Middle East Updates Officials Say Bombings Kill 13 People in Iraq's Capital

Protester shot dead in Egypt ahead of anniversary of 2011 uprising; Japan vows not to give up on efforts to rescue two nationals held by ISIS; eight Lebanese troops killed fighting militants near Syria border; Kerry and Iranian foreign minister meet in Davos.

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In this Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition
In this Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalitionCredit: AP
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Haaretz

For Friday's updates, click here

10:26 P.M. Tens of thousands protest after president resigns in Yemen

Tens of thousands of Yemenis marched in protest on Saturday against Shiite rebels who hold the capital, amid a power vacuum in a country that is home to what Washington describes as Al-Qaida's most dangerous offshoot.

Some 20,000 hit the streets of the capital, Sanaa, where demonstrators converged on the house of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resigned Thursday along with his Cabinet. It was the largest protest since the rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital in September.

Protesters carried banners and chanted slogans denouncing the rebels and demanding the restoration of the president. Scuffles involving knives and batons broke out in one instance in Sanaa when the rebels tried to block one procession, leaving two demonstrators and one Houthi injured.

"Houthi aggressors, out of the capital," went one chant, and "Hadi, Hadi, return. Your people are awake," said another. One slogan accused the Houthis, who adhere to a sect of Shiism, of being clients of mostly Shiite Iran, while another said they were colluding with Hadi's predecessor, longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh. Security officials said Houthi gunmen fired on demonstrators in the port city of Hodeida, injuring three people.

Security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, said tens of thousands also demonstrated in the cities of Taiz, Ibb and Dhamar with similar demands. (AP)

8:30 P.M. Officials say bombings kill 13 people in Iraq's capital

A series of bombings, mainly targeting Shiite neighborhoods, killed at least 13 people in Baghdad on Saturday, said Iraqi officials.

Police officials said one bomb exploded Saturday near a small restaurant in Baghdad's mainly Shiite southeastern district of Zafaraniyah, killing four people and wounding 13.

Later, police say a bomb blast missed a passing police patrol, but killed three civilians and wounded eight in western Baghdad. They say the blast also damaged several cars.

At night, a blast near a cafe in Baghdad's Shiite district of al-Ameen killed three people and wounded eight others.

Also, a bomb exploded near a bus stop and a line of shops selling vegetables and fruit in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Mashtal, killing three people and wounding seven others. (AP)

7:16 P.M. Protester shot dead at leftist party march in central Cairo

An Egyptian political party statement says a female protester was shot dead by police at a march in downtown Cairo.

The leftist Popular Alliance party says that police shot its member Shaimaa el-Sabagh with birdshot Saturday evening as the group peacefully marched toward Tahrir Square to lay a commemorative wreath of roses on the eve of the 4th anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising.

A Ministry of Health confirmed that a female protester died from birdshot injuries to her head and body. Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, say they arrested 11 people following clashes. (AP)

4:10 P.M. U.S., allies conduct air strikes in Syria and Iraq

The United States and its coalition partners have launched another round of air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, conducting 26 strikes since early Friday.

In a statement on Saturday from the Combined Joint Task Force leading the military operation, officials said 13 strikes hit in Syria and also 13 hit in Iraq.

In Syria, 12 air strikes targeted Islamic State positions near Kobani. In Iraq, five strikes hit near Mosul and five near Tal Afar, the statement said. (Reuters)

10:48 A.M. Obama to cut short India visit, fly to Saudi Arabia

U.S. President Barack Obama will cut short his visit to India on Tuesday to fly to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah, sources in the Indian capital familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment. Obama was due to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday for a three-day trip, and will attend the Republic Day parade at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Reuters)

10:45 A.M. Eight Lebanese troops killed fighting militants near Syria border

A Lebanese military official says a daylong battle with Syria-based militants near the border has killed eight soldiers.

The official says Lebanese troops found the bodies of three missing soldiers Saturday on the outskirts of the northeastern Lebanese village of Ras Baalbek. (AP) Read the full article

8:17 A.M. Japan vows not to give up on 2 hostages till 'the very end'

Japan promised Saturday not to give up "until the very end" on efforts to rescue two Japanese hostages threatened with beheading by Islamic militants demanding a $200 million ransom, after a deadline passed with no word from the captors.

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group posted an online warning Friday afternoon that the "countdown has begun" for the extremists to kill 47-year-old Kenji Goto and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa. The extremists gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 72 hours to pay the ransom, and the deadline expired Friday.

The posting, which appeared on a forum popular among Islamic State militants and sympathizers, did not show any images of the hostages, who are believed to be held somewhere in Syria.

Yasuhide Nakayama, a deputy foreign minister sent to Amman, Jordan, said he was working around the clock to coordinate efforts to save the hostages.

"We will not rule out any possibility, and we are verifying all information thoroughly," he said. "We will not give up. I believe it is my duty to ensure we will definitely get them back home, and I will do my utmost to do so."

Yet, the fate of the two men remained unclear Saturday.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga was asked about Friday's message and said Japan was analyzing it.

"The situation remains severe, but we are doing everything we can to win the release of the two Japanese hostages," Suga said. He said Japan is using every channel it can find, including local tribal chiefs, to try to reach the captors.

He said there has been no direct contact with the captors. (AP)

1:10 A.M. Kerry and Iranian FM meet in Davos, in push to reach deal on nuclear program

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif met in Davos Thursday, a senior State Department official said, the latest in an intensifying series of talks to reach a deal on Iran's disputed nuclear program.

There was no immediate word on whether the two men had made progress in the hour-long session on a deal to curb Iran's nuclear work in return for an unraveling of Western economic sanctions on Tehran. (Reuters) Read the full article

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