Bahraini activist Ali Mushaimaa protests Thursday's visit by King Hamad to British Prime Minister David Cameron in London (Photo:Instagram)
1900 GMT: Syria. The fighting in Syria has crossed over the border into Iraq. This week, the Free Syrian Army made significant advances near al Bukamal, in the Deir Ez Zor region. In response to the FSA capturing several border crossing points, Syrian jet fighters reportedly attacked the border crossings, moving over Iraqi air space in the process.
Now, the LCC reports that Iraqi soldiers have also fired at Syrians near Al Bukamal:
Forces of the Iraqi army, stationed near the Qa'em border crossing, opened fire at a group of Syrian men who tried to cross the borders to Iraq to rescue some wounded Syrians after the Iraqi authorities declined and prevented them to enter legally. The Syrian men are still unaccounted for and their whereabouts are still unknown amid reports that some of them were martyred and others were wounded.
Local Coordination Committees hold the Iraqi Authorities fully responsible for the lives and safety of these men who fled to seek dire medical care and treatment that they are coercively prohibited to get in Syria by the regime, and call on the Iraqi Authorities to disclose the whereabouts and fate of these men, and provide all the necessary medical care as needed in accordance to the provisions of international humanitarian laws. LCC also urges the Iraqi Government to immediately put a end to such practices and to stop the violations of its obligations and duties in providing medical care for Syrian refugees, especially the wounded, who are fleeing crimes and murders committed against them.
45 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs most of them in Daraya, 45 in Deir Ezzor "most of them in Mayaden," 25 in Daraa, 20 in Idlib, 15 in Aleppo, 10 in Hama, 5 in Lattakia, 3 in Homs and 2 in Qunaitra.
First, these numbers do not include regime forces. Even State-run media has long-since stopped reporting those figures. The numbers from the LCC are a mix of insurgents and civilians, "martyrs" of the revolution, according to the activists.Secondly, a close look at the numbers reveals that whole the death toll in Damascus and Deir Ez Zor, focal points of fighting today, are very high, the amount of deaths in many other places indicates significant amounts of violence nationwide.
1800 GMT: Syria. Air power has once again played a major role in the fighting in Damascus. There have been reports for days that many of the civilian casualties have been caused by air strikes or helicopters, but the Free Syrian Army is also vulnerable to Assad air power, which has proven far more effective against them than tanks or infantry, particularly in the Damascus region.
This video reportedly shows a helicopter opening fire today over Douma, though we can't authenticate the video:
However, that air power may be at risk. Earlier, pro-FSA accounts Tweeted this video, claiming to show tracer fire targeting an Assad helicopter, though the location is unknown:
Sky news even reports tracer fire in Kafer Souseh, in the heart of Damascus, very close to the center of the Assad government:
Lot of FSA tracer fire going up against Army helicopter over Kfar Sousa. Sky live coverage almost finished for today but team still working— Tim Marshall (@Skytwitius) August 24, 2012
The Syrian army have stormed Darayya from different directions – there were no clashes with the FSA at all. All the men of the FSA had pulled out to spare the civilians from more killing and injuries. They wanted the confrontation to be in al-Basateen [the neighbouring orchards] only.
The Syrian army got inside Darayya very easily. Until now they did not get in our neighbourhood, but I was in contact with people in other districts and they said many tanks and soldiers are combing the neighbourhoods and alleys. Gunfire and explosions could be heard too.
When the Syrian army want to storm any street or alley, they fire first and then break into the houses. They are taking the men's IDs to check their details. It seems they have a list of wanted people. If they get inside a deserted house, destroy all its contents.
1155 GMT: Syria. The casualties in the capital and its suburbs are mounting. The LCC reports that a shell landed in Douma, apparently in the middle of a crowded street, killing at least 11. One of the LCC reports included a video, reportedly showing the scene, though the footage is chaotic, and extremely bloody, and EA cannot confirm the location.
another LCC report, this one from the southern district of Nahr Eshe, will once again raise concerns that the regime is resorting to extra-judicial killings of civilians, particularly young men, in the wake of military raids in Damascus:
The regime's army executed 7 people, of whom the following have been identified: Martyr Ahmad Omar Hammoudeh, Martyr Yasser Ahmad Al-Daa'es. The 5 others are unidentified as yet.
The escalation of violence is alarming, to say the least. It is also perhaps desperate - for all the regime's force, protests still continue in Damascus and its suburbs, and the Free Syrian Army is still carrying out hit-and-run style attacks, or ambushes of regime convoys on the roads there.
Though the Free Syrian Army can be criticized for some of their actions, the violence against civilians is still overwhelmingly being conducted by the regime, according to many rights organizations, experts, journalists, and EA's own assessments of the evidence. The question is whether the people in places like Damascus will bow to the regime because they are sick of being retaliated against, even if they support the FSA.
However, so far, at least in Damascus, this has not been the case. A prominent activist speculates as to why this is so:
Hundreds of troops and dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles were seen on al-Thawra street in central Daraya, taking control of the sprawling suburb as a core group of Free Syrian Army fighters pulled out, several activists said by phone from the Syrian capital...
"The rebels have mostly slipped away. The fear now is that the army will round up young men and summarily execute them, as it did in Mouadamiya," activist Abu Kinan said from Daraya.
1416 GMT: Syria. The Guardian's Mona Mahmood has Skyped with Mazen Abu Kinan, a resident of Darayya. Like many of Mahmoud's conversations with people in the city over the recent days, the reports are stunning. The city is basically surrounded, and pro-Assad militias are arresting people as they try to leave. All this is the backdrop to an increasingly intense military assault on the city. The military is hitting Darayya with tanks, artillery, and rocket attacks, snipers shoot at anything that moves, and there are even snipers on the rooftop of the government hospital, preventing anyone from accessing medical care, according to the report:
We have a lot of FSA fighters based in Darayya – the Sa'ad Ben Abi Waqass and al-Faiha brigades are working here. Some other brigades are based at the outskirts of Darayya. We have vast groves here which are taken as bases for the FSA.
Our problem is that Darayya is adjacent to Mezzeh [military] airport – it is only two minutes away – and we are in a state of alert that they might storm Darayya at any moment.
The Syrian army would come here from time to time to comb the area and search for the base where rockets are targeting the airport. Five people who belong to same family were killed by mortars – they had left Mouadamiya seeking shelter but they were killed in Darayya.
The Syrian army pounded the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday, killing at least 21 people in the third day of a military campaign to regain control of outlying areas of the capital, opposition activists said.
The army used multiple rocket launchers located in the nearby Talet Qawqaba base to hit central areas of Daraya, where rebels were still holed up, activists in Damascus said.
They said the death toll from offensive on the area in the past 72 hours had reached at least 70 people, mostly civilians.
Fighting was also reported in the Damascus suburbs of Qatana, Sbeineh, Qadam, Assali and Hajar al-Asswad, they said.
1155 GMT: Syria. The Guardian notes a series of claimed videos of regime deployments in Damascus suburbs --- this clip is of tanks in Nasr Aisha:
1135 GMT:Libya. The Ministry of Interior has said more than 100 tanks were seized from a militia loyal to the ousted Qaddafi regime as authorities hunted the perpetrators of Sunday's double car bombing in Tripoli.
A ministry official said the militia housed in barracks in Souk al-Ahad near Tarhuna, 60 kilometres (35 miles) southeast of Tripoli: "More than 100 tanks and 26 missile launchers were seized."
The spokesman said that one person was killed and eight were wounded as security forces arrested the militia's leader, Khaled Ibrahim Krid, and 13 others.
In 2008 Nyrabia and Diana El Jouroudi launched DOX BOX, the Independent Documentary Film Festival, which has become a key event in the Arab region. This year, they suspended the Festival and instead held a Global Day for Syria, screening Syrian documentaries in 38 cities around the world on 15 March, the anniversary of the uprising. According the his family, he disappeared at Damascus airport, a note on the the Local Coordinating Committees' Facebook page says.
The discussion, accompanied by little publicity, was ostensibly over opportunities for British businesses in the Kingdom, although British officials said Cameron also raised human rights and pressed the King to implement November's recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
The Bahrain News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa that the talks "covered bilateral relations and means of preserving stability and security in the region" and "joint concern on the bloodshed of innocent people and its repercussions".
1000 GMT:Syria. Claimed footage of regime shelling of Zabadani, near Damascus:
Airstrikes in Atareb in Aleppo Province:
Twelve people have died and 86 have been wounded in renewed fighting between Sunni and Alawite communities, fueled in part by division over the Syrian regime.
0953 GMT:Syria. US and Turkish military and intelligence officials met in Ankara on Thursday to discuss measures to deal with Syrian chemical weapons and to cope with the effects of a conflict that has led to more than 70,000 refugees in Turkey.
0950 GMT: Bahrain. A sharp contrast in reactions to Thursday's developments in the case of activist Nabeel Rajab, cleared of a charge of insult via Twitter that led to a three-month sentence but serving three years for participation in protests.
Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority proclaimed, "Ruling in favor of Nabeel Rajab demonstrates the impartiality of #Bahrain's judiciary and its independence from the political system"; however, Rajab's wife Sumaya was not as impressed: "It's impossible to polish the dark reputation of #Bahrain judiciary that sentenced a human rights defender to 3 years imprisonment just for practicing his right to call and participate in peaceful protests! Dark day in the history of justice in Bahrain."
0920 GMT: Egypt. Vice President Mahmoud Mekki has said that President Mohamed Morsi will prohibit the detention of journalists, after a court remanded newspaper editor Islam Afifi into custody before a mid-September trial.
Afifi is accused using the daily Al-Dustour to defame the President and spread lies. The newspaper has been sharply critical of the Government and has warned of the consequences of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt.
0300 GMT: Syria. Escalation is now the rule, not the exception. For the fourth day in a row, Damascus was at the epicenter of a firestorm, where a regime crackdown, fueled by anger over increasingly frequent clashes with the Free Syrian Army, has cost hundreds of civilians their lives.
On Thursday, more than 200 people died nationwide, according to the last report of the day from the Local Coordination Committees:
96 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs (including 21 in Modamieh, 15 in Darraya, 10 in Kafarsoseh and 6 in Barzeh), 37 in Aleppo, 21 in Daraa, 14 in Deir Ezzor, 13 in Idlib (including 5 children), 11 in Homs, 5 in Hama, 2 in Safeta in Tartous and 1 in Hasakeh.
That number is already obsolete. Within hours, the LCC announced that 53 had been killed in the Damascus suburb of Darraya alone. This puts the four-day death toll at more than 800, with the majority of the deaths in and near the capital.
This trend will likely continue on Friday, given overnight reports of violence in Damascus.
Gunfire and explosions overnight in Al Taybah, Daraa province (map), south of Damascus: