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Entries in Walid Moallem (13)


Syria Today: Last Chance for Opposition "Unity" in Istanbul Talks

Opposition Representatives at This Week's Talks Oppositions Appeals for Help in Besieged Qusayr and Damascus Suburb

Insurgent commanders in the besieged town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, have appealed for help and warned of dire consequences if it does not arrive:

If all rebel fronts do not move to stop this crime being led by Hezbollah and Assad's traitorous army of dogs...we will soon be saying that there was once a city called Qusayr.

Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in Qusayr, said, "The town is surrounded and there's no way to bring in medical aid."

Ammar said about 100 of 700 wounded needed oxygen: "What we need [insurgent units] to do is come to the outskirts of the city and attack the checkpoints so we can get routes in and out of the city."

Qusayr has been under sustained shelling and attacks for almost two weeks. On Wednesday, the Syrian military captured the nearby airbase of Dabba, cutting off the town on all sides and bolstering their positions.

Elsewhere, insurgents blockaded in the eastern Ghouta, east of Damascus, appealed for help on Facebook, claiming Assad's forces were "preparing to commit more massacres".

The fighters said they held the opposition Syrian National Coalition, whose members have spent a week arguing in Istanbul over the orgnaisation of the leadership, responsible for their plight.

George Sabra, the acting head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has confirmed that the group will not attend any international "peace" conference.

However, whereas the Coalition's formal declaration on Wednesday emphasised its demand that President Assad step down as part of any transitional government, Sabra's statement said the condition was the international community's intervention to end the Syrian military's siege of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.

Then Sabra declared, "The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria."

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Syria Live Coverage: Is This the End for Assad?

Anti-regime protest in Binnish in Idlib Province today

See also Syria Audio Feature: Why US and Russia Suddenly Met Thursday --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Syria Opinion: "The US Must Act Soon" --- James Miller in The American Prospect
Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Morsi Defies Protesters and Warns "Infiltrators"
Thursday's Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and Fighting at the Presidential Palace

2050 GMT: A curious report from the LCC:

Lattakia: Faranlaq: Fierce clashes between the FSA and regime forces amid attempts by the regime forces to storm the district and the FSA is blocking it.

What's interesting is that we did not know where Faranlaq was, nor were we able to find it on a map. The reason - Faranlaq is not a town or district, but a forest, only 5 milometers north of Lattakia city (approximate location on map).

Usually, fighting in "Lattakia" is in the mountains to the east, many miles from the city, often considered a stronghold of the Assad regime. However, this fighting is located between the city and an important naval base.

How "fierce" are the clashes? We don't know. We have also not independently confirmed the news. If true, it is becoming clear, however, even Assad's strongholds are not immune from the insurgent advance.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Propaganda and an American Journalist Held Hostage

2038 GMT: Syria. At the end of the day (it's nearly midnight in Syria) at least 150 people have been killed by Assad forces, according to the Local Coordination Committees:

50 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (most of them in Eastern Ghota and 17 in the shelling of Harasta); 30 in Aleppo (most were field-executed in Jami'yat Al-Zahra neighborhood); 29 in Daraa; 21 in Deir Ezzor; 12 in Homs; 5 in Idlib; and 3 in Hama (one of them was martyred in Aleppo).

See our note on the casualty figures put forth by the LCC.

The LCC's death toll often rises overnight as they confirm more deaths.

The number is shockingly high to many, but sadly it is about average now. However, the intensity of the violence in and around Damascus was nothing like average. While violence sometimes spikes for a day, or maybe a few days, it also may be a sign that the battle for the eastern suburbs is intensifying.

There is another story to carefully watch over the next few days...

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The Latest from Iran (30 September): "The West Is In Economic Crisis"

See also Iran Follow-Up: Fars News Apologises for Running Story from The Onion
The Latest from Iran (29 September): The Economy and the Divisions Within the Regime

1422 GMT: Press Watch. One of the cameramen with President Ahmadinejad's entourage in New York has defected and has been granted asylum, according to Baztab.

1347 GMT: Press Watch. ISNA reports that a court has convicted Reuters and its Tehran Bureau Chief, Parisa Hafezi, of "publishing lies against the regime" and "disturbing public opinion".

Reuters was charged after a story in March briefly carried a headline characterising women training in ninjutsu as "assassins". The bureau was closed, as the press cards of staff were confiscated. Some observers saw a pretext for the authorities to shut down one of the few international agencies reporting from inside Iran.

Sentencing is expected within a week.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Assad Says, "The Situation on the Ground is Better"

2134 GMT: Syria. US journalist Austin Tice is still missing in Syria, and his news agency, McClatchy, has released a statement that it is now believed that Tice is in the custody of the Assad regime:

Statements in recent days by Czech diplomats, information from Syrian rebel supporters and reports from people inside Syria indicate that the 31-year-old Houston native, who contributed to McClatchy Newspapers, The Washington Post and CBS News, was detained by Syrian government forces near the Damascus suburb of Daraya, his last known location.

The U.S. State Department says the Syrian government has not responded to inquiries about Tice that were made through official channels and that U.S. diplomats were “working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get more information on his welfare and whereabouts.” A Syrian official in the United States declined to comment Thursday...

On Monday, the Czech ambassador to Syria, Eva Filipi, told a Czech television interviewer in Prague that “sources” had informed her mission that Tice was in detention, though further information had been hard to come by because of an Islamic holiday at the time. The Czechs, who oversee U.S. interests in Damascus because the U.S. closed its embassy there in February, sent a formal diplomatic note about Tice to Syrian counterparts, she said.

“Our sources report that he is alive and that he was detained by government forces on the outskirts of Damascus, where the rebels were fighting government troops,” Filipi said in response to a question about Tice. “Our additional steps were halted by the fact that the report came at the beginning of the final holidays of Ramadan and therefore we had a week off in Syria and some our contacts were not in Damascus.”

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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Appealing to Damascus

Syrian President Assad and his wife Asma at an aid centre in Damascus, collection donations fo residents of Homs

See also Syria Feature: How the Uprising Has Damaged the Scientific Community
Syria Wired: The Latest from Social Media and EA's Readers
Tuesday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Cease-fire? 55 Dead on Monday

2056 GMT: A major, shocking headline, and a complete turnaround in rhetoric for the Bahraini regime:

The government of Bahrain cannot guarantee the safety of Formula One teams and spectators at this Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix as violence escalates in the Gulf kingdom, according to the British former police officer who is working on security at the track.

According to John Yates, the British law enforcement official who has been hired by the regime to revamp the Bahraini police, there was a possibility that security at the Formula 1 race could be compromised...

And the Bahraini police could resort to using live ammunition if necessary:

"The police will have all the options you would expect. If the opposition started firing live ammunition, the police would respond with live," he said, adding: "But I don't think that's likely."

This is a complete reversal for Yates, who once said that Bahrain was safer than London.

Yates insisted that the government continues to reform, and though security forces have sometimes overstepped their boundaries, those incidents were limited and being investigated. He denied that police were preemptively attacking villages.

The Ministry of Interior also released a statement today saying that rioters and vandals were arrested after having committed crimes.

However, as we saw today, police responded to the presence of protesters by challenging the crowds with riot police, and only showed restraint when they saw the media. Even with media present, the police still attacked. Other videos, taken over many months, show police randomly patrolling villages, looking for protesters to challenge, sparking reprisal attacks against the police. There does appear to be a pattern of police provocation, and the journalists in Bahrain have seen that with their own eyes.

Of course, there have also been incidents where protesters have used force against police. After 14 months of uprisings, however, and many months of John Yates, the situation has hardly gotten better.

In fact, it seems to be getting worse.

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Turkey Live Coverage (11 April): Erdogan Taking the Lead on Syria?

