July 8th, 2011
02:48 PM ET

Syria slams U.S. diplomat's trip to Hama

The embattled Syrian regime is accusing the U.S. ambassador of inciting protests in the restive city of Hama, but a State Department official called that claim "absolute rubbish" Friday.

The state-run Syrian media says U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford also met with "saboteurs" and undermined its national dialogue initiative during a visit to that city.

The government said Ford did not ask for proper permission to travel there, where thousands of people have taken to the streets for anti-government protests in recent days, including a huge turnout on Friday.

"This U.S. conduct is also aimed at obstructing dialogue and political solutions undertaken by the leadership in Syria," according to a media source quoted by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on Friday.

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Reporters escorted to Syrian protests
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and first lady Asma al-Assad kneel Thursday to touch a giant flag created by supporters at a sports stadium in Damascus.
July 1st, 2011
08:47 AM ET

Reporters escorted to Syrian protests

Anti-government demonstrators in Syria took to the streets on Friday, a common sight after weekly Muslim prayers since the protests began more than three months ago. But this day of countrywide demonstrations had a different twist.

The Syrian regime, which earlier this week permitted a gathering of opposition activists as criticism mounted against the government, escorted international reporters, including CNN's Arwa Damon, to anti-government protests.

She witnessed a protest of a few hundred people in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh, hearing people chant for freedom and call for the downfall of the regime.

Syria has been engulfed in violence during more than three months of anti-government discontent. Human rights activists have said that Syrian security forces have been launching violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters since mid-March. World powers have denounced the regime for its fierce clampdown on protests.

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On the Radar: Ex-IMF chief's case, royal wedding, Syria, Casey Anthony, Panetta
Former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn will have a court hearing Friday.
July 1st, 2011
08:14 AM ET

On the Radar: Ex-IMF chief's case, royal wedding, Syria, Casey Anthony, Panetta

Doubts in Strauss-Kahn case – A source familiar with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case tells CNN that prosecutors are expected to notify the court Friday about troubling believability issues with the hotel maid who alleged the former International Monetary Fund chief sexually assaulted her. Prosecutors disclosed the problem in a meeting Thursday with Strauss-Kahn's defense team, the official said. In a hastily scheduled court hearing set for Friday morning, the defense will ask the court to modify Strauss-Kahn's bail.

Syria demonstrations – Activists expect protests to across Syria on Friday to demand the departure of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said al-Assad is "running out of time."

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At town Syrians fled, government gives its side of story
June 28th, 2011
07:45 PM ET

At town Syrians fled, government gives its side of story

Editor's note: CNN's Arwa Damon is reporting from Syria, where violence has prompted hundreds of people to flee to Turkey. Critics of the Syrian government accuse it of killing unarmed demonstrators; the government blames what it says are armed gangs bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate. This is a post that Damon filed Tuesday from Jisr al-Shougour, a Syrian town where some refugees are from.

We had just passed the "Homs 40km" sign when we saw the first tanks stationed along the Damascus-Aleppo highway and the sandbagged fighting positions. The closer we got to the town of Jisr al-Shoughour, the more the Syrian landscape reminded me of a military zone.

Stuffed in each vehicle in our government convoy were members of the media, official escorts and drivers packing AK-47s. By the time we were heading into downtown Jisr al-Shoughour, we'd also picked up two truckloads of soldiers, all apparently for our protection.

We are told that the foreign-backed armed gangs the government blames for the violence still pose a threat.

For weeks we had been reporting on the government crackdown from the Syria-Turkey border. We listened to harrowing stories from refugees who fled Jisr al-Shoughour and surrounding villages with just the clothes on their backs, convinced that should they have stayed, they would have been at the mercy of the full wrath of the Syrian military. Crouched under makeshift tents or crammed into refugee camps, they told of Syrian security forces indiscriminately opening fire on demonstrators, mass arrests and killings.

The conversations echoed in my mind - the tremors of terror in their voices, the fear I had seen in their eyes - as we drove through the town so many of them once called home.

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June 24th, 2011
01:41 PM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence. Here are the latest developments from each country and information about the roots of the unrest.

