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Update, 12:31 pm: According to Al Jazeera, President Ben Ali has fled the country and the military is now in control of the country.

Update, 11:58 am: France24 reports that the Tunisian military has taken control of the airport and closed the country's airspace. It's currently unclear if this is part of a larger move by the military to assert power in the destabilized country.

As protesters sweep Tunisia's capital, demanding the immediate resignation of President Ben Ali and clashing violently with police, Ali has dismissed the Tunisian government and dissolved Parliament. He has also called for new elections in six months. As night approaches in Tunis, much of the city is still in chaos, with the police announcing a strict curfew and ban on public gatherings of more than three people. Ali, who has been president of autocratic and restrictive Tunisia since 1987, yesterday announced that he would step down in 2014 in a failed effort to quell protests. Tunisia's protests began in late December. Al Jazeera is streaming live coverage here. Here are the initial reactions to this latest development.

  • 'Soft Coup' Only Way Forward  "The only path forward I can see which doesn't involve significant bloodshed and chaos is a 'soft coup,'" writes Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch, "with a caretaker government and promise of rapid move to elections. I hope that somebody -- the Obama administration, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, President Sarkozy--is ready to make that quiet phone call and tell Ben Ali that his service to his nation has come to an end. This could end well ... or it could end bloody."
In a sign of a deepening political stand-off in the North African nation, increasingly being referred to on social media platforms as the 'Jasmine Revolution', thousands of protesters converged in front of the interior ministry building on Friday, chanting slogans such as 'Ben Ali, leave!' and 'Ben Ali, thank you but that's enough!'. ...
Najib Chebbi, a former leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party and managing editor of the weekly Mawkis newspaper, told Al Jazeera: "What we need now is not speeches or compromises, but a mechanism to carry them out. "The ruling party cannot keep its monopoly on political life. We are under a one-party system and the failure of this system has produced these protests."
  • Ali's Unprecedented Speech  Tunisian blogger Youssef Gaigi calls it "unprecedented" and "a major shift in Tunisia’s history." He explains, "Ben Ali talked in the Tunisian dialect instead of Arabic for the first time ever. ... He spoke directly to the police forces and ordered them not to shoot, unless in cases of self-defense. On the same line he said a commission will investigate in the murders that occurred."
  • Here are a handful of the many comments on Twitter, including from Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation and "abuaardvark," who is Foreign Policy contributor Marc Lynch.

Al Arabiya reports that there are "serious disagreements" within the Tunisian dictator's governing party at this time.less than a minute ago via web

To those who inflated Iran's soft power in the region, the events in Tunis are of much greater import for Arabs than post-vote Iran demos.less than a minute ago via web

There appears to be a revolution happening in Tunisia today.less than a minute ago via web

See what it would take to reverse what Gamal Abdul Nasser did to the Arab world when he installed himself & others as dictators. #Tunisialess than a minute ago via web

United States has given significant military/security support to the Tunisian dictatorship as part of its "war on terror"less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

Ben Ali's proposed concessions would basically bring Tunisia up to the level of Egypt.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

can Tunisia's democratic revolution inspire others in the Arab world with the help of al Jazeera? A good friend in Hamas thinks it willless than a minute ago via web

Ben Ali's pledge to stop shooting Tunisian civilians lasted less than 24hrs according to latest reports! Protests will just get biggerless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

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