• Gaddafi rules out talks with Libyan rebels in latest address
• Amnesty: Saudi Arabia uses terror law to stifle dissent
• Up to eight die as hundreds of thousands protest in Syria
• Read the latest summary
8.30am: Welcome to Middle East Live. Both Syria and Libya appear locked in bloody stalemates, but they remain the places to watch.
• Around 10 people were killed in Homs on Thursday in continuing army siege, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria. Gunfire was most intense in the Bab al-Sibaa district of the city, the LCCS claimed in an email. It said there were around '10 martyrs' but their names could not be confirmed because communication to the city has been cut off.
• Video from activists continues to document the violence. One of the latest unverified clips shows a burning shop in the Bab al-Sibaa district, which activists claim was shelled by an army tank.
• The Syrian government claimed a police captain and civilian were killed in the Bab al-Sibaa district of the city. The state news agency, Sana, also said two soldiers were killed when a military bus, travelling between Aleppo and Homs, was ambushed. It blamed the deaths on 'armed terrorists'.
• The pro-regime al-Watan newspaper says 13 security personnel were killed and another 100 were injured on Thursday in clashes with armed groups in Homs.
A UN envoy to Libya is drawing up 'sequencing' proposals for Muammar Gaddafi to stand down, as the US and France have signalled that he could stay in Libya if he agreed. Ian Black, The Guardian's Middle East editor writes:
The idea that Gaddafi could remain in Libya after stepping down reflects a growing consensus that it would be hard to remove him from Tripoli without large-scale bloodshed – and impatience to conclude the Nato military action.
• In his latest audio address Gaddafi ruled out talks with the rebels. Al-Jazeera quoted him saying:
There will be no talks between me and them until Judgment Day. They need to talk with the Libyan people ... and they will respond to them.
• Libyan rebels claimed to have made significant advances with the capture of a general near Zlitan and the killing of Gaddafi's intelligence chief. The apparent breakthroughs prompted them to boast that they could be in Tripoli within days. But the Libyan government disputes the claims and says it still controls the oil town of Brega.
• The US is considering sending more predator drones to Libya and has reopened a debate over whether to arm the rebels, the LA Times reports.
Saudi Arabia is trying to stifle dissent through a new anti-terrorist law, Amnesty International warns. Leaked draft legislation proposes broadening the definition of terrorism to 'harming the reputation of the state'. Amnesty tells the BBC that the law seeks to entrench some of the most repressive practices it has ever documented.
The US has denied reports that it is planning to withdraw its fifth fleet from Bahrain. A State Department Official told the Huffington Post:
We are aware of these reports, which do not reflect the views of either the departments of State or Defence. Diplomatically, we regard Bahrain as an important partner, while the US Navy has a long-standing relationship of more than 60 years with Bahrain, which is a vital member of our combined maritime forces, supporting regional maritime security and stability.
9.21am: The Syrian opposition is so keen to play down reports of sectarian violence, that it has named today's planned protests the Friday of National Unity, Lebanon's Daily Star repots.
Opposition dissident Ammar Abdulhamid underlines the point, in his latest blogpost, by claiming that Alawites and Sunnis have been brought closer together by the army crackdown in Homs. His report is difficult to verify. Is it wishful thinking or a truer picture of what's happening Homs?
Hundreds of stores belonging to Sunni and Christian merchants were looted by Shabbiha gangs as security forces looked on and did nothing to stop them.
But security forces were quick to prevent an initial meeting of Sunni and Alawite religious figures meant to underline the strong ties that exist between the two communities in Homs.
Still, leaders from both communities did get together and issued a statement condemning crackdown by security forces and the Shabbiha. If anything, then, the current crackdown seems to be driving the communities closer, and there is now more anger among local Alawites towards the Assads and their loyalists.
Fissures within the Alawties communities are growing, and more are joining the revolution. Still the city is virtually in a 'state of war,' as some local activists put it, but the fight is between the locals and the security forces, not but between different confessional groups. The situation is having an impact on the army, with dozens of offices reportedly defecting to join the revolution.
9.58am: Yemen claims to have to killed another top al-Qaida commander, Ayed Al Shabwani, in Abyan, but analyst are sceptical.
Foreign Policy magazine says there are 'serious doubts' about the claim.
After all, this wouldn't be the first time the Yemen government has claimed they got him. Some opposition groups and analysts have said the announcement was just an attempt by the government to show it had the upper hand in the fighting - when in reality it didn't. They say the timing of the announcement - so soon after the air raid - was suspicious.
