Middle East Updates Islamic Militants Blow Up Sinai Gas Pipeline, Egyptian Officials Say

Suicide bomber kills several in Libyan city of Misrata; Saudi-led coalition hits rebel bases in Yemen capital.

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Egyptian Bedouins watching as smoke and flames rise into the air after gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in el-Arish, July 12, 2011.
Egyptian Bedouins watching as smoke and flames rise into the air after gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in el-Arish, July 12, 2011.Credit: AP
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Haaretz

For Saturday's updates, click here

Latest updates:

6:40 P.M. Syrian army airstrikes kill at least 184 over last 24 hours

At least 184 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by Syrian army airstrikes over the past 24 hours, a monitoring group reported on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead included 128 civilian men, seven children and six women, killed in air raids targeting areas held by moderate and militant rebels in several parts of the country.

At least 43 fighters from the Islamic State extremist militia were killed on Sunday in airstrikes on the town of al-Shadadi on the outskirts of the north-eastern province of al-Hassakeh, the Britain-based watchdog said.

The attacks involved the use of missiles and bomb-packed barrels on rebel-held areas in al-Hassakeh, the northern province of Aleppo, suburban areas of the capital Damascus, Deir al-Zour in the east and the north-western province of Idlib, according to the Observatory. (DPA)

5:15 P.M. Egypt starts demolishing Mubarak-era ruling party headquarters

Egypt began demolishing on Sunday the building that had housed the headquarters of former President Hosni Mubarak's political party, a symbol of decades of iron-fisted rule.

The burnt-out National Democratic Party (NDP) building, a concrete tower block that looms over the River Nile in Cairo, was gutted during the uprising against Mubarak's rule in 2011.

Successive governments had discussed plans to knock down the building since the NDP was dissolved in April 2011.

Some activists who took part in protests have said the headquarters should be preserved as a monument to the uprising.

"The Egyptian people paid the biggest price for the corruption at that time," said Ahmed Shahin, an acting student who passed by the site. (Reuters)

4:55 P.M. U.S. officials reportedly in talks with Houthis

Senior figures from Yemen's dominant Houthi group are holding talks with U.S. officials in Oman to advance efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen, the Riyadh-based Yemeni government said on Sunday.

A Saudi-led coalition began air strikes in Yemen in March in a campaign to restore Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. Hadi fled in March, after the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in September and then thrust into central and south Yemen.

Nearly 2,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 19, according to the United Nations.

"We have been informed that there are meetings, at American request, and that a private American plane carried the Houthis to Muscat," Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for Yemen's government in exile told Reuters by telephone from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The Yemeni government was not party to the talks, Badi said.

There was no immediate comment from the Houthis and from U.S. officials.

If confirmed, the Oman meeting would be the first between the Houthis and the United States, Saudi Arabia's main foreign ally, since the start of the war. (Reuters)

4:15 P.M. Britain preparing to expand Iraq training mission

Britain is preparing to expand its military training mission in Iraq and increase the number of personnel helping ready the moderate Syrian opposition in Turkey, a British source familiar with the plan said on Sunday.

The Ministry of Defence says nearly 800 British soldiers are already working in training and support roles in the region at a time when Islamic State militants are making gains in both Iraq and Syria.

"The UK is preparing to offer more," the source told Reuters, saying London was keen to step up its contribution in response to events on the ground.

A final decision had not yet been taken and was not imminent in the coming days, the source said, but Britain's presence would soon be expanded. (Reuters)

3:25 P.M. U.S.-led airstrikes hit 17 ISIS targets in Iraq, Syria

The United States and its allies carried out 17 air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in a 24-hour period in their latest attacks on the group, the Combined Joint Task Force said on Sunday.

Thirteen of the strikes were near the Iraqi cities of Ramadi, Baghdadi, Bayji, Fallujah, Makhmur, Mosul, Sinjar and Tal Afar. In Syria, the targets were near Kobani and Al Hasakah.

Islamic State tactical units, fighting positions, buildings, vehicles and mortar systems were hit in the strikes, the task force said in a statement. (Reuters)

3:05 P.M. ISIS pushes back rival insurgents near Turkey

Islamic State fighters advanced against rival insurgents in northern Syria on Sunday, capturing areas close to a border crossing with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The fighters captured the town of Soran Azaz and two nearby villages after violent clashes with other rebels, the Observatory said.

It said this meant the group could now move along a road leading north to the Bab al-Salam border crossing between the Syrian province of Aleppo and the Turkish province of Kilis. (Reuters)

11:51 A.M. Suicide bomber kills several in Libyan city of Misrata

A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint outside the Libyan city of Misrata on Sunday, killing several people, a local official said.

Few other immediate details were available about the attack on the post west of Misrata on the highway to the capital Tripoli. But Islamic State militants have carried out several attacks in the area recently.

Two rival governments are battling for control of Libya, allowing Islamist fighters to gain ground in the chaos. Misrata city is allied with the unofficial government that controls Tripoli. The internationally recognized government operates out of east Libya. (Reuters)

10:55 A.M. Islamic militants blow up Sinai gas pipeline, Egyptian officials say

Security officials in Egypt say suspected Islamic militants have blown up a natural gas pipeline outside el-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai.

The officials say authorities stopped the flow of the gas to extinguish the fire after the blast, which happened early Sunday morning.

No group immediately claimed the attack. However, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or "Champions of Jerusalem," a jihadi group based in the Sinai Peninsula, has claimed responsibility for more than a dozen similar bombings and attacks on security forces. It pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group late last year. (AP)

10:10 A.M. Saudi-led coalition hits rebel bases in Yemen capital

Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition struck military bases aligned with Yemen's Houthi rebels in the capital Sanaa overnight and early Sunday morning, residents said.

The raid hit an air base near Sanaa airport and a military installation overlooking the presidential palace compound.

Houthi television reported that the rebels fired 20 rockets at Saudi Arabia's southwestern border city of Najran on Saturday. (Reuters)

8:10 A.M. Shelling from Yemen kills border guard in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's state news agency has reported that shelling from Yemen has killed a border guard and wounded seven as a coalition the kingdom leads continues to target Shiite rebels there.

The Saudi Press Agency reported late Saturday that the Lance Cpl. Ismail Mohammed Ibrahim Sindi was killed around 6:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. EDT) by the shelling targeting the kingdom's Jazan region. The agency said "the border guard dealt with the situation accordingly," without elaborating.

A Saudi-led coalition has been targeting Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis, since March 26. Cross-border shelling has killed Saudi border guards and soldiers amid the campaign. (AP)

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