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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Back to the War of Attrition

See also Saudi Arabia Feature: A Precious Moment with the Religious Police
Bahrain Audio Feature: Why the Detention of Photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan Matters --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Deadly Car Bomb in Damascus

1943 GMT: Syria. AFP opens its profile of elderly Christians sheltering near the front lines in Aleppo:

The aging Christians holed up inside a retirement home in the devastated northern Syrian city of Aleppo have no light, no telephone lines, and little idea of what is happening in the outside world.

But fellow Christians and rebel fighters still ensure they do not go hungry, bringing the dozen or so residents whatever food they can every day.

The St. Elie Rest Home, founded in 1863, is behind a black metal door on a street strewn with debris and rubbish a short way from the front line where rebels and regime forces face off against each other.

"We welcome everyone who has been abandoned or is in need," says Sister Marie, 75, the beaming Mother Superior.

"This is a place where life can be enjoyed," she adds, gesturing to the 20 rooms adjoining a cloister and courtyard with a fountain and greenery.

1930 GMT: Syria. State media are reporting that President Assad will speak on national TV on Sunday night about "developments in Syria and the region".

1800 GMT: Bahrain. The regime's Bahrain News Agency has finally issued a statement on award-winning photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan, seized by 15 plainclothes security officers on 29 December and now held in Dry Dock Prison.

The BNA said Humaidan, who has photographed numerous protests, had appeared in the High Criminal Court on 30 December, accused of attacking Sitra Police Station on 8 April.

The prosecution said Humaidan was among 32 people who hurled Molotov cocktail, iron rods, and nails, destroying one of the masts of the station and injuring a policeman.

The prosecution did not explain why it waited six days to issue a statement.

See Bahrain Audio Feature: Why the Detention of Photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan Matters --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24

1636 GMT: Yemen. Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has denied reports that Saudi fighter jets have attacked insurgents in Yemen.

The Times of London claimed yesterday, from an unnamed US intelligence source, that "some of the so-called [American] drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions".

Asked to comment by reporters in Riyadh on Saturday, Prince Saud said, "This is not true." He did not elaborate.

1612 GMT: Syria. Police slap and jostle women trying to protect a youth in AlDaih on Friday:

1610 GMT: Libya. In the latest murder of a high-ranking member of the security forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Nasser al-Magrabi has been killed near Benghazi.

Magrabi worked for internal security services in the city during the Qaddafi era.

On Friday, the head of Benghazi's criminal investigations department, Abdelsalam al-Mahdawi, was kidnapped at gunpoint.

1608 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage has been posted on YouTube of the aftermath of a car bomb in the Rukneldin section of Damascus today.

1537 GMT: Algeria. Amnesty Internationaal reports that Taher Belabès a campaigner for the unemployed, has been detained after police dispersed a protest on Wednesday that demanded jobs and the dismissal of local officials.

Officials said Belabès will be charged with “obstructing the flow of traffic” and “inciting a gathering”, an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

Belabès, a co-ordinator for the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed, has been arrested over previous protests. At least five other activists, including Abdelkader Kerba of the CNDDC, were charged in 2012 with offences relating to “inciting a gathering”.

1501 GMT: UAE. The UAE has rejected a request from the Egyptian Government for the release of 11 Egyptian nationals detained for suspected links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gulf News has reported.

At a meeting in Dubai on Wednesday, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed Al-Maktoum told Essam Haddad, a top advisor to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and intelligence chief Mohammed Shahata that releasing the 11 without trial "is not possible": "We have a strong court system and justice will take its course".

The detained Egyptians are accused of leading an expatriate Brotherhood cell that collected sensitive information and maintained links with Emirati nationals in custody on charges of plotting against national security.

1409 GMT: Palestine. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a decree officially changing the name of the Authority to the "State of Palestine". All Palestinian stamps, signs, and official letterheads will carry the new designation.

1401 GMT: Syria. Back from a weekend break to find activists claiming that regime forces are continuing their shelling of insurgent-held Damascus suburbs.

Bombardments were reported on Hajar al-Aswad and Qaboun in southern Damascus and the suburbs of Darayya, Beit Hahm, Zibdeen, Moadamiyah, and Jisteen.

Meanwhile, State news agency SANA said a journalist for pro-regime Addounia TV, Suheil al-Ali, died on Friday, four days after a gunman shot him as he was going to work.

0801 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of regime airstrikes near the medieval castle Krak des Chevaliers, a UN World Heritage Site, west of Homs:

0613 GMT: Syria. After the insurgent advances of this autumn --- with the capture of regime bases, control of much of northern Syria, and moves to the doorstep of Hama and Damascus --- the war has returned to a deadly grind. The insurgents have been unable to take their fight into the cities or to break the stalemate in Aleppo, while regime forces --- apart from some gains in Homs --- have been unable to release the insurgent hold on areas claimed in previous months.

The pattern continued on Friday. Insurgents continued their assault on the regime airbase at Taftanaz in Idlib Province but, blaming bad weather, said they could not take the base, vital to the operations of the Assad military in the north. Regime warplanes and troops blasted away at insurgent-held suburbs of Damascus, such as Douma and Darayya, but made no obvious gains. 

The Local Coordination Committees said 129 people were killed on Friday, including 16 children and four women.  Seventy of the deaths were in Damascus and its suburbs.

The organisation said 271 protests were held yesterday. The largest number, 51, took place in Deir Ez Zor Province, much of which is in the hands of the opposition.

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