and a fellow activist, adds that the scheduling of high-profile cases may be designed to obscure attention to the others:
There r several individual cases as well. Reason for this is there's too much information to report, so no focus on one case— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 13, 2012
And she predicts:
Analysis 4 tmrw: Some will get released, some will get reduced sentences, those who influence situation on streets won't b released— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 13, 2012
0510 GMT: Syria. For the first time in weeks, the headline was not about the fighting in Aleppo, the country's largest city. Instead, a 33-second clip on YouTube, purportedly of a regime jet downed by insurgents in Deir Ez Zor Province, grew into the lead story.
Debate continues this morning over whether the Russian-supplied MiG-23 was struck by insurgent fire or crashed because of a technical problem, but that may not be significant. In battle, perception is key, and international media were asking by late afternoon if this was a symbol of the success of the insurgency, who s built on their advantage with a follow-up video of the downed pilot's account of the incident.
Meanwhile, the clashes continued in Aleppo, with no clear picture of a resolution, even though regime forces claimed to have taken the Saif al-Dawla neighbourhood.
The Local Coordination Committees claimed that 114 people were killed by security forces on Monday, with 66 of the deaths in Damascus and its suburbs. The regime does not release casualty figures.