We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?

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Jonathan Freedland wrote a very important opinion piece in the Guardian today. It echos my frustration with the so-called "left" and liberal communities in the US:

When Israelis kill Arabs there is outrage. But Assad's brutal campaign has cost 30,000 lives and there've been no protests

We know the government hopes to do nothing, but what about the rest of us? Exactly one year after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the chances of another round of Libya-style western military intervention, this time for Syria, hover close to zero. Even the hawkish Mitt Romney promises no such thing. Few politicians speak even of non-military options – of which there are many – let alone taking up arms.

They say nothing because there is no pressure on them to say anything. Here and abroad, there is virtual silence, save for the desperate pleas of a few Syrian expats and yesterday's cry for humanitarian help from the Turkish foreign minister. We know the facts, and we know what Bashar al-Assad has done since demonstrators took to the streets to protest against his rule 19 months ago. He and his forces have pursued a campaign of the most chilling brutality, using fighter planes to bomb civilian neighbourhoods, capturing, starving and torturing children as young as six, according to Save the Children, and racking up an estimated death toll of 30,000 victims.

People know all this but stay mute. Not that they should be demanding immediate military action. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, people are justifiably both weary and wary, with many regarding action in Syria as a practical impossibility. I understand that. But what I can't comprehend is the lack of public pressure on those doing the actual killing – starting with the Assad regime. Instead, public opinion seems utterly disengaged, unbothered by the slaughter under way in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.

There are no mass demonstrations outside the Syrian embassy in London. The story is rarely on the front page or on the TV bulletins. Even when there is a shocking atrocity, such as the Daraya massacre of up to 400 people in August, it makes only a fleeting impact. There is no Disaster Emergency Committee appeal. At the Labour party conference, there were fringe meetings on every possible subject, from teenage spending habits to domestic pets. But there was not a single session focused solely on Syria – and this in the party that calls itself internationalist.

It's not as if this is par for the course, that we never get exercised by the loss of innocent life in the Middle East. We do. Nearly four years ago Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, designed to halt Hamas rocket fire from Gaza. It resulted in some 1,400 Palestinian deaths. For nearly a month that story was never off the front page, and it often led the TV news, here and around the world. There were large and loud public demonstrations. The DEC set up a fund and sought to air a televised appeal, famously refused by the BBC.

There is no such clamour now. The Stop the War Coalition is not summoning thousands to central London to demand an end to the fighting, as it did then. On the contrary, its statements are content simply to oppose western intervention – of which there is next to no prospect – while politely refusing to condemn Assad's war on his own people. Caryl Churchill has not written a new play, Seven Syrian Children, exploring the curious mindset of the Alawite people that makes them capable of such horrors, the way she rushed to the stage to probe the Jewish psyche in 2009. The slaughter in Syria has similarly failed to move the poet Tom Paulin to pick up his pen. Apparently, these Syrian deaths are not worthy of artistic note. The contrast has struck Robert Fisk, no defender of Israel. He puts it baldly: "[T]he message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the west and its Israeli allies, but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs."

Plenty resist that explanation. Some say the lethargy of both the public and anti-war left is due to the fact that Syria is now locked in a civil conflict, making it hard to tell good guys from bad guys. Yet NGOs were swamped with cash donations during the Kosovo crisis: the public did not write that off as a mere internal Balkan problem. Besides, though it's a civil war now, with both sides armed, for several months it was much more straightforward: peaceful demonstrators killed in cold blood. Yet few rallied to the Syrian people's cause then either.

Others wonder if Gaza in 2008-9 stirred greater outrage because it was such an intense episode, unfolding in a matter of weeks, while Syria has been a drip-drip horror story played out over nearly two years. But this hardly stacks up. Awful to speak in such terms, but the killing rate has been more, not less, intense in Syria: witness that massacre of 400 in a single day.

Anxious for answers, I called Lindsey German of Stop the War, who told me the organisation was not active on Syria because that "isn't Stop the War's job". Its focus is on what "Britain and the US are doing". Why, then, was it so vocal on Gaza? Because the west "was very much in support of the Israelis, so it was very different". (In fact, Britain did not support Operation Cast Lead but called for a ceasefire.) She adds that the Palestinian question "has its own dynamic, which isn't true of any other country".