10.16am: A British airman involved in the Libya campaign died in a traffic accident in Italy, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
The airman, who has not been named, was part of a logistics team resupplying UK forces involved in the Libyan bombing campaign.
Associated Press is reporting the death as the first British casualty related to the Libya campaign.
10.42am: Claims that Alawite members of the Syrian security forces are defecting from the regime, appear to be backed up by new video clips.
Video, which activists say originates from Homs, purports to shows three members of the notorious Shabbiha forces declaring allegiance to the opposition.
My colleague Layth Qattan has been going through the clips. The first defector in this footage urges all Alawites to leave the 'barbaric regime' of President al-Assad and join hands with the Syrian people.
Another man in the clip, who presents his identity card to camera, describes seeing Syrian army troops fighting alongside Iranian annd Hizbollah fighters at a recent protest. He claims his superiors ordered security personnel to shoot protester, or be shot themselves. 'Anyone, no matter who you are, must kill or be killed,' he says.
11.24am: Mahmoud Jibril, the Libyan rebels' diplomatic chief, claims Gaddafi's forces have boobytrapped oil fields, according to an AP story on USA Today.
'Unfortunately, Brega is a big minefield right now,' Jibril told reporters after meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez.
'We discovered that they planted mines all over the place. Even some oil establishments, some oil fields, have been full of bombs, explosives.'
Brega was again targeted in the latest round of air strikes, according Nato's most recent update [pdf] on the campaign.
The latest targets hit have been added to the Guardian's interactive on the Libya bombing campaign.
11.53am: There are reports of Friday protests across Syria backed up by a steady flow of YouTube clips, and for the first time a live stream of a huge demonstration in Kesweh, a suburb of Damascus.
12.33pm: Today's protests in Syria are among some of the largest since the uprising began in March, activist claim. For the first time video of the demonstrations is live stream to the satellite channels al-Jazeera Arabic and al-Arabiya.
My colleague, Layth Qattan, has been updating this Google map with the latest videos which purport to show today's protests. Click on the icons to watch the clips. The map will be updated throughout the day.
Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, is monitoring the situation in Syria, from Geneva. He emails this round-up.
The protests are just starting. There has been some gunfire already in Deraa to disperse the crowds, and lots of security personnel are deployed across the country. There were extensive night rallies across Syria in support of Homs and many new mosques have joined the call to protest. It seems that the situation will be quite tense in the coming hours. It appears that both the crowds and the security presence is even greater than in the past weeks, so the momentum is continuing to grow.
1.50pm: Is this protest in Hama today the biggest demonstration yet in the Syrian uprising?
1.55pm: France has condemned the Syrian government for launching a reign of terror against the city of Homs, AP reports.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement that it condemns 'repression by the Syrian authorities, who continue ... to arrest and kill their own population daily.'
The ministry singled out the central city of Homs, saying dozens have been killed there in recent days. It says 'terror reigns in Homs, surrounded by the Syrian army.'
The ministry says 'the army and other security forces will have to account for their actions.'
2.05pm: Al-Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Lebanon, says the Syrian authorities appear to have given up trying to stop the protests in some cities, while cracking down on unrest in others.
In both the central city of Hama and Deir Ezzor, in the east, protesters have come out in huge numbers and there's no sign of the security forces.
More than 400,000 people gathered in Deir Ezzor, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In Hama, more footage has emerged of today's vast demonstration. Another clip shows the scene from a similar angle, at the end of the footage the camera focuses on the Ba'ath party headquarters in the city, according to the commentary.
In other cities there have been more grim videos of the violent crackdown. Footage from Aleppo showed a man drenched in blood being carried away by protesters. And in Qamishli on the border with Turkey, teargas was fired to break up a protest, activists claim.
There has also been clashes between stone-throwing protesters and the police, according to this footage which features in EA World View's video round-up.
Hundreds of police and militiamen loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad used batons to attack thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the country's mainly Kurdish city of Qamishli on Friday, witnesses said.
Police fired teargas to disperse protesters, injuring several people, witnesses added, in first major crackdown on Kurdish demonstrators reported since the start of the four-month uprising against Assad's rule.
The protesters shouted slogans demanding political freedoms, an end to discrimination against Syria's Kurdish minority, witnesses told Reuters.
2.49pm: In the Jordanian capital Amman around 300 people staged an anti-government demonstration at which the US flag was burned, an AP story carried by the Washington Post reports.
