Feb
14

Syria, Bahrain and Middle East unrest – live updates

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• UN ‘failure’ leaves Assad free to launch all-out assault
• Bombardment of Homs continues, say activists
• Thousands to take to streets to mark Bahrain anniversary
• Suicide bomb attack ahead of Yemen poll

9.06am: China has sent an envoy to Cairo to meet with the head of the Arab League amid growing diplomatic pressure over Syria.

The envoy, Li Huaxin, had an “extremely frank and useful” exchange with League chief Nabil Elaraby yesterday, Reuters quotes the Chinese foreign ministry as saying.

According to a statement on the ministry’s website, Li said:

Given the constantly escalating Syrian situation, the purpose of this visit to Cairo was to explain China’s position and policies to the Arab League and Arab countries, and listen to their opinions.

So far China has made its position on Syria reasonably clear, vetoing two draft UN resolutions on the crisis and remaining muted in reaction to an Arab League proposal for a joint UN/Arab peacekeeping force in the country.

It has not won it many friends: as Reuters writes, Elaraby had previously said that the veto had cost China- and Russia- diplomatic credit in the Arab world.

9.00am: The first casualty of the day has been reported in Syria by the Local Coordination Committees.

Imad Fauzi Qutaish died this morning from injuries sustained during an attack by security forces in the town of Musaifra in Daraa province ten days ago, it reports.

Meanwhile, here is another video claiming to show the shelling of Homs. Posted this morning, it appears to have been taken yesterday and to show the shelling of a building. Activists are reporting that the bombardment of the city is continuing this morning.

8.48am: Good morning and welcome to Middle East live. Today we’ll be keeping our eyes on the continuing bloodshed in Syria as well as the anniversary protests in Bahrain.

For the moment, here’s a brief summary of developments across the region.

Syria

Failure by the United Nations to take action on Syria has emboldened the regime of Bashar al-Assad to mount an all-out assault on his opponents, the UN’s human rights chief warned. Navi Pillay said the situation in Homs was “deplorable”. At the UN general assembly in New York, she said the Syrian government had “manifestly failed” to fulfil its obligation to protect its population.

Homs continues to come under “brutal shelling” this morning, according to activists with the Local Coordination Committees. Yesterday 37 people died in violence across the country, the Syrian Revolution General Commission reported.

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are to meet in Paris on Friday to discuss a possible increase in help to Syrian rebels, including giving them military advice, reports the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour. At the meeting the two leaders are likely to discuss what practical help they can give the Free Syrian Army, and how best to progress ideas for a UN-Arab League peacekeeping force.

Bahrain

Thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets today to mark the one-year anniversary of the Bahraini uprising. Clashes between security forces and protesters have continued overnight, the BBC reports. Yesterday thousands of people trying to march to Pearl Square were shot at with teargas and stun grenades.

Israel/Iran

Tensions between Israel and Iran rose sharply on Monday when bombers struck at Israeli Embassy personnel in the capitals of India and Georgia. Israel accused the Tehran government of being behind the attacks, which Iran denied. In the Delhi attack, the wife of an Israeli defense envoy was hurt along with several other people.

Despite the relatively minimal damage, the consequences of the attacks could prove to be disastrous, writes Ian Black:

In the tinder box that is the Middle East, sparks such as these can set off a huge conflagration. Much depends, as always, on how governments choose to respond.

Yemen

A suicide bomber has today blown himself up in front of a Yemeni election committee office in the southern city of Aden, a security official said, one week before an election to replace outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It was the latest sign of opposition to the vote, which has been rejected by southern separatists, northern Shi’ite rebels and Islamist militants, reports Reuters.

Lizzy Davies

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