SYRIA

The European Council on Friday condemned "in the strongest possible terms the ongoing repression and unacceptable and shocking violence the Syrian regime continues to apply against its own citizens."

"By choosing a path of repression instead of fulfilling its own promises on broad reforms, the regime is calling its legitimacy into question," the council said.

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday after Muslim prayers, as they had on past Fridays in recent weeks. Protests were held in various locations, including Hama, Homs, Deir El Zour, Idlib, Qameshli, Latakia, and in neighborhoods of Damascus, according to Rami Abdelrahman, head of the London-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights.

GPS: Why the odds are against the protesters in Syria

The group reported 11 deaths: 10 in Friday demonstrations and one death from injuries suffered in a demonstration a few days ago.

Damascus streets contrast sharply with border chaos

On Thursday, the alliance voted to expand sanctions against Syria by freezing the assets of seven people and four businesses with connections to the regime. Among those sanctioned were three commanders in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps accused of helping the "regime suppress protests" and "providing equipment and support" to the government, according to the European Union Official Journal.

Abdelrahman said that in al-Kasweh, in the province of Damascus, security forces fired at protesters, resulting in injuries. Estimated deaths have exceeded 1,600, he said, with 1,316 civilians and 341 soldiers and security forces killed.

An estimated 10,000 people have been jailed, Abdelrahman said, but that number is fluid because there have been many releases and new detentions. The military crackdown has spurred the flight of refugees from Syria into Turkey.

At least 11,739 refugees are now in Turkey, the Hatay governor's office in Turkey said Friday.

Roots of unrest: The unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for freedom and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's Cabinet lifted an emergency law that had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has chartered ships to ferry people cut off from their families since war erupted four months ago.

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Syrian regime faces EU condemnation
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gives a speech at Damascus University in Syria on June 20, 2011.
June 24th, 2011
08:35 AM ET

Syrian regime faces EU condemnation

The European Union is drafting a declaration on Syria that could call into question the "legitimacy" of the Bashar al-Assad regime, and injuries have been reported as more anti-government demonstrations erupted across the country on Friday.

A representative for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said European Union leaders are preparing a final declaration on Syria on Friday.

A line in the draft version says that "Syrian authorities by choosing aggression instead of broad reforms are calling into question the legitimacy of the regime" but that line is subject to change.

This comes a day after the alliance voted Thursday to expand sanctions against Syria by freezing the assets of seven people and four businesses with connections to the regime.

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June 21st, 2011
11:05 AM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

SYRIA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered another general amnesty Tuesday for those accused of crimes, Syrian state TV reported. It's the second known amnesty overture from the embattled Syrian leader since protests erupted in the Middle Eastern country.

GPS: Another deeply disappointing speech by Bashar al-Assad

Ammar Qurabi, chairman of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, said Tuesday that dozens of protesters were arrested Monday during peaceful anti-government demonstrations in the city of Aleppo.

State TV showed images Tuesday of thousands joining pro-regime rallies in cities such as Daraa, Aleppo and Homs. Some in the crowds chanted, "With our blood, with our souls, we will sacrifice for you, Bashar" and "God, Syria and Bashar only."

At least 10,718 Syrian refugees, many of whom fled a military advance in and around the city of Jisr al-Shugur, have crossed the border into Turkey, the Turkish government said.

Diplomats, reporters and U.N. agencies visited northern Syria in a government-sponsored trip on Monday. The war-battered town of Jisr al-Shugur was virtually deserted.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says Syrian officials agreed to give the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent wider access to areas of unrest and that the government has "expressed its readiness" to discuss ICRC visits to detainees.

Opinion: Obama can't 'lead from behind' on Syria

Roots of unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for "freedom," "dignity" and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's cabinet lifted an emergency law, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

FULL POST

June 20th, 2011
01:19 PM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

GPS: Corruption and the Arab spring

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

SYRIA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday offered vague promises of reform and clear threats against protesters. The Syrian leader said he was "working on getting the military back to their barracks as soon as possible" but also warned that the government would "work on tracking down everyone who shed blood or plotted in shedding the blood of the Syrian people, and we will hold them accountable." He raised the possibility of amending the country's constitution and referred to the need for a "national dialogue" - but made clear that his government would not engage in one-on-one talks with the opposition.

