domenica 21 agosto 2011

Libya, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Endgame in Tripoli?

Map of the reported fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli

1937 GMT: AFP is reporting that the management and Swiss manager of the Rixos Hotel, the home of the international press corps, have left the building, saying staff had been warned it could be attacked.
1927 GMT: A response to President Assad's interview and talk of "dialogue" from people in the Kisweh section of Damascus:
1917 GMT: Alex Crawford of Sky News, with opposition fighters, says she is 10 kilometres from the centre of Tripoli: "Gaddafi forces put these huge boulders to block the road, it seems. We are driving right past them."
Crawford says, "There is no support for Colonel Qaddafim at least in the places we're driving through right now. No supporters."
AFP and the BBC's Matthew Price report heavy clashes near the Rixos Hotel, where the international press are housed.
1915 GMT: Claimed video of the moment that opposition fighters entered Tripoli today:
1837 GMT: And now President Assad turns to the foreign dimension: "The West don't want us to reform. Reform to these colonialist Western countries is to give them everything they want....The West want a person who will tell them, 'I'll let you do everything, I'll just stand here and watch.'....'Human rights' is a fake principle to the West."
On the prospect of action by the United Nations Security Council, Assad says this "will have huge consequences that we can never tolerate".
In an apparent reference to Turkey, Assad says, "We take advice and accept some lessons" but "mo one is allowed to interfere in Syria's decisions".
1835 GMT: President Assad combines a concession of responsibility with a get-tough posture:
A limited number of officials have been held accountable. Anyone who commits a crime will be held accountable.
Everyone who is judged and proven to have made a mistake towards the Syrian people during this crisis, will be brought to justice. The justice of blood is not just justice of the family, but justice for the whole country.
He says, "We have a judicial committee that has full authority to investigate these cases."
1832 GMT: Syrian President Assad is making a play for support of minorities. He asserts that Kurds are "nationalistic" but warns that "some parties tried to use" the naturalisation of Kurds for political gain". He continues, "Any citizens in our country should not be looked at as guests or immigrants."
In short, "The Syrian people are educated and modern people with our Kurdish brothers and sisters."
1830 GMT: Meanwhile, in Syria, President Assad is giving a highly-anticipated interview on State TV. He admits unrest has become more militant in recent weeks but he is "not worried".
Assad focuses initially on what one listener calls the "technical prattle about processes of so-called reform". He says amending Article 8 of the Constitution --- which guarantees his Ba'ath Party as the leadership of Syria --- is "illogical", as the entire constitution must be revised. He promises that, by Thursday, the regime will announce the committee tasked with reviewing new applications for political parties.
Assad says the committee reviewing the constitution will take three to six months, after which Parliamentary elections will be held.
1825 GMT: Catching up with developments in Libya....
Al Jazeera says that opposition fighters have entered the house of Muammar Qaddafi's daughter Aisha in the Bin Ashour section of Tripoli, but defiant --- and armed --- loyalists have raised the green flag of the Qaddafi regime in the lobby of the Rixos Hotel.
Sky News's Alex Crawford, with opposition fighters, says they are a kilometre and Tripoli and have "met no resistance so far".
1740 GMT: Back from a break to find this photo, of Sky News's Alex Crawford, confirming that the the base of the elite 32nd Brigade --- commanded by Muammar Qaddafi's son Khamis --- has fallen to the insurgents:
Associated Press reporters with the insurgents said they reached the western suburb of Janzour around nightfall. They were greeted by civilians lining the streets and waving rebel flags.
1630 GMT: In an audio statement broadcast on State TV, Muammar Gaddafi has called on the Libyan people to come from all regions to liberate Tripoli from the insurgents. He says he is afraid "Tripoli will burn".
1615 GMT: Reuters reports from an activist that opposition fighters are in a fierce gun battle with regime forces inside the Mitiga airbase in Tripoli's Tajoura district.
CNN's Matthew Chance reports that most regime officials have evacuated the Rixos Hotel, the base of the international media. Gunfire is reported nearby.
1555 GMT: Claimed footage of a demonstration in front of the UN Mission in Douma outside the Syrian capital Damascus:
And Hama:
And Homs:
And a protest in Zabadani near Damascus:
1550 GMT: AFP and Associated Press are both reporting that insurgents have captured a military installation on the outskirts of Tripoli, taking significant quantities of weapons.
AFP initially called the installation a "barracks", but AP says it is the base of the elite 32nd Brigade, 16 miles west of the capital. The brigade is commanded by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son Khamis.
1540 GMT: Bahraini authorities have released the country’s top nursing official, Rola al-Safar, and teachers’ union official Jalila al-Salman after the head of an international panel, investigating the events of the uprising from February, met them in prison.
Al-Safar, detained in March, is among almost 50 doctors and nurses facing charges linked to the demonstrations against the regime. At least 19 medical personnel remain in custody.