The trouble is, such thinking surely leads to a very parochial form of internationalism – turning a blind eye to all those areas of the globe where one's own government is not involved. And that's if such a rule were applied consistently – which it is not. More...

From EAWorldView we have this report today:

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: At Least 44 Dead in Airstrike on Ma'arat al-Numan

Friday, October 19, 2012 at 9:28 | James Miller

2227 GMT: Syria. The videos from Deir Ez Zor are terrible. While we cannot share them here, we have published a few in a separate video gallery (viewer discretion advised). It's dark, so impossible to count the bodies, but there may be dozens of videos like the ones we have posted - it's entirely possible that there are 75 bodies, or more, in Deir Ez Zor.

2208 GMT: Syria. Today's death toll could be staggering. According to the latest tally by the Local Coordination Committees, more than 230 people have died so far today:

69 martyrs in Damascus and its suburbs most of them were in Hamorya and Saqba massacres along with 9 martyrs were field executed in Yarmouk refugees camp and 4 were field executed in Qadam. 53 maryrs in Idlib most of them in Maarrat Alnoman massacre, 35 in Aleppo including 6 were found in Jam’eyat Alzahra, 24 in Homs, 18 in Daraa including 7 were field executed in Ma’raba and 4 were field executed in Inkhel, 14 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Hama, 6 in Qunaitra and 3 martyrs in Raqqa.

LCC could also count 134 points at which the regime army randomly shelled civilians including 22 points [that] were bombarded by war planes. Regime forces also dropped explosive drums at 6 points which are Hamorya, Saqba, Shefoniya and Douma in Damascus suburbs, Maarrat Alnoman in Idlib and Western suburbs of Aleppo.

FSA documented 36 points of clashes with regime army and... 13 operations [conducted by the FSA] and... [the] capture many forces of regime army.

Even this number is already out of date. Several more casualties are reported by the LCC since this total, and a horrific story is emerging from Deir Ez Zor that more than 75 people have been found, executed by regime forces and dumped in a mass grave.

Now, a note on the casualty figures produced by the LCC:

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.

The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.

While we cannot confirm these reports, the LCC has proven to be highly reliable in the past.

An activist puts things in perspective:

And another activist expresses frustration of the media's coverage of this conflict:

2200 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Multiple reports from Bahrain indicate a tense and repressive situation in Al-Eker village, where a policeman died last night. Security forces have reportedly blocked all access to the village. Opposition society AlWefaq issued an urgent statement claiming that a "status of emergency was unofficially imposed by the regime forces" in Al-Eker

Around three hours ago, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights members Zainab AlKhawaja and Said Yousif Almuhafda tried to enter the village but were blocked at a checkpoint. Zainab described the village as "now completely surrounded by riot police". Security forces told her that "nobody is allowed in or out of Al-Eker village". She was also told by locals that "riot police have broken into more than 25 houses".

Zainab also spoke with a 15 year old boy whose leg was injured after " riot police threw stun grenades" into his house

Between the screaming of the women and children crying, they grabbed his brother and started asking him where their cousin is. When he said he did not know, the masked men attacked him and started beating him severely. When the boy asked the masked men to stop beating his brother, they threw a stun grande at him, injuring his leg. The police then attacked the women, spraying their faces with chemical spray.

There is also violence being reported in other villages in the country. Several shotgun injuries have been reported in Karranah.

2008 GMT: Lebanon. And now the denials - Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi has condemned the bombing, as has Hezbollah:

Hezbollah also called on Lebanese to stand united and urged an investigation into the Friday explosion. The Syrian government has also issued a statement condemning the terrorist attack as a 'cowardly' move.

