Middle East Updates / Kurds Fighting ISIS for Town Near Turkey-Syria Border

More than 10 killed in Baghdad car bomb attack; Yemen's Houthi forces said to seize provincial capital near Saudi border; Turkey's Erdogan says nap vote 'inevitable' if no gov't within deadline; body of American killed fighting ISIS returns to U.S.

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A man carries a girl as Syrians fleeing the war pass through broken down border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Akcakale border crossing in Sanliurfa province, on June 14, 2015.
A man carries a girl as Syrians fleeing the war pass through broken down border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Akcakale border crossing in Sanliurfa province, on June 14, 2015.Credit: AFP
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Haaretz

For Saturday's updates, click here

Latest updates:

10:35 P.M. More than 10 killed in Baghdad car bomb attack

Authorities in Iraq say a car bomb blast near a market has killed 10 people in the capital, Baghdad.Police officials say the attack took place Sunday night when the car bomb hit a market and shops in Baghdad's Qahira neighborhood. At least 20 people were wounded in the attack.

Several cars and shops were burnt in the attack, police said.
Medical officials in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. (AP)

7:50 P.M. Thousands of Syrians cut border fence, flee into Turkey

Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and jihadis.

The flow of refugees came as Syrian Kurdish fighters closed in on the outskirts of a strategic Islamic State-held town on the Turkish border, Kurdish officials and an activist group said, potentially cutting off a key supply line for the extremists' nearby de facto capital.

Taking Tal Abyad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, would deprive the militant group of a direct route to bring in new foreign militants or supplies. The Kurdish advance, coming under the cover of intense U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in the area, would also link their two fronts and put even more pressure on Raqqa.

In this Turkish border village, the refugees took by surprise the Turkish troops stationed there, who were overwhelmed by the large number of people crowding the crossing. Thousands of people had been gathering for more than a day on the Syrian side of the Akcakale border crossing before they broke through Sunday afternoon. (AP)

7:00 P.M. Egypt prosecutor refers 58 Brotherhood supporters to military prosecution

Egypt's public prosecutor on Sunday referred the case of 58 suspected Muslim Brotherhood supporters accused of committing "terrorist acts" to the military prosecutor, a step that could lead to a military trial even though they are civilians.

Thousands of Islamists have been jailed and hundreds sentenced to death since the government launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, saying they pose a threat to Egypt's national security.

"Public Prosecutor Hesham Barakat ordered the referral of 58 defendants belonging to the Magholoon (Anonymous) group ..., who committed terrorist acts within Giza province from August 2013 until October 2014, to the military public prosecutor," the statement said. (Reuters)

5:15 P.M. Libyan Islamists claim to oust ISIS from city in northwest

A Libyan Islamist militant alliance said it had largely driven Islamic State fighters out of their stronghold city of Derna on Sunday after declaring war on the rival group last week.

Street fighting has raged for several days between members of the local Islamist umbrella group Majlis Mujahideen and Islamic State loyalists, who have been trying to increase their influence in the port city for more than a year.

Derna, a conservative city where Islamist hardliners resisted Muammar Gaddafi before his 2011 fall, was the first place Islamic State tried to gain support in Libya.

A Majlis spokesman told local Libyan Nabaa TV that more than 70 Islamic State militants had surrendered during the fighting, in which some were severely wounded.

"Ninety percent of Derna city is now under the control of Majlis," he said. "Majlis forces are dealing carefully with the snipers around the city." (Reuters)

4:50 P.M. Houthi rebel delegation en route to Geneva for UN peace talks

Yemeni airport officials say political groups including Shiite rebels known as Houthis are gathered at the airport in the capital, Sanaa, preparing to travel to Geneva for UN-led peace talks.

The officials spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists.

A day earlier, a plane meant to carry the rebels and their allies to the talks left Yemen without the delegates on board, casting doubt on whether the meetings would go forward as planned. The talks are slated to be first substantive meetings by all parties involved in the conflict.