About 300 protesters chanted, 'America is the head of the snake,' as the flag burned at the protest in the capital, Amman. Most of the activists were from leftist and nationalist parties.
They also demanded prime minister Marouf al-Bakhit step down and called for press freedom in response to police attacks on journalists and activists during a protest last week.
Jordan's King Abdullah II is a staunch US ally.
3.09pm: Al-Arabiya has a very back-of-an-envelope calculation about the numbers involved in today's protests in Syria.
1.2 million Syrians protest in Deir Alzour and Hama : activists #Alarabiya
Such numbers are impossible to verify, but there is a growing consensus that today's protests have been the biggest so far in the uprising.
The state news agency Sana, quoted an information ministry source, as saying:
This is a desperate attempt to undermine the reputation of our armed forces and their noble national message of defending the homeland and its stability and protecting the citizens' security and safety.
Sana has made no mention yet of today's huge protests. As it out put the statement about defections, video emerged purporting to show military cadets marching with the protesters in Allepo.
'The Syrian people are one,' they chant in this video clip.
3.29pm: Four activists were killed in today's demonstrations and a fifth died of injuries from earlier unrest, activists claimed.
The names of those of who died are provided in the following updates:
• Hama: Khaled Ali 29 years old martyred due to his injury on 07-05 His wife is pregnant. The funeral procession will start after a short while
• Aleppo suburbs: Falling of martyr Basel Farouq Mara'anazy due to random gun fire at a demonstration in A'azaz
• Idlib: Falling of martyr Mohammad Hussain Hameed, 35 years old, his brother got shot in a demonstration in Kafroomeh #syria
• Damascus suburbs: Falling of martyr Husam Harastani after shooting at a demonstration in Mleeha
• Homs: Hussam Ratb Shaar from Khaldieh was martyred when security forces open heavy gunfire towards the protesters
My colleague, Layth Qattan, has been tracking videos which purport to show violence at today's protests. Click on the icons to see the clips.
3.51pm: Here's a better video of those cadets marching with anti-government protesters in Aleppo, Syria's second city.
'We want the overthrow of the regime,' the trainee troops chant.
3.56pm: The death toll in Syria today has increased to eight, according to AFP.
It quotes Abdel Karim Rihawi of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, as saying: 'Two demonstrators were stabbed to death in front of the Amneh mosque in Aleppo by pro-regime militiamen who entered the compound and attacked'
Footage from the mosque purports to show the moment when the security forces raided the Amneh mosque.
4.06pm: Protests are continuing in Egypt against the military government, Reuters reports.
• Hundreds of people have refused to leave Cairo's Tahrir Square since the sit-in began on July 8. 'We are continuing the sit-in because the families of the martyrs have demands that have not been met yet,' said Shadi Ghazali Harb from the Youth Coalition.
• In Alexandria, hundreds of demonstrators chanted 'Oh Tantawi, make a decision, either you are with us or you will also be tried,' in reference to the head of the army Mohamad Hussain Tantawi.
• But About 300 people held a separate rally in another part of Cairo in support of the military council, calling for 'stability' and an end to protests in Egypt.
• And Islamist groups, including the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups who advocate adherence to early Islamic teachings, plan to hold a rally in Cairo on July 29 to press for a return to stability in Egypt.
4.14pm: Here's a summary of today's events.
• Syria has witnessed what looked like the biggest demonstrations since the uprising began more than four months ago. The largest individual rallies took place in the central city of Hama and the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where the security forces appear to have given up trying to suppress the unrest. Video footage appeared to show hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in both cities, as footage of demonstrations across Syria continued to emerge.
• In other Syrian cities, notably Aleppo, Idlib and the suburbs of Damascus, the brutal crackdown continued. Up to eight people died in today's protests, activists claim. The French government accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad of unleashing a reign of terror on the city of Homs, where around 50 people were killed this week.
• The Syrian government denied reports of army defections, as more video emerged claiming to show members of the security forces who defected in Homs. Army cadets marching against the government were also filmed in Aleppo today.
• Demonstrations took place today in Egypt and Jordan. In Cairo protesters are refusing to end their sit-in of Tahrir square and continue to express frustration at the slow pace of reform from the military goverment. In Amman pro-democracy campaigners burned a US flag in protest at US interference.
• In his latest audio address, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ruled out talks with the rebels. 'There will be no talks between me and them until Judgment Day,' he said.