1946 GMT: Lebanon/Syria. Walid Jumblatt, a prominent leader of the Lebanese Druze and the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, speaks to Al Jazeera English. He points the finger directly at Syrian President Bashar al Assad as being solely responsible for the death of Wissam al Hassan. Jumblatt stops short, however, of directly blaming Hezbollah. Instead, Jumblatt requested the quieting of sectarian tension and the focus on the real problem - the Syrian regime:

1920 GMT: Lebanon. Only yesterday Saad Hariri accused Hezbollah of committing crimes in Syria.

“The Lebanese -- Shiites, Sunnis and Christians -- know very well, even from the mouths of senior Hezbollah officials, the nature of [the party’s] involvement in what it alleged to be ‘a jihadi duty’ alongside the machine of killings, repression, crackdown and subjugation facing the Syrian people,” a statement released by Hariri's media office.

“There is no longer anything that can help to cover up this clear crime committed by Hezbollah first against Lebanon before Syria, especially it is fully aware that the days of its ally in Damascus are numbered.”

1825 GMT: Lebanon. Saad Heriri has pointed his finger firmly at Syria's President for the assassination by car bombing of security official Wissam al-Hassan:

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday of being behind the huge car bomb which killed senior Lebanese intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan in central Beirut.

Asked by Future Television who was responsible for the killing, Hariri replied: “Bashar Hafez al-Assad,” giving the full name of the Syrian president. Hariri’s father, Rafik al-Hariri, was killed seven years ago in a bombing which his supporters blamed on Damascus and Hezbollah, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, one of Lebanon's most prominent leaders of the Druze community, and head of the Progressive Socialist Party, has also accused Assad of the crime:

1800 GMT: Lebanon. And now it begins - Saad Harari is speaking out against the assassination:

1731 GMT: Lebanon. More clashes are already being reported in the wake of the news of the death of Wissam al Hassan:

1721 GMT: Lebanon. David Kenner suggests that what has happened today in Beirut, the death of a very important intelligence officer in a car bombing, could be the start of a real horror story in the Middle East:

In Lebanon, each security branch is a fiefdom of a different political party. Hassan wasn't just a non-partisan official, but widely recognized as the central ally of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, the country's most important Sunni party. As FP contributor Elias Muhanna writes, Hassan had "long been the target of...ire" from Lebanon's pro-Assad political alliance. Hassan had been riding high: His branch had just arrested Michel Samaha, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest allies in Beirut, on charges of plotting attacks against Christian areas on orders of the Syrian regime.

For Hariri and his anti-Assad allies, then, this looks like payback: They struck a blow against one of Assad's men, so the Syrian regime took revenge by killing the man who orchestrated the arrest. The backlash is already brewing: Lebanese press outlets have reported scattered clashes and blocked roads in areas of Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli that are typically flashpoints for violence.

Kenner ends by echoing our own fears: "The entire effort to keep Lebanon out of Syria's war could come crashing down."

1708 GMT: Jordan. It's looking more and more like what has happened in Amman was a simple ceiling collapse, and not an "explosion" as initially reported by the Associated Press. Clearly, however, tensions are high everywhere:

1700 GMT: Lebanon. This may be the event that triggers a series of major events across the Middle East. Lebanon has already been internally torn between whether to support Assad or not, with Hezbollah taking Assad's side and many in the Lebanese government, most especially General Wissam al Hassad, were pushing against Assad. This may be a catalyst for intense violence - then again, with the situation so confusing, it's still possible that quick leadership on the part of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, could disarm this conflict.

One problem - fighting has already started.

1650 GMT: Jordan. BREAKING news:

1645 GMT: Lebanon. Who was Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, killed in today's blast? Blogger and academic Elias Muhanna, who was written extensively on al-Hassan, offers this overview:

Wissam al-Hassan was one of the most important security figures in Lebanon. He headed up the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces (i.e. the Lebanese police), and was recently responsible for arresting Michel Samaha, a former minister with close ties to Syria, for allegedly conspiring to have explosives blown up all around Lebanon in a bid to create havoc. The move was seen as hugely destabilizing in Lebanon — because Wissam al-Hassan is very close to the March 14th coalition while Samaha had long been regarded as “untouchable” because of his connections to Damascus — and yet none of Samaha’s Lebanese allies demanded his release.

Wissam al-Hassan also has a very interesting role in the investigation of the Hariri assassination.

See Muhanna's original post for links to significant pieces by him relevant to al-Hassan.

