The Yemeni army commander leading the fight against militants in the south of the country has been killed in a suicide attack, officials say.
Gen Salem Ali Qatan died in the port city of Aden when a suicide bomber attacked the car he was travelling in.
Yemen is battling militants linked to al-Qaeda who have taken control of parts of the south of the country.
The army has recently recaptured several strongholds in the restive southern province of Abyan.
The Yemeni defence ministry said Gen Qatan had been travelling in a three-car convoy when the bomber threw himself at the general’s SUV and detonated his explosives.
The commander was killed and four security guards and a passer-by seriously wounded, the ministry said.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies
Syrian forces pounded Homs on Monday as they pressed their campaign against rebel strongholds in the city and as at least 40 people were reported killed across the strife-torn country, a watchdog said.
Monday’s casualties come a day after 67 people were killed nationwide, including 15 in Homs province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Activists said artillery had targeted Douma, a town 15 km (9.3 miles) outside the capital Damascus. The town has for weeks been under the partial control of rebels who have joined the 15-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
“We can’t even accurately count the dead because we have so many injured people to treat, there’s no time to think about anything else,” an activist in Douma who called himself Ziad told Reuters.
“The army attacks all the time. They have tanks, missiles, mortars, and artillery. Even helicopters have fired on us. People can’t escape because the army is surrounding the town.”
“The army has escalated its operations in Douma in recent days,” anti-regime activist Mohammad Doumani told AFP via Skype. “Regime forces have destroyed homes, farms and many mosques.”
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), grouping opposition activists on the ground, said Qoudsaya was shelled heavily, and that snipers were firing at anything that moved.
Fares Mohamed, an LCC member in Zabadani northwest of Damascus, told AFP by email that Syrian forces had “imposed a suffocating blockade” around Qoudsaya and a nearby town.
He said the shelling began after an anti-regime demonstration in Qoudsaya. Mohamed said “huge military reinforcements” had arrived and that the wounded could not be treated because the shelling and sniper fire was so intense.
Another civilian was killed in Tafas as regime forces stormed the town.
And in central Hama province, two young sisters were killed when Qalaa al-Madiq was shelled before dawn, the Observatory said, adding that another civilian was shot dead at a regime checkpoint.
In the northern province of Aleppo, unidentified gunmen killed a woman, it said.
Regime forces backed by aircraft also pounded for more than seven hours overnight a region known as the Kurdish Mountain in the northwest province of Latakia, forcing many residents to flee, the watchdog said.
Two civilians were also shot dead in the coastal province.
In the northwestern province of Idlib two civilians were killed, the Observatory said.
Ten regime troops were also killed in clashes overnight and on Monday, the watchdog said.
The British-based Observatory claims violence in Syria has killed more than 14,400 people since the uprising began in mid-March 2011.
In a sign it fears Syria’s conflict could escalate further, an unnamed Russian naval source said Moscow was preparing to send marines to Syria in the event it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from its naval facility in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartous, according to the Interfax news agency.
An Israeli civilian and three militants have been killed during an attack near the southern border with Egypt, Israeli military officials have said.
They said gunmen had attacked a convoy of construction workers building a security fence along the vast border.
Two workers were injured and one later died of his wounds, Israeli media said.
Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak said it was a “disturbing deterioration”.
The gunmen appeared to have crossed from Egypt’s turbulent Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel.
The attack took place about 18 miles (30km) from the Gaza Strip, near the border villages of Kadesh Barnea, Nitzana and Beer Milcha, AFP reports.
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW | Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:52am EDT
(Reuters) – Russia is preparing to send marines to Syria in the event that it needs to protect personnel and remove equipment from its naval facility in the Mediterranean port of Tartus, Interfax news agency reported on Monday.
Syria is Moscow’s firmest foothold in the Middle East, buys weapons from Russia worth billions of dollars, and hosts the Russian navy’s only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.
The report cited an unidentified officer in the naval command. The navy and Defense Ministry declined immediate comment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama were due to meet later on Monday for talks on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Mexico.
The crisis in Syria – which has seen the government ignore international censure to push ahead with a bloody crackdown on its opponents – was likely to be on the agenda.
Russia has used its U.N. Security Council veto to dilute Western efforts to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and secure his exit from power, arguing that pushing the government from power using external pressure is unacceptable.
Only a dialogue between the government and the opposition can resolve the crisis, Moscow says.
Interfax said two large landing ships were preparing to depart for Syria – if necessary – with marines on board.
The ships, crews and marines “are capable, in case of need, to provide security for Russian citizens and remove property from the logistics facility (in Tartus),” Interfax quoted the unnamed officer as saying.
Russia says it uses the facility to service its ships in the region, including those on anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, where it cooperates with NATO.
Russian warships call at Tartus only occasionally, and an upsurge in naval activity near Syria this year has been seen as a show of support for the government, an ally of Moscow’s since the Soviet era.
(Editing by Andrew Osborn)