1535 GMT: Twitter and the international media are buzzing with the news, tipped off by a video on EA more than seven hours ago (0805 GMT), that "freedom fighters" landed by sea for the offensive on Tripoli.
1345 GMT: A contrasting report from Russia Today which claims that reports of unrest in Tripoli are part of a "massive psychological plan" to destabilise the Qaddafi regime --- since NATO has failed to bomb it into submission --- and that all is relatively quiet in the capital.
The correspondent continues that the opposition is using snipers in Tripoli to terrify the population. She says the only obstacle to a negotiated solution is the US-led foreign intervention, which has killed "thousands" of civilians in an attempt to save face because of American troubles in Afghanistan.
1245 GMT: Al Jazeera English's interview with Zeina Khodr, travelling with insurgents, who has reported the fall of three neighbourhoods of Tripoli to the opposition.
1225 GMT: Back from a break to find that Libyan regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has said "thousands" of soldiers are prepared to defend Tripoli against insurgents who want "bloody" revenge.
Snippets from the lengthy speech: "We have honour. Giving up means gangs will have the country: killing, killing, killing....The world has a short memory. The west needs to restore its morality. With the cover of NATO even cowards can march forward."
1105 GMT: Reuters reports that 31 regime troops have been killed and 42 captured in fighting in Tripoli.
1100 GMT: Al Jazeera English's Zeina Khodr has been reporting that insurgents are in control of the Tripoli neighbourhoods of Fashloum, Zawiyat Dahmani, and Mansoura.
However, according to Alex Crawford of Britain's Sky News,about 70 vehicles have returned to al-Mayah after reaching the western gate of Tripoli.
1020 GMT: The opposition advance towards Tripoli from the west continues. Alex Crawford of Britain's Sky News has reported live from Jaddaim, several kilometres east of Zawiya, which was claimed on Friday.
Crawford is now saying that the insurgents are in al-Mayah, 10 kilometres further along the road and about 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of the capital.
0845 GMT: A Tripoli resident describes a firefight this morning near Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's compound Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli.
The resident, "Taher", said heavy machine guns and mortars have been heard. He said he and his neighbours went out last night and blocked the roads in the area, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
"Taher" said, "We are regular people" but "we are in a war. This is a war."
0840 GMT: Police in the Egyptian capital have arrested a man who allegedly "insulted Islam" in postings on Facebook, State news agency MENA reported on Saturday.
MENA said the 23-year-old, identified as "Ayman Y.M.", posted comments "that were insulting to the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed and Islam and Muslims". No further details were given.
0830 GMT: Al Jazeera English has just reported that 450 detainees, held in a prison on a military base, have been freed by residents of the Tajoura section of Tripoli.
0805 GMT: Video of opposition fighters arriving by sea for the offensive to take Tripoli:
0630 GMT: In Syria, President Bashar Assad will try to re-assert his authority today with a nationally-televised interview. Meanwhile, overnight demonstrations maintained the challenge to his regime. In Homs, where eight people were injured earlier in the day by military operations:
And in Damascus:
0620 GMT: Matthew Price, a BBC correspondent in Tripoli, wrote about an hour ago --- Libya is two hours ahead of GMT --- "Waking up to loud explosions and gunfire in #Tripoli Can't see from here much of the skyline. Will try to get better view."
0615 GMT: In March, only a few weeks after the sudden start of the uprising against the Qaddafi regime in Libya, I rather rashly titled a LiveBlog, "Endgame in Libya?"
That projection stalled as Libya effectively split in two, with the opposition controlled the eastern part of the country and setting up its base in the second-largest city, Benghazi. The military situation fluctuated, with Qaddafi forces taking back town seized by the insurgents.
In recent weeks, however, both James Miller and I had been watching the gradual but clear advance of opposition fighters on three fronts towards the capital. Friday's takeover of Zawiya, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli, was a significant symbolic as well as military breakthrough --- the town had been taken weeks into the uprising by insurgents but then had been re-occupied after bloody fighting by Qaddafi's men. Zlitan, 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of the capital and the only major town between Tripoli and opposition-held Misurata, was "liberated" for the first time by the insurgents.
So the stage was being set for a final battle for the capital. Still, we did not expect events to occur so quickly. Last night, in what appears to be a rising by local residents anticipating an opposition advance, fighting broke out in several Tripoli neighbourhoods --- Souq al-Jomaa, Tajoura, Fashloum, Fournaj, Sabah, Ghoud al-Shayal, Hanshir, and Dahra.
In a live audio statement broadcast on State TV early this morning, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi congratulated supporters and accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of trying to steal the country's oil. He urged his followers to "march by the millions" to end the "masquerade" by an opposition "bent on the destruction of the Libyan people".

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