Middle East Updates Hezbollah Fighters Target Syrian Al-Qaida Group Along Border

Assad acknowledges recent 'setbacks' in war; Report: 2.2 million Iraqis displaced by ISIS.

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Assad speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, May 6, 2015.
Assad speaks during a public appearance at a school in Damascus, May 6, 2015. Credit: AP

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Latest updates:

9:45 P.M. Yemen Shi'ite rebels capture Aden presidential palace

Yemen's Shi'ite rebels and their allies consolidated their hold in another part of the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday after heavy fighting with militiamen loyal to the exiled government and capturing the area's presidential palace, officials said.

The rebels took Aden's southwestern Tawahi district, killing the area's military commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Nasser al-Hassani, and seizing the palace, military officials said. (AP)

Yazidi refugees are seen in front of their tent at refugee camp in the outskirts of Duhok, Iraq, February 27, 2015.Credit: Reuters

3:50 P.M. Hezbollah fighters target Syrian Al-Qaida group gathering along border

Lebanese Hezbollah militants targeted a gathering of leaders of Syria's Nusra front in an area near Lebanon's eastern border with Syria, the group's television channel said on Wednesday.

The Shi'ite Muslim group, which is a staunch ally of Syria's President Bashar Assad, has sent hundreds of combatants to fight alongside his forces. The television channel gave no details except that the operation took place in an area along the border that witnesses frequent clashes. (Reuters)

3:45 P.M. Assad acknowledges recent 'setbacks' in war

Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged on Wednesday what he said were recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels in northern Syria.
The rare admission of defeat follows a string of opposition advances in northern and southern Syria that saw them flush out Assad's troops from previous government strongholds.

Assad spoke during a visit to a school in Damascus to mark Martyrs Day, surrounded by cheering students. It is normal in wars to have "ebb and flow, gains and losses and ups and downs," he said.

"Everything fluctuates except one thing, which is faith in the soldier and his belief in ultimate victory," Assad said. "So when setbacks occur, it is our duty as a society to boost the morale of the soldier and not wait for him to raise ours. It is a mutual thing." (AP)

3:16 P.M. Warplanes strike Yemen's Saada and Hajja provinces-residents

Warplanes carried out more than 30 strikes overnight on the northwestern Yemeni provinces of Saada and Hajja near the border with Saudi Arabia, local officials and residents said on Wednesday.

The strikes occurred after Yemen's Houthi fighters fired mortar bombs and rockets at a Saudi Arabian border town on Tuesday for the first time since a Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign against them on March 26.

Saada is a stronghold of the Iranian-allied Houthi movement.
Houthi sources said 43 civilians were killed and at least 100 wounded as a result of the strikes, which lasted until dawn on Wednesday. The figure could not be independently verified.
Local sources also said there was heavy artillery shelling coming from the Saudi border.

In Tueday's bombardment, projectiles had struck a girls' school and a hospital in Saudi Arabia's Najran town, only three km (two miles) from Yemen's border. (Reuters)

2:06 P.M. Report: 2.2 million Iraqis displaced by Islamic State

A Norwegian humanitarian group says a record 38 million people have been internally displaced in their countries worldwide, with 2.2 million Iraqis alone forced to flee from their homes in 2014 after the Islamic State group overrun their areas.

The study by the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Center was released Wednesday.

It says 11 million were newly displaced last year — mostly because of conflicts in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, accounting for 60 percent of the new displacement.

The group says at least 1.1 million Syrians also fled their homes last year.

Syria has the highest number of internally displaced, with 7.6 million dislodged because of the conflict, now in its fifth year. That's at least 35 percent of the population. (AP)

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