Insurgents watch regime aircraft shell Sheikh Ali in Syria's Aleppo Province on Monday
See Also Syria Audio Feature: "Foreign Fighters and the Free Syrian Army" --- EA's James Miller with Monocle 24 br>
Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: An Opposition Meeting in Damascus Brings Questions and No Answers
2004 GMT: Syria. There are still more late-breaking reports of artillery shelling in many towns across Daraa province, Aleppo, Idlib province, and around Damascus. However, none of the reports is as interesting as the claim that several additional large explosions have rocked Jubata al Khashab, in Quneira province, near the Golan Heights (see update 1420).
1834 GMT: Syria. Evidence that the FSA offensive southwest of Aleppo is more coordinated than it first appeared. These videos were reportedly taken in the town of Sheikh Ali (map), inside what was one the headquarters of "shabiha," pro-Assad militia forces. This first video was reportedly taken before the FSA's attack on the building:
And this was reportedly taken after the building had fallen to the Free Syrian Army:
Note, the video heading this entry was also taken in Sheikh Ali.
1812 GMT: Syria. The Syrian military claims that it has reclaimed the Arcoub district of Aleppo (map), though opposition groups claim that the fighting is still going on. The area just north of the Hanano military barracks has been intensely fought over for weeks, and while a surprise FSA attack on the barracks made significant progress, the Free Syrian Army fighters have been slowly ceding ground near this neighborhood ever since.
However, FSA units operating in the countryside southwest of Aleppo claim to have take a town, Kafr Naha (map), a maneuver that puts FSA fighters behind Assad's flank. Videos show battles in the area. The first one shows FSA fighters responding to gunfire, while the second claims to show them in control of the town, a claim also carried by the Local Coordination Committees:
27 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 18 in Aleppo; 14 in Daraa; 17 in Deir Ezzor; 10 in Quneitra; 6 in Idlib; 4 in Homs; 1 in Hama; and 1 in Lattakia.
Driving this rising number are tow factors - continued violence across most of the country, particularly Aleppo, Daraa, and Deir Ez Zor, as well as the 10 killed earlier in Quneitra, and a massive explosion in violence in Damascus and its suburbs. In fact, this number, only 15 minutes old, may already be out of date, as the LCC is also carrying a report that an entire family, 7 people, were killed in Douma, a major Damascus suburb.
1420 GMT: Syria/Israel. Israel claims that Syrian military mortars have landed inside Israeli territory in the Golan Heights. Israel has filed a complaint with the United Nations. This partially confirms our previous report.
1352 GMT: Syria. Many may have picked up on the LCC report that we've posted that says 10 were killed in Quneitra. Many may not know where that is, because we rarely see it come up in these reports. Quneitra is the area that borders the Golan Heights. Over the last week violence has increased there. Today, Al Jazeera Arabic reports that there are clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and Assad soldiers, and an opposition Facebook page claims that at least 9 people have died defending to town of Jubata al Khashab from the Syrian military (map).
The area is heavily settled by Palestinian refugees, a demographic that is increasingly angered by the actions of the Assad regime. By some accounts, a large percentage of the new FSA recruits, particularly near Damascus, are Palestinians.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said he believed that Arab and European countries would be ready to take part, despite their public reluctance to commit the forces needed for such a mission...
"I believe that within weeks we should have a Plan B," Sheikh Hamad told CNN in an interview. "You need to make safe-haven areas first of all for the people. That will require a no-fly zone.
"If the Syrians want to break that, that's another subject. That also needs somebody to have the teeth to tell them: 'Don't do that, because that will not be allowed'.
1332 GMT: Syria/Jordan. Relevant to our last update, Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports on how the UN is trying to improve conditions in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where 33,000 who have fled the Syrian crisis may face a long, cold winter.
19 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 14 in Daraa, 12 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Quneitra, 8 in Aleppo, 4 in Homs, 2 in Idlib, and 1 in Hama.
Dozens of Syrian refugees – protesting at harsh living conditions in the tent city – clashed with Jordanian police, hurled stones and smashed charity offices and a hospital, AP reports citing officials and refugees.
About 26 policemen were injured by stones thrown by the refugees, a police official said.
A Syrian refugee in the camp, Abu Nawras, said police fired teargas to disperse the protesters who were demanding improved conditions, better food and education for their children.
1235 GMT: Syria. The leader of the FSA's Ansar al-Islam brigade says that he expects high numbers of casualties after today's bombings. The government says the opposite, that no one was killed and only 7 were injured (see below). Here's what the videos show, reportedly filmed by citizen journalists in the opposition from several different angles:
Two explosive devices planted by an armed terrorist group in the building of the Martyr's Sons School in Damascus on Tuesday morning were detonated causing the injury of 7 persons and minor material damages.
An official source in the province said that the two devices planted in hidden areas in the Students' Hotel and the Theater in the School causing fire in the two places.
For his part, Director General of Martyrs' Sons Body Major General Mohammad Amin Osman Mahmoud dismissed as "baseless" the news reported by some instigating media Channels on his martyrdom with his deputy and other casualties.
