– Last Friday saw renewed protests across the country, most notably around Deraa and in Damascus. In Damascus tens of thousands reportedly reached the heart of the city, I believe the Midan area.
– On Saturday the army sent reinforcements (around 300) to Deraa to strengthen the blockade of the city, which began on April 25. The government says the siege was enacted “at the request of citizens to protect them from armed criminal groups.”
– Other blockades (or signs of one) have been reported in Al Rastan (outside Homs), Baniyas, and Dair Al Zour.
– In the wake of violence, President Obama issued sanctions against Mahir Al-Assad, Ali Mamluk and Atif Najob. In addition, two groups are sanctioned: the “Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.”
– In the second half of the week there have been sweeping arrests across the country. Hundreds, if not more, have been taken into custody.
– On Wednesday, the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon called President Assad to “[reiterate] his calls for an immediate end to violence and mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators.” Assad seemed to be receptive.
– Troops begin to withdraw from Deraa, but citizens see little change. Troops supposedly moving to blockade other cities.
– With hardly any independent verification inside Syria accusations of propaganda are coming from all sides. One controversy surrounded a video that supposedly shows a Republican Guard soldier after his defection; read our previous post for more info.
– A Syrian opposition coalition released the National Initiative for Change, which calls for a transition away from the Assad family.
– In a sign of economic stress, Syrian Banks have been asked to help stabilize the currency.
– Last Friday there was a ‘Massive rally in Yemen [urging] Saleh to go’. 100,000 people gathered on Siteen Street in Sana’a in commemoration of the 142 people who have died over the past three months.
– Demonstrations have been split among those who want to see the President leave power immediately, and those who are scared of the chaos that might ensue if he does.
– The JMP announced today that the deal between Saleh and the GCC has collapsed. Not many people inside Yemen expected this deal to work, and most saw it as a ploy by Saleh to stay in power. As one Yemen evacuee commented, “saleh is trying to play a game of attrition with the protesters.”
– One source in Sana’a, who wishes to remain anonymous, paints a very tumultuous picture of Yemen’s future.
– We have gotten reports of increasing electricity and gas shortages in Sanaa along with the potential for server economic problems. The government is already having a very hard time paying employees.
– Here is a good Who’s Who guide to the Yemeni opposition. This could be useful when reviewing American Enterprise Institute’s three possible scenarios for Yemen:
– People are closely watching Egypt’s recent foreign policy moves. Most notably the negotiation of the Hamas-PLO unification, the opening of the Rafa border crossing, and the refusal to condem the violence in Syria.
– Bank reserves are at the lowest level in four years as the Egyptian economy continues to take a hit.
– Former security chief Habib el-Adly was sentenced to 12 years in prison and still faces additional charges. This signaled the army’s willingness to prosecute the old regime.
– A NATO airstrike on Saturday killed one of Qaddafi’s sons and three of his grand children. Russia , China and India criticized the strikes and an angry mob responded by attacking the British and Italian embassies in Tripoli.
Osama Bin Laden:
–The big story of the week is the death of Osama bin Laden during a US Navy Seal operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. We’ll let mainstream news agencies cover this, but here is our post, and two very well written reactions that we reposted.