Middle East Updates Nasrallah: Yemen a 'Blatant Saudi Failure and Defeat'

Hezbollah takes key village from Nusra Front; Saudis shut down airport near border with Yemen after shelling, rebels claim to 'capture 5 Saudi soldiers.'

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Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, in an image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on March 27, 2015.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, in an image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on March 27, 2015.Credit: AFP

For Monday's updates click here

10:15 P.M.: Hezbollah takes village near Lebanese border from Nusra Front

Hezbollah fighters captured a Syrian village Tuesday near the border with Lebanon after intense fighting with Islamic militants, the group's television station said, while an activist said battles are concentrating near a strategic Syrian hill.

The battles come amid reports in Lebanon that Hezbollah and the Syrian army are expected to launch an offensive against members of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's branch in Syria, and the Islamic State group in Qalamoun.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said in a televised speech late Tuesday that his group will attack militants in Qalamoun, adding that "time will tell" when the battle will become full blown. He added that there will be no formal announcement before the widely anticipated battle begins. (AP)

9:15 P.M.: Nasrallah: Yemen a 'blatant Saudi failure and defeat'

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah slammed Saudi Arabia on Monday for its role in the conflict in Yemen, saying its "aggressions" have failed to achieve any of their objectives.

"The war being raged against Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies has achieved nothing whatsoever,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, claiming the Saudis were looking for a way to back out of the conflict.

“Show me one objective that has been achieved so far," Nasrallah said, adding that it was a “blatant Saudi failure and defeat” and a “clear victory for the Yemeni people."

"We set out to defend Syria and the Syrian people, and we will continue to do so at any price, because protecting Syria is protecting the region," Nasrallah said, explaining that recent battles along the border with Lebanon were an attempt to "block militias" from reaching the Shi'ite group's home country.

The Hezbollah leader said his militia was facing a "wave of rumors" as part of what he labeled "psychological warfare against Syria and Hezbollah." He said the rumors that Damascus was being evacuated by regime supporters were "all lies." (Jack Khoury)

6: 15 P.M.: Yemen rebels kill 2 firing into Saudi Arabia, claim to 'capture 5 Saudi soldiers'

Yemen's Shiite rebels fired rockets and mortars into Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, killing at least two civilians and reportedly capturing five soldiers in an attack showing the insurgents' ability to launch assaults despite weeks of airstrikes targeting them. (AP)

6:10 P.M.: Libyan government hits militants in east with air strikes

Libya's internationally recognized government carried out air strikes on Tuesday against Islamic State militants in the eastern city of Derna, a senior commander said.

Saqer al-Joroushi, air force commander of the official Libyan government based in the east since losing control of Tripoli in August, said his warplanes had hit Islamic State positions in Derna on Monday and Tuesday.

"We ask all residents to stay away from checkpoints and Islamic State locations," Joroushi told Reuters. "We also warn fishers and tankers against approaching the coast all the way to Derna." (Reuters)

5:10 P.M.: Hezbollah, Nusra Front clash along Lebanon-Syria border

Fighters from Hezbollah and al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front clashed on Tuesday in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, Hezbollah's television channel and a military source in the Lebanese group said.

The source said the group ambushed Nusra fighters in "advanced positions" in the outskirts of the mountain towns of Toufeil and Britel. Nusra Front fighters have regularly been active in areas close to the Syrian border and have targeted Hezbollah and Lebanese army positions in the past.

"The clashes erupted hours ago, their casualties are very high," the Hezbollah source told Reuters. (Reuters)

4:30 P.M.: UN kicks off new round of Syrian peace talks, awaits rebel fighters

The United Nations said Tuesday it had launched its third major push in as many years to find common ground between the warring parties in Syria and for the first time said it hoped Syria's armed opposition groups might come to Geneva – though the Islamic State group was not invited to the meet.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura kicked off the consultations on Tuesday by meeting Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala.

The invitees also include opposition armed groups, but not Jabhat al-Nusra or Islamic State, also known as ISIS (or by its Arabic acronym Daesh), labeled by the United Nations as "terrorist organizations". (Reuters)

4:15 P.M.: Saudis suspend flights at airport along near Yemen border after shelling

Saudi Arabia has suspended all flights at a southern airport along the border with Yemen, after the area was shelled by Yemen's Shi'ite rebels.

The kingdom's national carrier, Saudia, says flights to and from the town of Najran in the south were suspended on Tuesday until further notice.

Yemeni tribal leaders say Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, shelled the border area of Najran from inside Yemen. Last Thursday, border clashes left three Saudi troops and dozens of rebels dead. (AP)

4:10 P.M.: Yemen talks May 17 could bolster anti-Houthi alliance

Yemen's president has called a meeting of political forces on May 17 to discuss his country's war that will include former associates of a powerful ally of the Houthis, a move that could bolster the ranks of opponents of the Iranian-allied force.

Mukhtar al-Rahbi, press secretary at President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's office, said neither the Houthis nor their influential ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, were expected to attend the gathering, to be held in Saudi Arabia.

But individuals who recently broke with Saleh, who has the loyalty of large sections of the factionalized military, would be there, he said.

"The Houthis and Saleh will not attend, but leaders of the General People's Congress party who have broken away from Saleh, will attend," Rahbi told Reuters, referring to a political party led by the former veteran leader. (Reuters)

12:21 P.M.: ISIS claims responsibility for Texas cartoon attack

Islamic State is claiming responsibility for an attack at a center near Dallas, Texas, exhibiting cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

An audio statement on Tuesday on the extremist group's Al Bayan radio station says that "two soldiers of the caliphate" carried out Sunday's attack. It did not provide details and it was unclear whether the group was opportunistically claiming the attack as its own. Read full report (AP)

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