1609 GMT: Lebanon. More details on the significance of the reported death of Wissam al Hassan:

Whoever was responsible, this could easily ignite tensions between Lebanon and Syria.

1604 GMT: Lebanon. Back from a phone conference to find some major news. Wissam al-Hassan, a top Lebanese security official, was killed in today's bombing in Beirut. John Horne reports:

As the dust settles and the scale of the bombing - and its targets - become known, the finger pointing begins.

Two Lebanese MP's have already accused the Assad regime. Kataeb bloc MP Nadim Gemayel, who represents Ashrafieh, the area where the bombing took place, said, "The Syrian regime is not [detached] from such kind of explosions, which is political par excellence". He added, in an interview with LBC Television which is politically affiliated with the March 14 Alliance, "“the Syrian regime is collapsing and is trying to move its crisis to Lebanon.

Similarly, speaking to Saudi owned AlArabiya, Future bloc MP Nohad Mashnouq said, "The explosion is a message sent from the Syrian regime to terrorize the Lebanese people."

1442 GMT: Turkey/Egypt EA's John Horne reports:

The New York Times reports on an emerging alliance between Egypt and Turkey, following the ousting of the former's previous dictator and the escalting crisis in Syria:

Egypt and Turkey are considering plans to lift visa restrictions and recently completed joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey has offered a host of measures to bolster Egypt’s economy, including a $2 billion aid package. There is even talk of Turkey’s helping Egypt to restore its Ottoman-era buildings. A wider-ranging partnership is expected to be announced in the coming weeks when the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party shares an Islamist pedigree with Egypt’s leadership, goes to Cairo


The collapse in relations with Syria may have prompted Turkey to speed up its alliance with Egypt, but the partnership is also rooted in the Islamist politics of the leaders of the two countries and their respective movements: Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi. This connection offers chances for a new Sunni Islamic bloc, even as each country offers a different understanding of how Islam and democracy can coexist.

1439 GMT: Kuwait. EA's John Horne reports:

Kuwait's ruling family issued a statement yesterday calling for obedience to the Emir.

The statement was published on state news agency KUNA and opens with a verse from the Quaran:

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you.
(Surat Annisa, verse 59)

It continues:

The Council would like to reaffirm that any affair relating to the ruling family is not subject to publication in any form whether audio, visual or written.

His Highness the Crown Prince, in his capacity as President of the Council, would like also to assert His Highness the Emir's right to be obeyed.

The Council would like to reaffirm that any affair relating to the ruling family is not subject to publication in any form whether audio, visual or written.

This statement followed the arrest yesterday of two former MPs, Bader al-Dahum and Falah al-Sawwagh, accused of criticising the Emir during a large opposition rally on Monday. A third opposition politician was also brougth in for questioning. The rally was held days after the Emir dissolved parliament, increasing political tensions in the country.

Opposition politician Musallam al-Barrak, who appealed directly to the Emir in a speech at Monday's protest to not take Kuwait "into the abyss of autocracy", has so far not been arrested. He is reported as saying at the rally:

We will not allow you, your highness, to take Kuwait into the abyss of autocracy," he warned. "We no longer fear your prisons and your riot batons.

If your highness decides to change the election law by emiri decree, then you alone are responsible for complicating matters and you alone are responsible for resolving it.

A reader of academic As'ad AbuKhali's blog "The Angry Arab" sent the followingobservation about the significance of al-Barrak's comments:

The way this Kuwaiti opposition MP has broken the taboo of addressing the emir directly has set a precedent that will be difficult to reverse and is likely to be raising eyebrows in Gulf states. Twitter was going crazy with it. Historic indeed. Don't be deceived by the speaker though. He's a populist and will say anything to get the crowd roaring. But this really is unprecedented and is worth a watch.

1438 GMT: Egypt. According to the Associated Press, "several thousand" protesters are demonstrating in Cairo "to demand the president and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters ensure the country's constitution represents all factions of society". The protesters are en route to Tahrir Square, the scene of violent clashes last friday between critics and supporters of President Morsi.