– Human rights activist Malath Aumran claimed that security forces attacked people at Aleppo University and arrested more than 50 students, some of whom were protesting against the Assad speech. CNN could not independently confirm the report.

– The European Union Monday condemned "in the strongest possible terms the worsening violence in Syria." The EU appealed to Syrian authorities to "put an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and intimidations, release all those arrested in connection with protests, as well as other political prisoners who remain in detention despite the recent amnesty."

– Syria's state news agency on Monday claimed a mass grave in Jisr al-Shugur - where thousands of people have fled a Syrian military offensive - contained "bodies of the martyrs of security forces and police who were assassinated by the armed terrorist gangs." The state news agency said a large cache of weapons had been discovered in the town, which is situated near the Turkish border.

Roots of unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for "freedom," "dignity" and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's cabinet lifted an emergency law, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

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On the Radar: Wimbledon served up, Libya funds threatened, al-Assad blames gangs
Serena Williams, left, has won Wimbledon four times. Her sister, Venus, has won the tournament five times.
June 20th, 2011
08:53 AM ET

On the Radar: Wimbledon served up, Libya funds threatened, al-Assad blames gangs

First day of Wimbledon There's no shortage of storylines this year at Wimbledon. High on that list, as usual, are the sisters Williams. Venus and Serena hold nine Wimbledon titles between the two of them, but observers are still trying to determine if Serena is rusty or if the Williams sisters are "the ones to beat" at the grass-court tournament. Never mind that Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki is the top seed.

There's also the continuing saga of Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Switzerland's Roger Federer. The No. 3-seeded Federer snapped a historic winning streak by the No. 2-seeded Djokovic at the French Open two weeks ago. Now Federer is importing a little smack talk into the mix, saying, "I know I can beat Novak on any surface. ... I've done that in the past. Just because he's on a great winning streak doesn't mean he's unbeatable."

As for the No. 1 seed, Spain's Rafa Nadal is taking a different tack from Federer and playing down the chances of snaring his 11th Grand Slam title.

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Syrian forces enter village near Turkish border, sources say
A Syrian refugee waves his nation's flag Saturday at a camp in Turkey.
June 18th, 2011
09:24 AM ET

Syrian forces enter village near Turkish border, sources say

Syrian security forces determined to quell a three-month uprising stormed the northern village of Badama, near the Turkish border, a witness and an activist said Saturday.

Units entered the village equipped with at least six tanks, 21 armed personnel carriers, 10 security buses and randomly fired at houses, the Syrian activist said, adding that security forces also closed the road to the village of Khirbet Aljooz.

Jameel Saib, an eyewitness near the Turkish border, told CNN people that displaced Syrians trying to enter Badama to get bread and supplies saw the Syrian forces close roads leading to the border.

If Badama is taken, Syrian refugees who want to escape the violence in their country will have no medicine or clean water, Saib said.

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Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country
A screen grab from YouTube video shows smoke billowing during clashes between Syrian anti-government protesters and security forces in Syria.
June 17th, 2011
02:33 PM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Starting a revolution with technology

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

Prayer and politics: How Friday became the Middle East's day of protest

SYRIA

Protests unfolded in several towns big and small across the country, including the Damascus area, Latakia, Homs and Hama, where thousands of people took to the streets, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Abdelrahman said four people died in Homs and one in Deir El Zour during demonstrations in Syria. The Lebanese army said fighting over the Syrian issue in the Lebanese city of Tripoli left at least four dead.

Three Syrian security personnel were injured by "militants" in a Damascus suburb, the government's state-run TV said, the first report of violence on another tense Friday of mass protests erupting across the nation.

Rami Makhlouf, the powerful head of the Syriatel phone company and part of the regime's inner circle, has announced that he plans to quit his business and go into charity work. Makhlouf, who is the cousin and confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, is widely unpopular among protesters and is a symbol among many citizens of the regime.

Many Syrians fleeing the violence continued to pour across the Turkish border, with the number of refugees now more than 9,600.


In the Altinozu refugee camp across the restive Syrian border, actress Angelina Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency, is visiting Syrian refugees in Turkey on Friday, a trip aimed at shining a spotlight on the plight of civilians in the country.

TIME.com: Syrian tends to refugees

Roots of Unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for "freedom," "dignity" and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's Cabinet lifted an emergency law, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

Syrian crackdown 'revolting,' State Department spokeswoman says 
Opinion: What could shake Syria's regime

FULL POST

Jolie in Turkey to meet Syrian refugees
June 17th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Jolie in Turkey to meet Syrian refugees

Actress Angelina Jolie, a longtime goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency, arrived in southern Turkey on Friday to visit Syrian refugees, a high-profile trip focusing attention on misery faced by ordinary citizens who have escaped violence in turbulent Syria.

Jolie, who is scheduled to visit the Altinozu refugee camp, arrived at the airport in Hatay and was greeted by officials, according to the state-run Anatolian Agency.

Hatay provincial officials had vans for the trip to Altinozu, and "toys unloaded from the plane were loaded to one of the vans in her convoy," the agency reported.

More than 9,600 Syrian men, women, and children have fled their country for Turkey to escape violence, including a military offensive in the Jisr al-Shugur area.

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Tension grips Syria on another Friday of protests
Syrian boys stand behind a fence at the Turkish Red Crescent camp Friday, 30 kilometers from the Syrian border.
June 17th, 2011
09:58 AM ET

Tension grips Syria on another Friday of protests

Three Syrian security personnel were injured by "militants" in a Damascus suburb, the government's state-run TV said, the first report of violence on another tense Friday of mass protests erupting across the nation.

The Syrian government has consistently blamed the protest casualties on "armed gangs" and the TV report said the injuries occurred when the perpetrators opened fire in Al-Qaboun, just outside the capital.

Protests unfolded in several towns big and small across the country, including the Damascus area, Latakia, Homs, and Hama, where thousands of people took to the streets, according to Rami Abdelrahman, of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country
Syrian refugees in a camp on the Turkish border protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday.
June 16th, 2011
01:28 PM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

[Updated 1:28 p.m.] Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

SYRIA

The number of Syrian refugees now in Turkey stands at 8,904, Turkish emergency officials said on Thursday.

This increase comes as Turkish government officials, such as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, met with a special Syrian envoy to help stem the growing tide of refugees.

The U.N. human rights office called for "a thorough probe into the allegations of widespread abuses committed by Syrian authorities during their violent crackdown."

A preliminary report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that as of mid-June, the number of those killed during such incidents is believed to have exceeded 1,100 persons, many of them unarmed civilians; among them were women and children." That's over a period of three months.

The OHCHR said reports indicate than up to 10,000 people have been detained over three months, and it has received information that security forces "have perpetrated acts of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment against detainees, resulting in death in custody in some cases."

Syrian civilian: Why is our president killing us?

The report, which covers the period from March 15 to Wednesday, is based on data from U.N. agencies. human rights activists, a small number of victims and witnesses, and various groups. The OHCHR said it had to rely on these sources because it hasn't been able to get staffers "on the ground in Syria."

Roots of Unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for "freedom," "dignity" and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's Cabinet lifted an emergency law, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

Opinion: What could shake Syria's regime?

FULL POST

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country
Syrian refugees make their way to the Turkish border. The U.N. said 10,000 Syrians have fled into neighboring countries.
June 15th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

Arab Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

SYRIA

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to huddle with a special Syrian envoy on Wednesday in an effort to help stem the growing tide of refugees racing into Turkey from conflict-wracked Syria. The number of Syrians who have crossed the border now stands at 8,421, according to Turkey's disaster and emergency management directorate.

CNN reporter, briefly in Syria, hears 'horror' stories

That flight has been spurred by violence and a military offensive in the conflict-scarred country, and Turkey is worried that the border crisis could deteriorate and destabilize the region.

Of the refugees, 4,368 are children and 73 Syrians are now being treated in Turkish hospitals, the emergency directorate said. More than 1,230 tents have been set up in a number of locations.

Actress Angelina Jolie, a longtime goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency, has submitted an application to visit the refugees in Turkey, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal confirmed to CNN by phone. He says the government is "evaluating" the request.

GPS: The consequences of Syrian refugees in Turkey

Roots of Unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for "freedom," "dignity" and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's Cabinet lifted an emergency law, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

Analysis: Why U.N. won't act against Syria

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Wednesday's live video events
June 15th, 2011
07:34 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on the fallout from Rep. Anthony Weiner's confession.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case today in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.

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Filed under: Anti-Islam • Arizona • Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • District of Columbia • Florida • Islam • Justice • Libya • Military • On CNN.com today • Politics • Religion • Security • Syria • U.S. • World
June 14th, 2011
08:58 PM ET

CNN reporter, briefly in Syria, hears 'horror' stories

As the Syrian military on Tuesday continued its relentless advance against protesters, citizens who had fled their homes for safety related "horror story upon horror story" to a reporter who managed to enter the country.

Despite the Syrian government's consistent refusal to give CNN and other international news organizations permission to enter the country, a CNN reporter crossed the Turkish border into northwestern Syria for a few hours Tuesday

A number of people said they had witnessed bombings around the city as they fled. One man said soldiers shot at him, and a woman said she witnessed death.

"They set our fields on fire, destroyed our homes," said a woman who added that she was planning to try to cross into Turkey for protection. But others said they would remain in Syria, some hoping to find loved ones lost in the chaos, others hoping against hope to return to their homes.

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June 14th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

LIBYA

NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there. The alliance recently extended its mission - officially to protect civilians in Libya from Gadhafi's efforts to crush an uprising that has left rebels in control of parts of the country - for another 90 days, into September.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany formally recognizes the rebel Transitional National Council as the representative of the Libyan people, putting Berlin in line with the United States, France, Italy and a handful of other countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed for diplomatic support for the rebels at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UAE has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate Libyan government.

After a siege of nearly two months, rebels have freed the city of Al-Rayyana, northeast of Zintan, said rebel fighter Talha Al-Jiwali. Nine rebels were killed, and 35 were wounded.

What should NATO bomb first, soldiers or Gadhafi himself?

Roots of Unrest: Protests in Libya started in February when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government responded with a $24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment and demands for freedom have also fueled the protests.

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Shelling and shooting - Syrian military faces off against opposition
Syrian mourners attend a funeral service for an anti-regime protester Saturday on the Syrian side of the Syria-Turkey border.
June 12th, 2011
11:52 AM ET

Shelling and shooting - Syrian military faces off against opposition

About 200 military vehicles stormed the Syrian town of Jisr al-Shugur on Sunday as helicopters armed with machine guns hovered, local activists said. Heavy shelling also fell in the northwestern town, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

Syrian state television reported Sunday that military units have entered Jisr al-Shugur to "cleanse the national hospital from the elements of the armed gangs after disabling the explosives and the various TNT devices that these gangs planted on the bridges and roads." The state-run network reported that authorities in the town had found a mass grave containing members of security forces who were killed by "armed gangs."

Explainer: How will the Syrian crisis unfold?

Are you in Syria? Share your stories, photos or videos with iReport.

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Syria: Soldiers kill, arrest 'armed terrorist groups'
A Syrian boy stands near the entrance to a tent Saturday at a refugee camp in Hatay, Turkey.
June 11th, 2011
07:56 AM ET

Syria: Soldiers kill, arrest 'armed terrorist groups'

Syrian soldiers working to retake a rebellious northern town killed, wounded and arrested members of "armed terrorist groups" operating in the region, state media reported Saturday.

This development unfolded as Syrian troops on Friday afternoon came to the entrances of the city, Jisr Al-Shugur, in an operation "to restore security and tranquility to the area which was being terrorized by armed terrorist groups," the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

This military offensive took place amid anti-government protests raging across Syria for nearly three months, outpourings that have led to violent security crackdowns on demonstrators.

Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime has consistently blamed what it calls armed gangs for the bloodshed over the last three months. But activists and protesters say security forces have caused the violence.

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