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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Planning for Life After Assad 

An 8-minute drive through "liberated" parts of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, on Friday --- "Quiet but devastated streets. Tons of garbage. And a long bread queue that I was told was actually short --- they get much longer than this later in the day"

See also Syria Feature: US Plans for a Post-Assad Country
Saturday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Has the Regime Lost Aleppo?

2007 GMT: Egypt. Security officials have said at least 15 Egyptian policemen have been killed and seven wounded in an attack on a police station in north Sinai on the border with Israel.

Egyptian state television said an Islamist group was responsible but did not give details.

A border police patrol was reportedly breaking their fast when they were ambushed by armed men.

A senior security official said the attackers seized an armoured vehicle before driving away.

1920 GMT: Yemen. Footage of the aftermath of Saturday's suicide bombing in Jaar in the southern province of Abyan --- the latest death toll is 45:

1820 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of insurgents preparing for and carrying out an attack on a regime convoy heading to Aleppo:

1520 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 72 deaths at the hands of security forces so far today, including 34 in Damascus and its suburbs.

1432 GMT: Egypt. Al Jazeera English's Rawya Rageh reports from Dahshour, south of Cairo, where Christian residents have reportedly been driven from their homes by violence (see 0814 GMT):

1415 GMT: Iraq. Wladmir van Wilgenburg writes EA of more tensions within Iraqi Kurdistan....

Both the Gorran (Change) faction and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have not supported Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani's moves against Iraqi Prime Minister Nurii al-Maliki.

Prominent PUK politician Barham Salih and the leader of Gorran, Nawshirwan Mustafa, have reportedly visited Iran and met with important politicians. Mustafa also fiercely attacked Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), despite recent attempts by the KDP and Gorran at better relations --- this may have been motivated by uneased at Barzani's relative taking over responsibility for security.

In an interview with Gorran's channel KNN last week, Mustafa accused the KDP of engaging in external conflicts --- referring to Syria and Barzani's confrontation with al-Maliki --- to strengthen family rule. The Goran leader reportedly said:

The KDP leadership had a strategy in the past 20 years whereby they often created an external conflict to consolidate family rule in that the public forget about their demands and they achieve their aims in the background....

The unity of Kurdish ranks cannot be achieved by someone initiating an external conflict and then dragging us all in it.

1309 GMT: Saudi Arabia. A protest last evening in Qatif, condemning the killing of an 18-year-old demonstrator Friday night --- Saudi authorities claimed the youth was one of a group who attacked police, slaying one officer.

At least eleven people have been killed in protests and clashes in Eastern Province, home to most of the country's Shia Muslims, since last November:

A set of photographs has also been posted.

1259 GMT: Bahrain. Said Yousif of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports that the verdict in the appeal of BCHR President Nabeel Rajab, sentenced to three months for Twitter message that allegedly insulted the Prime Minister, has been postponed to next Sunday.

1102 GMT: Syria. Syria's first astronaut, General Muhammed Ahmed Faris, has defected and entered Turkey, according to the Turkish news agency Anatolia.

1058 GMT: Syria. A bit of context to the story of the 48 Iranians seized by insurgents near Damascus on Saturday....

Before reports of the capture emerged, Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi said the Islamic Republic has not sent any military forces to Syria and the Syrian regime has never asked it to do so.

Vahidi was responding to claims in Israeli media that more than 3,000 Iranian snipers had arrived in Damascus to aid President Assad's forces.

1052 GMT: Syria. The leader of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, has said he is ready to negotiate with regime officials whose hands are not "stained with blood", after President Assad and his inner circle leave power.

Sieda said in a newspaper interview:

As far as we are concerned, the authorities have lost their credibility and legitimacy, and we have said this in Moscow bluntly: that dialogue with this regime is no longer possible.

Bashar and his gang must leave and after that we will move to negotiate with other officials whose hands were not stained with Syrian blood and who were not involved in big corruption cases.

1036 GMT: Turkey. Six Turkish soldiers, two state militiamen, and 11 Kurdish insurgents have been killed after the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) attacked military outposts in southeast Turkey, security sources said.

Another 16 soldiers and six civilians were wounded in the simultaneous attacks overnight on the three bases on the outskirts of the town of Cukurca in Hakkari Province, which borders Iraq.

A large group of PKK fighters armed with guns and rocket launchers crossed over from northern Iraq, the security officials said. They added that the Turkish military has sent reinforcements and at least four attack helicopters to the area, and operations were continuing on Sunday.