1423 GMT: Syria. Meanwhile, it's been another terribly bloody day in Syria. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 86 people have already been killed across the country:

29 martyrs were reported in Damacus and its suburbs; 14 in Idlib, including 7 in Maarshorein; 10 in Raqqa including 7 field-executed; 9 in Deir Ezzor; 8 in Hama; 6 in Homs; 6 in Daraa; and 4 in Aleppo.

See our note on the LCC and their published casualty figures.

Dozens of videos from Damascus and its suburbs show the wounded, treated in field hospitals, and the dead, prepared for funeral by their families.

1415 GMT: Lebanon. According to Lebanese NNA, at least 8 people have been killed and at least 78 have been wounded.

And the death toll could rise far higher:

1411 GMT: Turkey/Syria. EA's John Horne reports:

Turkey's Foreign Minister has called on major Western powers to take immedite action in Syria to avoid a humanitarian "disaster". Speaking to the Guardian, Ahmet Davutoglu said:

How long can this situation continue? I mean in Bosnia, now we have Ban Ki-moon [the UN secretary general] apologising 20 years after. Who will apologise for Syria in 20 years' time? How can we stay idle?"

We [Turkey] are doing all we can to help these people, using all diplomatic capacity to stop this bloodshed. But there should be a much more concerted effort by the international community. The best way we can see now is direct humanitarian intervention.

We want the international community to find a solution to resolve this issue inside Syria. All means can be discussed. But there must be proper humanitarian access. We have 145,000 refugees in Turkey but there are millions of people, two million people inside Syria who are IDPs [internally displaced people]. Those that are lucky can come to Turkey. They are the lucky ones.

So there has to be humanitarian access, a humanitarian mission inside Syria, and the international community must be ready to protect it. This is the question, whether it is a buffer zone or humanitarian access – how these people are to be protected inside Syria. We are calling for an international humanitarian mission to go into Syria and be protected to stop the refugee flow.

The international community must make a decision. Humanitarian access must be guaranteed by any means that is acceptable. These people are human beings. The winter is approaching. How will they survive the winter?

We're not bomb experts, but we've seen carbombs before, and to our untrained eye, the way the explosion has ripped apart that car suggests that this was a car bomb. So does this unconfirmed report:

1350 GMT: Syria. It's destined to be buried in today's headlines, but there are large Friday protests across Syria today. The Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre reports:

Today's protests have been called "America, are you not satisfied with our blood?", reflecting the frustration and anger of many Syrians that the US government does not support the revolution and is not doing as much as it could to stop Assad's slaughter. Despite the airstrikes, shelling and fighting protests are taking place in many places, as usual. The video shows Kafaranbel in Idlib province where the regular airstrikes haven't stopped them coming up with some good signs as always.

Binnish, Idlib:

Many suburbs of Damascus are reporting larger-than-normal protests, in response to, and threatened by, the increasingly violent bombing and shelling campaigns against these areas:

Even in Darayya, a town that has been heavily hit by several waves of massacres, executions, and shelling, large protests have been held today.

See our separate feature, Syria 1st-Hand: Darayya --- 6 Weeks After the Mass Killings (Sands).

1340 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Human Rights First has issued a statement following the news from the Ministry of Interior that a policeman has been killed and another seriously injured (see 0935GMT entry). Brian Dooley from the organisation said:

News that a policeman has been killed and another seriously wounded will only deepen the human rights crisis in Bahrain.

These attacks increase the polarization in an already deeply divided society and are likely to set back prospects for peaceful reform.

1334 GMT: Lebanon. The Guardian notes that the death toll is now somewhere between 4 and 8, but could rise further. They also clarify the location of the blast in Beirut:

As far as possible political targets are concerned, MTV station said the blast took place between the headquarters of the March 14 (anti-Assad) coalition and the Kataeb (Christian Maronite) party. Ashrafiyeh is a largely Christian district.

On the other hand, El-Nashra website said the explosion ripped through a building housing a branch of BEMO – a Syrian bank.

They also note that there is a dispute as to whether this is a car bomb or, as AJE's rula Amin is testifying, the bomb blast looks like it occurred inside a building.

