Middle East Briefs: Kurdish commander warns of battle against Iraq

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BAGHDAD — The commander of Kurdish Peshmerga forces warned Tuesday that his troops might attack Iraqi government soldiers at “any minute” after the central government sent tanks and armored vehicles toward the disputed city of Kirkuk.

The threat was the latest sign of increasing tension between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad after the central government sent forces to the area last month, including disputed sites in a new military command.

The force also oversees disputed areas claimed by Iraqi Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds, in particular the areas surrounding Mosul and Kirkuk.

U.S. forces once supervised the area, helping Kurdish and Arab security forces form joint patrols.

“A big battle might erupt any minute,” Cmdr. Mahmoud Sankawi told The Associated Press.

His Peshmerga forces control security in the Kurdish autonomous region and are also present in disputed areas that Kurds seek to add to their self-ruled are. “We are on high alert. We will not allow any force to threaten the security of Kurdistan. We will resist them,” he said.

BAHRAIN

Lawmaker burns Israeli flag in parliament

MANAMA — A Bahrain lawmaker said he set fire to an Israeli flag during a parliament session in a show of support for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Osama al-Tamimi said he smuggled a canister of gasoline into the chamber and set the flag ablaze Tuesday. The incident prompted a five-minute suspension of the session.

Mr. al-Tamimi said he sought to “send a clear message to the international community” about Bahrain’s support for the people of Gaza as they face Israeli attacks in retaliation for stepped up rocket strikes by the Palestinian group Hamas.

Bahraini authorities have banned pro-Gaza public rallies as part of wider clampdowns against political marches.

The country, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, last month outlawed all political gatherings in attempts to quell a 21-month-old Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.

SYRIA

Rebels announce formation of intelligence service

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