Middle East Updates / Five Killed, Over 100 Islamists Arrested in Egypt

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A policeman holds a weapon while in an armoured personnel vehicle during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the Cairo suburb of Matariya, Nov. 28, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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A site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's Assad in Raqqa, November 25, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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Latest updates:

9:13 P.M. Yemen's Shi'ite, Sunni rivals hold rare meeting

Yemen's main Sunni Islamist party says its top leaders have met with the powerful Shi'ite rebels who have been battling it for months and control the capital, in a rare meeting that might help ease the country's political deadlock.

The Islah party says in a statement Friday that a delegation met with Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of Shiite group known as the Houthis, on Thursday. The statement says the meeting was aimed at easing tensions between the rival groups.

The Houthis captured the capital in September after sweeping down from their northern stronghold and routing fighters loyal to the Islah party and its tribal allies. Opponents of the Houthis view them as a proxy of Shiite Iran determined to take over the country, charges the rebels deny. (AP)

5:57 P.M. Five Islamists, security personnel killed in Egypt anti-gov't protests

Egyptian security forces quickly put down scattered protests Friday as an attempt by Islamists to hold the first major anti-government rallies in months fizzled, with at least two protesters and three army and navy officers killed in separate incidents.

The call for nationwide rallies to topple the government marked the first attempt in months to hold large protests in the face of a massive crackdown since the military's ouster last year of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Several mosques listed as gathering points by organizers remained largely empty. Small, scattered demonstrations by a few hundred protesters were quickly quashed by security forces.

The three military officers were killed in separate shootings early Friday morning. The army officers were shot dead in Cairo while the navy officer was killed in Alexandria. After Friday prayers, two civilians were killed in the eastern Cairo neighborhood of Matariya, where security forces clashed with protesters, according to the Health Ministry. (AP)

2:10 P.M Pope in Turkey: Direct resources to fight hunger, not weaponry

Pope Francis called for an end to all forms of fundamentalism on Friday and said fighting hunger and poverty, rather than military intervention alone, were key to stopping Islamist militants carrying out "grave persecutions" in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking at the start of a three-day trip to Turkey, Francis said "terrorist violence" showed no sign of abating in Turkey's southern neighbours, where Islamist insurgents had declared a caliphate and persecuted Shi'ite Muslims, Christians and others who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam.

"What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all ... (to) enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness," he said.

Before the meeting with Erdogan, Francis visited the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern secular Turkish state in 1923. (Reuters) Read full article

1:25 P.M. Two officers killed, 107 Islamists arrested in Egypt

Two senior Egyptian army officers were killed early Friday morning as security forces arrested more than 100 Islamists ahead of planned anti-government demonstrations. (AP) Read full article

11:10 A.M. Syria denies targeting civilians

Syria rejects as "fabricated" U.S. accusations that its forces are targeting civilians with air strikes and said Washington would do better to criticize hardline Islamic State militants who have killed American citizens.

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it was "horrified" by Syrian government bombings in Raqqa province which it said had killed "dozens of civilians and demolished residential areas".

"The Syrian Arab Army does not target civilians and will not do so," the state news agency SANA quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying late on Thursday.

Zoubi said the U.S. statement on Wednesday had ignored crimes committed by Islamic State, adding that Syria was more committed to its people than countries which send money and weapons to "terrorists" and train them. (Reuters) Read full article

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