1658 GMT: Bahrain. For the second time in four months, prominent activist Maryam Alkhawaja is being held at Cairo airport and denied entry. Alkhawaja, the international representative of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been providing a running report via Twitter:
Saying order is from intelligence and reson is "top secret" as to y im not allowed in— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 26, 2012
Theyre putting me under observation with the police cuz im insisting on knowing y im not allowed into— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 26, 2012
1553 GMT: Syria. Video of Vice-President Farouk al-Shara, dispelling rumours of his defection, as he met an Iranian delegation today:
1544 GMT: Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has signaled that a new initiative to solve the Syrian crisis will emerge within a few days: “These days, we are focusing on a meeting for the Syrian crisis that will bring Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran together.”
“We are in close contact with the new administration in Egypt. The Egyptian president and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) proposed a meeting, and we are looking positively at it. We are doing our best,” added Davutoğlu.
Significantly, Egyptian President Morsi publicly called last week for a new diplomatic effort with --- contrary to the wishes of the US and some European states --- the involvement of Iran.
Davutoğlu's statement points to co-ordination with Cairo. Now, will the US and Europe agree to the shift in the diplomatic approach? We will be watching for signals from Washington and from Tehran, where Morsi is at the Non-Aligned Movement's summit.
1524 GMT: Syria. One of the most concerning elements to the massacre in Darayya is that the conditions there are not unique --- there are other suburbs, and even districts of Damascus, that have hosted large protests, and on occasion Free Syrian Army fighters.
When of the embattled districts of Damascus is al-Asali, near al-Qadam. The LCC reports that a regime attack on the neighborhood may be imminent. The question then becomes what happens afterwards, if the military takes control:
Massive military reinforcements composed of soldiers, dozens of tanks, and armored personnel carriers have arrived near the Qadam train station. Local residents fear that regime forces will storm the area.
1515 GMT: Syria. The Turkish government has said that it simply cannot take in more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, and that number has already surpassed 80,000. If the refugee crisis continues, Turkey will either have to try to close its borders, or will have to intervene and house refugees inside Turkey, a move that would likely require a no-fly zone. Is any of that likely? Check this report from Al Jazeera English's Andrew Chappelle:
UPDATE: Turkey actually turned away 6k Syrian refugees overnight according to one of our producers in Turkey who spoke to foreign ministry.— Andrew Chappelle (@andrewchappelle) August 26, 2012
1439 GMT: Egypt. The past 48 hours in Alexandria have been both violent and tense. Yesterday, at Abu Qir power plant, around 500 protesting workers clashed with police, resulting in one death and seven injuries. According to the Egypt Independent, security forces attempted to disperse the protesters after learning that they were detaining the company leaders. However, the "protesters responded by charging the building" and in response the security forces opened fire.
This came a day after Friday's dramatic scenes when a 1000-strong protest against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was attacked by men with knives, sticks and even guns. Several people were reportedly wounded in the attack, although the identity of the assailants remains unclear. The following footage shows the mob in action:
1423 GMT: Syria. There is a debate about Darayya over who exactly was killed. Analyzing what evidence we have available, the target becomes clear. In the video below, for instance, all of the recognizable bodies appear to be young men:
Pro-Assad TV has images of children and collateral damage, proving evidence of the young dying in Darraya, but it does appear that after the FSA withdrew, pro-regime elements moved in and began to slaughter all fighting-aged men.
The Free Syrian Army has operated in Damascus much differently than it has in places like Homs or Idlib. It has worked almost like a "minuteman" militia, where fighters dissolve into the civilian populace where they work and live, and only take up arms when it is necessary. It appears regime forces are trying --- in a bloody manner --- to stop this.
1344 GMT: Syria. The pro-Assad Addounyia TV has made this broadcast from inside Darayya, where they claim "terrorists" are behind much of the violence. Opposition activists are already pointing to a scene in the middle of the footage where the report tries to interview a little girl who has been shot, and then soldiers appear to move her, presumably to give her medical treatment. The footage is graphic:
Even more graphic, activists post video of a scene inside an apartment building. Blood and bodies are everywhere.
Two narratives, 1 reality - whatever happened in Darayya, the bloodletting was on historic proportions.
The number of martyrs in Syria has risen to 60; which means a martyr every five minutes, including an entire family from Daraya. 33 martyrs in Damascus and its Suburbs, 8 in Daraa, 7 in Hama, 5 in Aleppo, 4 in Idlib, and 3 in Homs.
The Local Coordination Committees is a network of activists based inside and outside of Syria. The committees purport to verify all information that they post on their Facebook and website feeds, and have proven to not only be reliable in the past, but they also arre typically capable of producing large amounts of detail on request. Their information populates a detailed database of the dead and imprisoned kept by the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria, or the VDC. The numbers they report are a mix of insurgents and civilians (though today's numbers are almost exclusively civilians so far), and do not include regime forces. The Syrian state run media has also stopped citing the numbers of regime members killed in this conflict.
1300 GMT: Syria. Darayya is worse than anyone anticipated. According to the latest LCC statement on Darayya, over 300 bodies have been found, nearly doubling the deaths there since the start of the uprising:
633 of Daraya’s sons were martyred and well over 1,755 were detained by regime forces. Regime forces carried out one of their most barbaric attacks against a city that was made famous for its commitment to nonviolence. The death toll has doubled in the past few days due to field executions and revenge killings, and includes those martyred in yesterday’s massacre in which well over 300 people were killed, including dozens of women and children. The regime’s military campaign, ongoing for the past 4 days, has resulted in hundreds massacred, dozens detained, and utter destruction throughout the city
Damascus suburbs: Darayya: 122 new corpses were found in the city, they were executed by the regime forces, so the number of martyrs in Darayya alone got over 200 and there are still many bodies couldn’t be reached yet.
The statement also contained a video of dozens of bodies in a single room.
A word of caution --- would not get too hung up on the exact numbers cited. Darayya is an occupied, and obviously extremely dangerous, place to be, it is will be very hard to verify these kinds of reports. However, it is clear that what started as a report of 30-40 dead has developed into a reality that the number of dead could have reached 10 times that amount.
All indications were that the Free Syrian Army moved out of this city and the regime stormed the city long before these massacres took place. There have been no reports that we've seen indicating battles or skirmishes in this city since then. The reports we've seen indicate large security presence, with perhaps thousands of infantry and dozens of tanks, not to mention the constant presence of helicopters overhead. Even the regime admits control oveer the city as they "purify... terrorist remnants." If several hundred people have been killed, the killings were either directly done by the Assad regime or they were allowed to happen under the careful watch of the military. This is very likely the worst single massacre in the history of this uprising.
While hundreds died in Damascus, the numbers elsewhere were also alarmingly high, with 130 being killed away from the capital, and 440 killed nationwide, according to the LCC.
310 in Damascus and its suburbs (mostly in the Daraya Massacre), 40 in Aleppo, 28 in Deir Ezzor, 24 in Idlib, 15 in Daraa, 9 in Hama, and 4 in Homs.
This is yet another milestone for this crisis, as the violence is escalating in every single region, and the brutality in Damascus has escalated to levels never seen before since the start of the 2011 Arab Uprisings.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. A big thanks to Scott Lucas for doing a great job while still on vacation.
The appearance was al-Shara's first in weeks.
Tim Marshall of Britain's Sky News confirmed via Twitter:
Have just spoken v v briefly to Syrian VP Shara in Damscus.Confirmation. He has not defected.— Tim Marshall (@Skytwitius) August 26, 2012
1140 GMT: Syria. Contrasting images of the town of Darayya --- a protest with flowers last year:
Bodies thrown in a mass grave this weekend:
0940 GMT: Libya. The President of the newly-elected National Congress, Mohamed al-Magariaf, has called the Prime Minister to an emergency meeting after attackers bulldozed the Sha'ab mosque, with Sufi Muslim graves, in the centre of Tripoli on Saturday.
The assault followed Friday's wrecking of Sufi shrines and burning of a historic mosque library in Zlitan.
"What is truly regrettable and suspicious is that some of those who took part in these destruction activities are supposed to be of the security forces and from the revolutionaries," Magariaf said on Saturday night.
A public protest has been called for Sunday at Algeria Square in Tripoli, mobilising support against "the lawless minority" who carried out the attacks.
A Reuters reporter saw the bulldozer level the Sha'ab mosque as police surrounded the site and prevented people from approaching. They did not stop the demolition.
A Government official said authorities tried to stop "a large number of armed militias carrying medium and heavy weapons" but, after a small clash, decided to seal off the area to prevent any violence spreading.
Al Jazeera English's report on Friday's attacks in Zlitan:
0905 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 440 people killed by security forces on Saturday, with 310 in Damascus and nearby areas such as Darayya, 40 in Aleppo Province, and 28 in Deir Ez Zor Province.
Video showed the dead piled up wall-to-wall in a mosque complex in Darayya after a regime offensive. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed at least 320 bodies have been found. Activists said many showed evidence of having been shot by snipers, with others killed at close range.
State television said Darayya, which has about 200,000 resident, was being "purified of terrorist remnants".