1307 GMT: Lebanon. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, and someone who witnessed the explosion, report live from Beirut:

1255 GMT: Lebanon. According to a journalist in Beirut speaking to Al Jazeera English, the neighborhood is a mix of commercial and residential buildings, and the explosion hit at the time when schools were getting out - the peak time for movement on the streets. If this is a car bomb, it was designed to inflict maximum civilian casualties.

1250 GMT: Lebanon. The Guardian notes report that the explosion took place near a Syrian bank, though it's not clear that the bank was a target. They also share this picture, which further suggests this was a car bomb. State media has also reported that it was the result of two car bombs. Again, all this news is unconfirmed as the explosion happened just about half an hour ago.

1242 GMT: Lebanon. Jess Hill, from the Global Mail, reports:

1234 GMT: Lebanon. A security source has told Reuters that "at least two people were killed and 15 wounded" following the bomb that exploded in Ashrafieh, the predominately Christian area of east Beirut. A witness on the scene told Reuters that they had seen at least one dead body.

EA's Scott Lucas adds this conflict to this breaking news:

Ashrafieh is the mainly Christian area in east Beirut - If this had happened three years ago --- indeed, it did happen repeatedly --- first suspect would be Syrian regime.

1230 GMT: Lebanon. Reuters reports that an "explosion rocked central Beirut during rush hour on Friday". Details are still emerging.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to John Horne and Scott Lucas for getting us started.

1046 GMT: Syria. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly rejected a Turkish proposal for a transitional government led by Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.

According to Al-Anbaa newspaper, Ahmadinejad told journalists in Kuwait, " “This means we are imposing a foreign solution on the Syrians. The solution must be Syrian rather than imposed from outside and the Syrian people should decide through elections."

Ahmadinejad reportedly met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an for 40 minutes earlier this week on the sidelines of a summit in Azerbaijan. The meeting occurred amid reports of a renewed attempt at an Egypt-Turkey-Iran "contact group" over the Syrian crisis.

1012 GMT: Syria. Insurgents claim that regime warplanes have again dropped cluster bombs in today's attacks on Ma'aret al-Numan.

Fighters showed an AFP correspondent debris from one cluster bomb and dozens of other bomblets that failed to explode on impact.

Electronic journalists and activists have been posting footage of the bombs this month. On Sunday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement accusing the Syrian air force of using the cluster bombs in populated areas.

The Syrian military has said it does not possess such weapons.

1005 GMT: Syria. The Joint Command for military and revolutionary councils, has said it is ready for a ceasefire during the Eid al-Adha holiday, as called for by United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but only if several conditions are met:

0950 GMT: Tunisia. A co-ordinator of the opposition Call of Tunisia party has died in the southern town of Tataouine amid clashes between his supporters and those of the Government.

A Call of Tunisia official said Lotfi Naguedh died after he was beaten by pro-Government demonstrators who attacked his office.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khaled Tarrouche said Naguedh had died of a heart attack.

Ennahdha, the strongest party in the ruling coalition, expressed its condolences to Naqadh’s family and called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.

0945 GMT: Syria. Bjørn Holst Jespersen, via The Aviationist, has mapped both verified and "weak" reports of the downing of 10 planes and six helicopters, as well as attacks on airbases, by insurgents. Most of the incidents have been in Aleppo and Idlib Provinces.

View Syria: downed aerial vehicles. in a larger map

(Hat-tip to The Guardian)

0940 GMT: Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post has noticed the protests and deaths in the Eastern Province, where demonstrators have been challenging the regime over detentions and rights:

The death toll here --- 14 civilians and two police officers since the beginning of last year --- is small compared with recent rebellions in other Arab countries, especially the civil war in Syria. And, unlike elsewhere, protesters here are not demanding the overthrow of their government.

They want long-denied basic rights: equal access to jobs, religious freedom, the release of political prisoners. But in the richest country in the Middle East, where even peaceful protests have long been banned, the clashes between police and demonstrators have become a big concern for King Abdullah and his ruling family.

See also Saudi Arabia Feature: An Introduction to the Protests, Prisoners, and Deaths in Qatif

0935 GMT: Bahrain. A Bahraini policeman has died of his injuries following a "terrorist bombing" after police confronted a protest on Thursday night, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Another policeman was injured in the clashes in Al-Eker, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the capital Manama.

