Middle East Updates ISIS and Kurds Battle Over Syria's Kobani; 20 Killed

Turks deny Syria's claims Kobani attackers entered from Turkey; ISIS seizes large swathes of Syrian city of Hasaka; Houthi shelling in Yemen kills Saudi, UAE border guards.

Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani. June 30, 2015.
Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani. June 30, 2015. Credit: AP

For Wednesday's updates, click here

7:22 P.M. UN urges peace talks and urgent aid delivery to Yemen

The UN Security Council is urging all parties in conflict-wracked Yemen to attend future peace talks and facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the impoverished nation where the risk of famine is growing.

A press statement approved by all 15 council members Thursday endorses Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow life-saving assistance to reach the Yemeni people.

The statement followed Wednesday's council meeting where the UN special envoy for Yemen warned that the country is "one step" from famine, with 31 million people in need of aid compared with just 7 million two years ago.

The council urged all parties to consider Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's proposals for a humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable cease-fire that would be internationally monitored. (AP)

3:30 P.M. One Jordanian killed, four injured after stray mortar hits town near Syrian border

A Jordanian was killed on Thursday when a stray mortar bomb from fighting in southern Syria hit a bustling market place in the Jordanian town of Ramtha, a security source said on Thursday.

The mortar killed a street vendor, wounded several people and damaged some shops, the source said. The market was busy because people were doing their shopping ahead of the daily fast-breaking meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier three other mortar bombs had hit the town. Ramtha is close to the Syrian city of Deraa, where rebels launched a dawn offensive against Syrian government forces. (Reuters)

3:21 P.M. ISIS militants kill 14 Iraqi soldiers in Anbar province

Islamic State militants detonated a car bomb and then opened fire on Iraqi troops in the western province of Anbar on Thursday, killing 14 soldiers, security sources said.

Iraqi government forces and their Shi'ite militia allies are hoping to recapture Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, which was seized by the ultra-hardline Sunni insurgents last month.

Islamic State swept through northern Iraq last year and has since taken control of a third of the country, a major oil producer and OPEC member. It also holds large swathes of Syria.

Twenty seven soldiers were also wounded in Thursday's attack in Anbar's Nadheem al-Taqseem region.

In the town of Hit, west of Ramadi, artillery fire and rocket attacks targeted the local irrigation department, killing nine people and wounding 13. (Reuters)

12:45 P.M. Thousands attend funeral for Iranians killed fighting ISIS in Syria

Iranian state media say thousands of people have attended the funerals for eight Iranian volunteers killed in fighting against Islamic State extremists in Syria.

Thursday's report by the official IRNA news agency says three of the volunteers were buried in the capital, Tehran, and the rest in the northeastern city of Mashhad. IRNA gave the names of the eight volunteers but did not provide their ranks or other details. Photos of the eight released by the semi-official Tasnim news agency show them in civilian clothes.

In January, Iran confirmed one of its generals was killed in Syria while on an "advisory mission." (AP)

12:30 P.M. At least 20 killed in ISIS attack on Syria's Kobani

Islamic State fighters killed at least 20 Kurdish civilians and wounded at least 15 more people in an attack on a village south of the Syrian town of Kobani, a group monitoring the war said on Thursday.

The people were killed and wounded by targeted gunshots or shelling in the village of Brakh Bootan and included women and children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Five Islamic State fighters were also killed. (Reuters)

12:05 P.M. Turks deny Syria's claims Kobani attackers entered from Turkey

Islamic State militants who staged a deadly attack on Syria's Kobani overnight did not enter the town from Turkey, the governor's office in the Turkish province of Sanliurfa said on Thursday, denying a claim by Syrian state television.

The office said in a statement that evidence showed the militants had entered Kobani from the Syria. (Reuters)

10:39 A.M. Syrian TV: ISIS attack on Kobani originated in Turkey

Syrian state television said on Thursday that Islamic State fighters who carried out a deadly assault on the predominantly Kurdish border town of Kobani had entered Syria from Turkey.

The channel did not give a source for its newsflash. Earlier on Thursday hospital officials in Kobani told Reuters that 12 people were killed and 70 wounded in a car bombing and other attacks by Islamic State fighters.

Syria has frequently accused regional opponent Turkey of supporting and equipping Sunni Islamist militants, a charge Turkey has denied. (Reuters)

9:10 A.M. ISIS and Kurds battle over Syria's Kobani

Islamic State fighters were battling Kurdish militia in the Syrian town of Kobani at the Turkish border on Thursday, a group monitoring the war reported.

The attack by Islamic State fighters on Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, began overnight with a car bomb attack near the border crossing between the town and Turkey, the monitor said.

Twelve people were killed and at least 70 wounded in the bomb attack, it said. (Reuters)

Damages to Syria's Kobani, after last round of fighting. May 6, 2015.

8:45 A.M. ISIS seizes large swathes of Syrian city of Hasaka

Islamic State fighters wrested areas of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka from government control in fighting overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring organization said on Thursday.

A Syrian military source denied the report, saying the army had repelled the attack.

The city of Hasaka is divided into zones controlled separately by the Damascus government and a Kurdish administration whose well-organized militia has been on the offensive against Islamic State, making significant gains against the group in its stronghold of Raqqa province. (Reuters)

8:05 A.M. Car bomb hits Syria's Kobani near Turkish border; deaths reported

A car bomb exploded in the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border gate on Thursday as Islamic State militants staged an attack from three sides of the town, a Kurdish YPG militia official told Reuters.

The attack killed and wounded people in the town but the toll was not immediately clear, the official said. (Reuters)

8:00 A.M. Houthi shelling in Yemen kills Saudi, UAE border guards

Shelling by Yemen's Houthi militia killed four soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stationed on Yemen's border with the kingdom, Saudi state media reported early on Thursday.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on the kingdom's border posts in recent weeks, despite three months of bombardment by a Saudi-led coalition intent on restoring Yemen's exiled government.

Two soldiers from the Royal Saudi Land Forces, one from the kingdom's Border Guards, and an officer from the UAE's forces were killed on Wednesday in three incidents along different stretches of the border, a mostly mountainous area. (Reuters)

6:00 A.M. Former Obama aides say U.S. needs tougher Iran nuclear deal

A group of prominent American security advisers, including five with ties to President Barrack Obama's first term, warned on Wednesday that a deal on curbing Iran's nuclear program was at risk of failing to provide adequate safeguards.

In an open letter, the group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy experts cautioned that an Iran nuclear deal would "fall short of meeting the administration's own standard of a 'good' agreement" unless it included a tougher line on United Nations nuclear inspections and conditions for sanctions relief.

The release of the letter, which was signed by Dennis Ross, an adviser on Iran and the Middle East in Obama's first term, comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to fly to Vienna on Friday to join the talks.
Ross told Reuters it was vital that negotiations were not driven by a deadline but by "getting it right."

"The Iranians must understand that we will catch them if they cheat and that the price will be high even for lesser transgressions," Ross said. "And, they must know that we will not permit them to have a weapons capability." (Reuters)

1:06 A.M. Kerry heads to Vienna on Friday for Iran nuclear talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Vienna on Friday to take part in Iran nuclear talks ahead of a self-imposed June 30 deadline, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. (Reuters)

1:01 A.M. Watchdog: Journalists face 'unprecedented' threats in Egypt

Journalists face unprecedented threats in President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi's Egypt, a watchdog group said Thursday, with the highest number behind bars since it began keeping records in 1990.

In a report detailing the incarceration of 18 Egyptians, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said most were accused of affiliation with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

It said the threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of a stifling atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics. It said al-Sissi has invoked national security to trample on liberties.

"CPJ spoke to high-level officials, including the prosecutor-general and the minister of transitional justice, who denied that Egypt was holding any journalists in jail in relation to their work," the group said in the report, which was based on a June 1 census of Egyptian prisons. "But CPJ research shows that the government of al-Sissi ... has used the pretext of national security to crack down on human rights, including press freedom. (AP)

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