The delegation representing the government of embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Geneva Saturday morning.

The officials added that Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels and their allies continued in several Yemeni cities. (AP)

4:05 P.M. Kurds fighting ISIS for town near Turkey-Syria border

Kurdish-led militia fought Islamic State near a Syrian town at the Turkish border on Sunday, a monitor and a Kurdish official said, battling to seize it with the help of U.S.-led air strikes in an advance that has worried Turkey.

Concerned about an expansion of Kurdish sway in Syria, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his assessment that Kurdish groups were taking over areas evacuated by Arabs and Turkmen, saying that might eventually threaten Turkey's borders.

The YPG, working with the U.S.-led alliance and small Syrian rebel groups, has pushed into Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa province, threatening one of its supply lines to the jihadists' de facto capital, Raqqa city.

While dealing a blow to Islamic State, seizing Tel Abyad would help the YPG to link up Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria. Turkey is worried about the risk of separatist sentiment among its own Kurdish minority in the southwest.  (Reuters)

3:22 P.M. Bombings injure over two dozen in Homs

Syrian state television and an official say two bombs have exploded in government-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs, wounding more than two dozen people.

The TV report said the first attack Sunday was a car bomb outside a school that wounded 27 passers-by.

A local official in Homs said Sunday's second blast was a bomb placed inside a taxi that wounded five students from Homs' Baath University on the busy Tijara Street. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists. (AP)

12:39 P.M. Yemen's Houthi forces seize provincial capital near Saudi Arabia border, residents say

Houthi forces and their army allies in Yemen seized the capital of a large desert province on the border with Saudi Arabia on Sunday, residents said, an important victory for the group ahead of peace talks in Geneva on Monday. 

The Houthis, the dominant faction in Yemen's civil war, took control of al-Hazm, capital of the province of al-Jawf, amid heavy fighting with tribesmen supporting exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. (Reuters)

12:30 P.M. UN Syria envoy to visit Damascus, warn on barrel bombs

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura plans to meet senior Syrian government officials in Damascus in his effort to find common ground among the parties with an interest in ending Syria's civil war, his office said on Sunday. 

De Mistura began the talks last month saying he expected to meet 40 or more delegations for one-on-one discussions in Geneva, including Syrian officials, opposition and civil society, and representatives of governments in the region and with influence in the conflict. 

"During his visit, Mr. de Mistura intends to raise with the Syrian government the issue of protection of civilians, underlining once again the unacceptable use of barrel bombs and the incontestable duty of any government, in all circumstances, to protect its civilians," his office said in a statement. 

It did not say if De Mistura would meet President Bashar Assad, nor did it specify exact travel dates, which are always kept confidential for security reasons. (Reuters)

11:07 A.M. Erdogan: Snap vote 'inevitable' if no gov't within deadline

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said a snap election would be "inevitable" if both the ruling AK Party and the main opposition fail in efforts to form a new government within the constitutional limit of 45 days.

In comments published on Sunday in Milliyet newspaper, Erdogan said he planned to grant a mandate to form a new government first to the AKP, which won around 41 percent of the vote in the June 7 election -- short of securing the parliamentary majority required to rule alone.

"Let's say the party who came first in the election could not achieve this (to form a government) and neither did the second one.....In such a case, going to the ballot box again as per the constitution would be inevitable," Erdogan told reporters late on Saturday as he flew back from Azerbaijan. (Reuters)

5:48 A.M. Body of American killed fighting ISIS in Syria returns home

The body of an American man killed while fighting alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State group has been returned home. WBZ-TV reports a Turkish Airlines plane arrived Saturday at Logan Airport in Boston carrying the body of 36-year-old Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts. His body was then taken to a funeral home.

Broomfield was killed June 3 in Syria and is believed to be the first U.S. citizen to die while fighting alongside Kurdish forces against ISIS.

His parents told the television station that he had no military training but he felt compelled to fight against what he considered "evil."

Broomfield went overseas in February. (AP)

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