The protesters had chanted, "The people want to topple the regime" and "Down, Down [King] Hamad".

0931 GMT: Syria. Hamza Hendawi writes for the Associated Press of a siege by insurgents on the villages of Zahraa and Nubl in Aleppo Province.

Opposition fighters have surrounded the enclaves, with about 35,000 people, since they took control of much of the province in July. They have put roadblocks, checkpoints, and snipers around the villages, forcing the government to send in supplies by helicopter.

The insurgents claim Zahraa and Nubl are harbouring pro-regime shabiha who shelled, killed, and kidnapped people in nearby villages.

0918 GMT: Turkey. Another pipeline explosion in eastern Turkey has halted the flow of Iranian natural gas and wounded 28 soldiers in a passing military vehicle, Turkish government and energy officials said.

The cause of the blast was not clear; however, the insurgent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on pipelines.

The gas flow from Iran was halted earlier this month after an explosion and resumed a week later.

0909 GMT: Bahrain. According to pro-regime Gulf Daily News, MPs have warned US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski "to keep his nose out of Bahrain's business", calling on the Government to take action over his alleged interference in domestic affairs and meetings with opposition groups.

Parliament voted unanimously for the motion, submitted seven months ago. Last October, the MPs passed a no-confidence vote on his appointment.

"[Krajeski's] comments and meetings are unacceptable for the majority of Bahrain's population because they are backing those who incite division rather than helping solve anything," said MP Hassan Al Dossary.

MP Abdulla Bin Howail added, "We respect the US and have friendly ties with them, but that doesn't mean they can interfere and tell us what to do."

0900 GMT: Yemen. At least 10 soldiers and 11 insurgents have been killed in an assault on a military base in the southern town of Shuqra, according to medical and military sources.

Sources said insurgents first attacked the coastal base with an explosives-laden car, then approached from the sea.

0850 GMT: Egypt. El-Sayed El-Badawi, the head of the Wafd Party and CEO of the Sigma media company, has been sentenced to three years in prison for writing a bad check to the Egyptian Football Association.

0450 GMT: Syria. At least 44 people died on Wednesday in the northwestern town of Ma'arat al-Numan, the target of regime airstrikes since it was claimed by insurgents more than a week ago. At least 23 of the dead are children.

Ma'arat al-Numan is in a vital location on the road between Damascus and Syria's largest city, Aleppo, where the opposition and regime forces have fought for almost three months, and its position near the Turkish border means it could be part of a "buffer zone" for the protection of civilians --- and effectively a safe area for insurgents.

At least 10 bombs were dropped on the town and its eastern outskirts, while insurgents continued to attack the nearby Wadi Deif army base, a key depot for tanks and fuel supplies.

The Local Coordination Committees reported that 230 people were killed by security forces on Thursday, including 69 in Damascus and its suburbs, 53 in Idlib Province, 35 in Aleppo Province, 24 in Homs Province, 18 in Daraa Province, and 14 in Deir Ez Zor Province.

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
Syria Today: New videos from the revolutionary war
Syrian Defector: Assad behind "terrorist" bombs
How Assad fights "terrorism" in Syria
REVISITED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
Turkey attacks Syria
Truth Out: How Assad helped France kill Qaddafi
Panetta: Unilateral U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Would Be a Serious Mistake
BREAKING: 305 Syrians slaughtered in bloodiest day yet
Syria: Secret source of rebel arms revealed
BREAKING: Amnesty on Syria - Assad Regime guilty on indiscriminate slaughter
Syrian Revolution Digest shows "disgusting" photos!
Syria: The Killing Field the World is Learning to Live With
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
LIVE VIDEO: “World Silence is Killing #Syria” Rally in #DC
Free #Syria responds to Robert Fisk
UPDATED: #Assad: "#Syria doesn't need a green light!"
#Obama opposes French support for #Assad's opposition in #Syria
BREAKING: Amnesty site hacked, Assad propaganda posted
BREAKING: 630 Slaughtered in new massacre in Syria
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
General Meade at Gettysburg
Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists
UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout