See also Syria Audio Feature: What Now For Western Intervention? --- James Miller with Monocle 24 br>
Lebanon Analysis: The Surge of Fighting in Tripoli --- Serious, But Not Out of Control br>
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Damascus and Its Suburbs Hammered Again
2000 GMT: Syria. The violence is usually the headline. The story is usually about the regime dropping bombs, or battles between the military and the insurgents, or the worsening humanitarian crisis, or the international response to the death. But an activist reminds us that, though they've been largely pushed to the shadows because of all the violence, there are still protests, even in the center of Damascus:
...Even though the most likely form of protest is a protest at a funeral, like this one in Idlib province:
1950 GMT: Syria. Taking a break from a weekend break to report on the latest summary from Syria.
According to the Local Coordination Committees, 187 people have been killed today nationwide:
90 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs (most in Daraya); 26 in Aleppo; 23 in Idlib; 23 in Deir Ezor; 13 in Daraa; 9 in Hama; and 3 in Homs.
First the disclaimer - the LCC reports that they verify reports before posting. These numbers are a mix of insurgents and civilians, though most of the numbers are civilians. The numbers do not include regime casualties, nor does Syrian state media report these figures.
Obviously, the most striking part of the number is from Damascus, particularly in Darayya where the Syrian military has conducted widespread offenses today, according to activists (see below). However, 7 provinces are reporting deaths today, with 5 provinces reporting deaths in the double digits. The violence is everywhere, and it is getting worse almost everywhere.
1632 GMT: Syria. Amidst continuing speculation about the status of Vice President Farouk al-Shara, State news agency SANA has warned that a fake e-mail had been sent out in its name, claiming that al-Shara was sacked.
The opposition has claimed that the Vice President has tried to defect. Last Saturday, state television quoted a statement from al-Shara's office, "Mr. Shara has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere."
Al-Shara, who has served in senior posts for almost 30 years under both Assad and his late father and former President Hafez al-Assad, has not been seen in public since.
1558 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera has two critical, and somewhat related, reports. The first is from Zeina Khodr, who is in Aleppo, and reports that the government is being accused of perpetrating indiscriminate attacks against the civilians of the city:
If this is the common opinion that Khodr is encountering, it will surely drive many Aleppo residents to either support the FSA, or to flee north to Turkey. Which brings us to the second report, from Susan Turton on the border between Syria and Turkey - who reports that Turkey can only take perhaps 20,000 more refugees before the crisis reaches critical levels. Will this trigger international intervention?
Ultra-conservative Islamists used bombs and a bulldozer to destroy the tomb of a 15th century Sufi scholar in the Libyan city of Zlitan, witnesses said on Saturday, the latest attack in the region on sites branded idolatrous by some sects.
The attackers reduced the revered last resting place of Abdel Salam al-Asmar to rubble on Friday and also set fire to a historic library in a nearby mosque, ruining thousands of books, witnesses and a military official added.
There are other reports that a different mosque has been bulldozed in Tripoli:
1524 GMT: Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed "terrorists," a euphemism usually used for the Kurdish PKK, for local violence, restating that it is not related to the crisis in Syria.
Turkey has seen an upsurge in attacks over the past few weeks, including a car bombing in the southern city of Gaziantep on Monday that killed nine people. Some Turkish officials have blamed the attacks on the conflict in Syria.
In an interview on Turkish television late on Friday, Davutoglu said although militants may be trying to take advantage of intensifying fighting in neighbouring Syria, such attacks were not new in Turkey.
"Terror in Turkey did not appear as a result of the developments in Syria, it is a problem that has lasted for 30 years," Davutoglu said.
"The terror organization may want to exploit chaos in Syria, however, to think that Turkey's terror incidents originate in Syria would a be a deficient approach. It is not possible to explain terror with one factor," he said.
1440 GMT: Bahrain. There are police raids of many villages almost every night. Teargas is so commonly used in Bahrain that there is evidence the police have had to find new distributors to keep up their supplies. Recently, things have gotten worse, as a series of opposition activists and leaders have been arrested and sentenced, including Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was sentenced to three years in prison, a development condemned by rights groups like Amnesty International, despite having his defamation charges dismissed. Then there is Hussam AlHaddad, a 16 year old killed by a police shotgun last week.
Needless to say, there are many protests, and many of them are dispersed by police.
However, it's also clear that protesters have grown increasingly frustrated, and while most protests remain peaceful, there are often reports of clashes with police, especially in the villages. An activist Tweets a video of one such incident that reportedly took place today in Sitra, an area that many consider "the capital of the revolution":
Despite months of fighting in Douma, the regime still does not have firm control over that city.
Regime forces executed an entire family next to Mosab Bin Omair mosque in the Daraya suburb of Damascus including a man from Qafaa family, his wife (from Owd family), his 3 sons and his 3 siblings.
We'd stress that we've not found a single report of Free Syrian Army fighters in the area, and all opposition reports we've seen say that the army has distributed forces throughout the entire suburb.
These reports are still unconfirmed, largely because the area is sealed off. Without the United Nations present, and with few journalists able to reach this area because of limitations imposed by the government and the dangers of traveling in Syria, it may not be possible to independently corroborate these reports.
1325 GMT: Syria. Terrible things may have happened last night in a place called Darayya (map), a city and major suburb southwest of Damascus. This week, the Free Syrian Army launched a series of guerrilla-style attacks on a nearby airforce base. Since then, the civilians southwest of Damascus have been retaliated against. For more than 5 days bombs and shells have fallen on Darayya, and the nearby Al Mouadamyah (map), but a worse trend has also been evident. After the regime's military has moved into these areas, large-scale massacres have reportedly been committed by the regime - the perpetrators are a mix of army soldiers and pro-government militias, according to residents in the area.
Yesterday, the regime deployed dozens of tanks to storm the town and permanently occupy it. The Free Syrian Army stated that it was withdrawing from the city and would only fight in the countryside in order to spare civilian lives. Videos showed tanks moving into the city:
As of last night, the city had been ravaged. Zilal, an activist associated with the CFDPC, gives us this summary:
According to the summary of last night [from the CFDPC], "Shelling with rockets continues for the 5th consecutive day, electricity is cut off as well as water, there is shortage of medicines. The number of dead people increased to 80 in 36 hours and it can rise due to the lack of physicians and the continuous shelling; more that 300 people were injured."
For today so far I received 18 names of dead people, among them women and children.
Today, there are reports that last night, with the city securely under military control, 30 people were executed by pro-regime elements, and today snipers continue to terrorize the populace. According to the LCC, snipers opened fire on a car that was fleeing the city, killing a young child. This report (in Arabic) shows a resident speaking with Sky News today, just a few hours ago, while Sky shows pictures of the devastation caused by 5 days of heavy bombardment. He says that there have not been any battles, and the FSA has totally withdrawn, but 30 people have still been killed, and the regime forces are on every street.:
Another prominent activist shares a series of extremely graphic videos. According to "the 47th," dozens have been slaughtered, including many children:
Sometimes there is question about who is responsible for horrible deaths like these. However, if these reports can be confirmed (so far, though many sources have similar reports, these reports are not confirmed) - and there are tanks spread out throughout this city, with checkpoints and patrols in many areas - then the question on everyone's mind will be -
How could such a massacre take place, under the careful watch of the Assad regime, unless the regime itself were responsible?
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.
I write this letter in my name, and the names of our son Adam and our daughter Malak to appeal to you to use your influence on the government of Bahrain and on the Security Council of the United Nations to help guarantee my husband’s safety and release from prison and to help support the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice for all the Bahraini people....
More silence means more abuses and more atrocities. We understand that United States’ attention may currently be focused on HR abuses in other countries, but we believe that democracy, freedom and the respect of human rights is one path for all nations without any exception. People of Bahrain are determined to build a democratic state based on justice, transparency, freedom and equality for all Bahrainis regardless of their sect, religion, color or race.
1148 GMT: Tunisia. In a letter read at the opening of his party’s congress, President Moncef Marzouki has accused Ennadha, the leading faction in the Government, of seeking to monopolise power: “What complicates the situation is the growing feeling that our Ennahda brothers are working to control the administrative and political operations of the state. This behaviour reminds us of the bygone era of [ousted President] Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali."
Several top Government officials belonging to Ennahda walked out of the conference as the letter was read by a Marzouki representative.
Marzouki belongs to the Congress for the Republic (CPR), a secular, center-left party that partners the "moderate Islamist" Ennahda in the coalition, along with the center-left Ettakatol.
Critics have denounced Ennahda for appointing its supporters to prominent positions in the public media, for drafting a law that would jail anyone convicted of attacking sacred values for up to two years, and for seeking to amend an article in the Constitution that refers to the “complementarity", rather than equality, of women to men.
Speaking with Al Jazeera, Hussein Ali Omar thanked his captors for their hospitality over the last 90 days. He called on Arab people in general and the Lebanese people in particular to help oppressed Syrians and support the uprising against the Assad regime.
1130 GMT: Turkey. Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about an "aggressive smear campaign" by the daily Yeni Akit (New Agreement) newspaper and its website, Habervaktim.com, against four leading journalists --- Ali Bayramoglu, Cengiz Candar, Hasan Cemal, and Yasemin Congar --- because of their views on Turkey’s Kurdish issue:
By targeting people committed to tolerance and peace, this campaign is trying to block any evolution in Turkish society. Experience has shown the degree to which this kind of prejudiced, xenophobic and paranoid discourse is not just harmful but also dangerous. Words have meaning and the accusations levelled against these journalists expose them to real peril. This virulent hate campaign must stop at once and everything possible must be done to protect its targets.
Yeni Akit has accused well-known columnist Ali Bayramoglu of being an Armenian who "defends Armenian ideas with a racist basis" and a "despicable enemy of the Turks”. Alluding to the armed insurgent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the newspaper said Bayramoglu’s "support for the terrorist organisation" had been demonstrated by his participation in a conference in London entitled "In Search of Solutions to the Kurdish Issue."
The 10 August issue of Yeni Akit described Cengiz Candar and Hasan Cemal as enthusiastic PKK propagandists and supporters of the Kurdish separatist cause. An article headlined "Sakik’s Bombs," supposedly based on a letter from Semdin Sakik, a jailed former PKK leader who has renounced his previous loyalties, said the PKK regarded them as "very valuable" assets.
0950 GMT: Syria. On a Friday when more than 200 people died at the hands of security forces, according to the Local Coordination Committees, the United Nations said the number of Syrian refugees had passed 200,000.
Most of those fleeing had gone to neighbouring countries such as Turkey --- which said this week that the total in camps was almost 80,000 --- Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Jordanian authorities said that a record 2324 refugees arrived Thursday night, while Turkish officials reported that more than 3500 crossed the borders.
"There has been a dramatic increase in the number of [Syrian] refugees in the region during August, we're now at over 200,000 refugees in the region that's over and above our planning figure for all 2012 of 185,000 refugees in the region," said Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the United Nations.
Of the 206 deaths noted by the LCC on Friday, 55 were in Damascus and its suburbs, 45 in Deir Ez Zor Province, 30 in Aleppo Province, 30 in Daraa Province, and 26 in Idlib Province.