0949 GMT: Syria. More on the video of the 48 Iranians captured by insurgents on Saturday near Damascus (see 0819 GMT)....

Troops of the Al Baraa Brigade of Free Syrian Army said the Iranians are "shabiha (militiamen)...who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus".

He continued, "During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers in the Revolutionary Guards."

Abdel Nasser Shmeir, a commander of the Al Baraa Brigade, said later, "They are 48, in addition to an Afghani interpreter," among a 150-strong group sent by Iran for "reconnaissance on the ground".

(Cross-posted from Iran Live Coverage)

0927 GMT: Syria. Demonstration this morning in Latamneh in Hama Province:

0819 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army troops speaking in front of the 48 Iranians seized in Damascus on Saturday --- Iranian State media says the men are pilgrims, but the insurgents claim they are members of Tehran's military supporting the Assad regime:

0814 GMT: Egypt. Earlier this week, we reported on violence in Dahshour, south of Cairo, after a bystander was killed during a local dispute. Sarah El Deeb follows up for the Associated Press:

When the angry mob was rampaging through town, storming her home and those of other Christians, the 70-year-old woman hid in her cow pen, pushing a rock against the door. There she cowered for hours, at one point passing out from tear gas being fired by police that seeped in.

When Sameeha Wehba emerged just before dawn, she found she was the only Christian left in this small Egyptian village just south of Cairo.

Dahshour's entire Christian community — as many as 100 families some estimate — fled to nearby towns in the violence earlier this week. The flock's priest, cloaked in a white sheet to hide him, was taken out in a police van. At least 16 homes and properties of Christians were pillaged and some torched and a church damaged.

The violence was ultimately rooted in a dispute over a badly ironed shirt that escalated into a fight in which a Christian burned a Muslim to death, in turn sparking the rampage by angry Muslims.

0639 GMT: Syria. Confusion this morning over 48 Iranian pilgrims who were abducted on Saturday as they travelled to the Damascus airport --- al-Mayadeen TV said they were released, but an official in the Iranian embassy denied the report.

0632 GMT: Yemen. A suicide bomber has killed more than 30 people in Jaar in the southern province of Abyan.

The attacker struck a funeral for a man linked to militias helping the army in its fight with insurgents.

0625 GMT: Syria. Last week we reported a ruling by the US Treasury that American citizens can provide money, through the Syrian Support Group, to aid the insurgency.

The Treasury has posted a copy of the License, which effectively bypasses US sanctions on Syria.

Those connected with the Syria Support Group include legal counsel Mazen Asbahi, who briefly served as the director of Muslim and Arab American outreach for the Obama Presidential campaign in 2008.

The chief lobbyist is Brian Sayers, who served in the State Department during the George W Bush Administration and was a Political Advisor at NATO until the SSG was officially founded in June.

0555 GMT: Syria. C.J. Chivers of The New York Times writes of the strain on the Assad military:

Analysts said Syria’s fleet of Mi-25 Hind-D attack helicopters, which numbered 36 at the start of the conflict, is insufficient to hold back rebels as the number of fronts, from Aleppo and Idlib in the north to the suburbs of Damascus in the south and Hama and Homs in the center of the country, continues to proliferate.

Maintenance technicians are struggling to keep the machines aloft in an intense campaign and in the searing heat and sand associated with summer desert war. Estimates are that only half his fleet can be used at a given time, with some helicopters cannibalized for spare parts and Mr. Assad dependent on supplies from Russia....

Defections of government troops and seizures of armaments are also a growing problem. Rebels in Aleppo claim to have control of a total of 14 T-72 and T-55 tanks and many indirect-fire weapons, including artillery pieces as well as mortars.

0530 GMT: Syria. We open this morning by noting stories, fed by Turkish and US officials, of planning for a post-Assad Syria. 

The Americans use The New York Times to put out the message that they are "quietly sharpening plans to cope with a flood of refugees, help maintain basic health and municipal services, restart a shattered economy and avoid a security vacuum", while a Turkish diplomat said General Manaf Tlass, who defected last month and been upheld as a possible leader in a transitional administration, had talks at Ankara's Foreign Ministry on Friday.

Of course, Assad has not given up. Despite --- or because of --- reports of insurgents expanding their presence in Aleppo, regime artillery, tanks, and a helicopter gunship pounded Free Syrian positions on Saturday, trying to break the insurgent hold on the district of Salaheddin.

The Local Coordination Committees said 145 people were slain by security forces on Saturday, including 53 in Damascus and its suburbs.

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