LIBYA

Rebel forces fight their way to the doorstep of Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, a key government stronghold guarding the road to the capital Tripoli. Their rapid advance is built on powerful international airstrikes that have battered Gadhafi’s air force, armor and troops.

The rebels’ offensive restores to the opposition all the territory they lost over the past week.

SYRIA

Syrian security forces fire tear gas on thousands of protesters in a restive southern city as President Bashar Assad faces down the most serious threat to his family’s four decades of authoritarian rule.

Assad is expected to address the nation as early as Tuesday to try to ease the crisis by lifting a nearly 50-year state of emergency and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

EGYPT

Egypt’s military rulers announce that the country’s hated emergency laws will be lifted before parliament elections set for September, the latest move to ease harsh restrictions under the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

The laws have been in place since 1981, when Mubarak took power. They give police near-unlimited powers of arrest and allowed indefinite detentions without charges. The old regulations also sharply curtailed rights to demonstrate and organize politically.

YEMEN

A powerful blast at a factory making explosives and weapons in southern Yemen kills at least 78 people after the facility is briefly taken over by Islamic militants and then looted by residents of the area, officials said.

The tragedy is rooted in Yemen’s rapidly deteriorating security under a surge of unprecedented protests that threatens to topple the autocratic president who has ruled the impoverished and divided nation for 32 years.

JORDAN

A judicial official says 25 protesters blamed for Jordan’s most violent unrest in three months of pro-democracy demonstrations have been released. The official refused to say why they were freed. But the government is trying to ease tension with the opposition, who accuse it of ordering police to use unjustified force to disperse a peaceful protest calling for reforms.