1820 GMT: It is reported that an investigation committee on military coups and memorandums is to be set up in the parliament. As known, the judicial process has already begun on the 1980 military coup and the parliament itself is a co-plaintiff of the case now. 

1730 GMT: The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied media reports in Iran claiming that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu apologized over Turkish Premier Erdogan's recent remarks, accusing Tehran of being "not honest".

1645 GMT: Human Rights Association of Turkey reveals human rights violations of 2011. According to the report, 12,685 people were taken into custody, 2,922 were arrested and 3,252 were tortured.

Having drawn attention to the increasing figures of Turkey's humans rights violations, the head of the Association Ozturk Turkdogan said: "The political power is establishing a police state!"   

1620 GMT: Military operation backed by 2,000 soldiers and Cobra helicopters against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is continuing the province of Tunceli. Two shelters and one cave were detected. In these cells, kilograms of explosive materials were captured.

1550 GMT: Speaking at the group meeting, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said:

All circles in the country are working for Justice and Development Party (AKP). Governors, district governors, soldiers, chief constables, heads of tax offices... all work for AKP. We are not just struggling against AKP; but also against the status quo it created. Do not listen to what he is saying about 'the nation'. For him, 'the nation' equals to Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They emptied the meaning of nation completely. They became pharaohs in ten years. They created their own status quo.

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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Deadline? What Deadline?

Iranian cartoonist Maya Neyestani on the Syrian crisis

See also Bahrain Propaganda 101: Former Times Editor, Turned PR Man, Tries to Sell the Regime's Grand Prix
Turkey Live Coverage (11 April): Erdogan Taking the Lead on Syria?
Tuesday's Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Deadline Passes as 160 Die

2033 GMT: The White House has issued a general statement about Bahrain, with specific reference to the condition of detained activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is on Day 63 of a hunger strike:

The United States continues to be deeply concerned about the situation in Bahrain, and we urge all parties to reject violence in all its forms. We condemn the violence directed against police and government institutions, including recent incidents that have resulted in serious injuries to police officers. We also call on the police to exercise maximum restraint, and condemn the use of excessive force and indiscriminate use of tear gas against protestors, which has resulted in civilian casualties.

We continue to underscore, both to the government and citizens of Bahrain, the importance of working together to address the underlying causes of mistrust and to promote reconciliation. In this respect, we note our continued concern for the well-being of jailed activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and call on the Government of Bahrain to consider urgently all available options to resolve his case. More broadly, we urge the government to redouble its ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, and renew our call for the government, opposition parties, and all segments of Bahraini society to engage in a genuine dialogue leading to meaningful reforms that address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.

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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Deadline Passes as 160 Die

2020 GMT: Back from a development break to find that today's deathtoll in Syria has reached 101, according to the LCCS. The Deir Balbaa district of Homs suffered the hardest hit, but the deaths were distributed as follows:

56 in Homs, 22 martyrs in Hama, 12 martyrs in Idlib, 6 martyrs in Daraa, 3 martyrs in Aleppo, 1 martyr in Harasta in Damascus Suburbs and 1 martyr in Deir Ezzor.

At this late hour, the LCCS also reports that the Assad military is raiding Qa'alat al Madiq, in Hama province.

So, on the day that withdrawal was supposed to start, there has been an escalation in Homs and Hama, a continuation of the campaigns against Idlib and Daraa provinces, and though Aleppo suffered far fewer action than previous days, it too is reporting casualties at the hands of the regime.

A friend of EA's quips that every time Kofi Annan speaks, Assad seems to kill a few dozen people, so for the sake of all of Syria we should hope that Annan gives up his mission of peace.

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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: "Did This Rocket Fall from Outer Space?"

2131 GMT: An evening protest in Qaboun, Damascus, was reportedly broken up by Assad loyalists. At the last minute, what sounds like an explosion or gunshot can be heard:

2010 GMT: We've had reports of many defections today in several locations. Now, this video has been uploaded, showing men who claim to be Syrian army officers and soldiers defecting in Idlib Province:

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