He reassured the families of the Martyrs' sons that the status of the School is excellent and that the school year begins next month.
13 martyrs in Daraa, 11 in Damascus and its suburbs, 10 in Qeniatra, 6 in Aleppo, 4 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Homs, and 2 in Idlib.
A major reason for the early death toll being so high is an unusual amount of reported activity in Daraa province. Dael, Khirbat al Ghazala, and Al Shiekh Maskin have all been shelled today, and helicopters have reportedly dropped "barrel bombs," homemade explosive devices made from barrels filled with TNT - indiscriminate weapons that have little military value but are devastating against civilians and residential buildings.
Beyond this, heavy arrest campaigns are reported, and military convoys have reportedly moved into several towns. The question is whether there was a specific catalyst. Sometimes, these campaigns are sparked by fresh defections, insurgent activity, or strong protests. Sometimes, they appear to be moves to establish dominance and send a message. So far, we're not sure which scenario we're looking at.
Attention will be focused on Damascus today, as the bomb attack in the capital may be significant, and may be followed by fighting or other attacks. However, to appreciate the wider significance, both in the wider strategic sense and in the humanitarian sense, the developments in the rest of the country may or may not be headline grabbing, but may be equally important.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.
0934 GMT: Syria. Save the Children has published a report detailing the casualties among the young, documents some fo the thousands who been "killed, injured, traumatised or forced to flee their homes" and claiming that the deaths, maiming, and torture continue.
Martin Chulov of The Guardian reports first-hand on the plight of the children caught up in the conflict, even as they flee it:
In the bleak, windswept landscape of the rapidly swelling Za'atari camp and the overcrowded towns and villages of northern Jordan, child refugees from Syria are struggling to cope with the weight of their experiences during 18 months of bloodshed.
Some are haunted by the deaths of relatives, friends and neighbours. Some hear the sound of shelling and shooting constantly replaying in their heads. Many have seen their homes and communities turned to rubble. A few have been abused or tortured in detention. Some exhibit the physical scars of conflict. Almost all bear the psychological scars.
Children have flooded across the border from Syria in recent weeks, most in family groups but an increasing number making the difficult and dangerous journey without a parent or close relative. At Za'atari, where dust-caked tents stretch in long rows across a vast desert plain, children are up to two-thirds of the current population of 31,000 refugees.
"They are paying the highest price. We have seen a lot of psycho-social distress, behavioural problems," says Nadine Haddad of Save the Children, which is launching a campaign to draw attention to the plight of children caught up in the conflict. Adolescent boys tend towards aggression and even vandalism; younger children suffer nightmares and bed-wetting.
According to Michele Servadei of Unicef, the number of unaccompanied children arriving at Za'atari has increased to more than 20 a week. Some are completely alone; some have been sent by their parents to travel with neighbours or extended family members. "Most are boys between 14 and 18, but we are also now getting some girls – a symptom that things are getting worse, more families are being disrupted."
The blast was claimed by both the Damascus Revolutionary Council and the "Prophet’s Grandchildren Brigades", which claimed, “Dozens of officers and shabbiha were killed in the blast," including a major general and two colonels.
The Brigades said one of its men planted the explosives inside the fuel tank of the branch.
“At exactly 9:35 a.m., seven improvised devices were set off in two explosions to target a school used for weekly planning meetings between shabbiha militia and security officers,” said Abu Moaz, a leader of the insurgent group Ansar al-Islam. “There were several officers present, and we are hoping they will be part of a large number of killed in this operation."
0722 GMT: Bahrain. John Horne notes this telling passage from a New York Times article on the Obama Administration's handling of the "Arab Spring" --- both Saudi Arabia and the UAE out-manoeuvred Washington during the suppression of Bahraini protests in March 2011, forcing the US to back away from any criticism:
If Mr. Obama had cultivated closer ties to the Saudis, he might have bought time for negotiations between the Bahraini authorities and the chief Shiite opposition party, Al Wefaq, according to one American diplomat who was there at the time. Instead, the Saudis gave virtually no warning when their forces rolled across the causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and the ensuing crackdown destroyed all hopes for a peaceful resolution.
The lingering resentment over Mr. Mubarak’s ouster had another apparent consequence. Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of the military intervention in a Paris television interview angered officials of the United Arab Emirates, whose military was also involved in the Bahrain operation and who shared the Saudis’ concern about the Mubarak episode.
The Emiratis promptly threatened to withdraw from the coalition then being assembled to support a NATO-led strike against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader. The Emiratis knew they were needed to give the coalition legitimacy. They quickly named their price for staying on board, according to Arab and Western diplomats familiar with the episode: Mrs. Clinton must issue a statement that would pull back from any criticism of the Bahrain operation.
The statement, hastily drafted and vetted by Emirati and American officials, appeared soon afterward, in the guise of a communiqué on Libya.
Brahimi said the Assad regime estimates there are 5,000 foreign fighters in the country as it portrays the conflict as a "foreign conspiracy". He added that Damascus was "not serious about making reforms".
The envoy asserted that torture was now commonplace, with people afraid to go to hospitals which were in the hands of government forces, and that Syrians face food shortages.