US Central Command refutes Iranian claims of downing drone over southern port city of Mahshahr

Iranian news outlets carried a report on the downing of a US drone over Mahshahr, without elaborating on whether it was a military or civilian drone. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

US Central Command refutes Iranian claims of downing drone over southern port city of Mahshahr

  • Iran had shot down a drone over its southern port city of Mahshahr

WASHINGTON: US Central Command refuted on Friday that Iran had shot down a US drone, saying reports from Iranian media were incorrect and adding in a tweet that all US equipment had been accounted for. 

Iranian media reported earlier on Friday that Iran had shot down a drone over its southern port city of Mahshahr, without providing further details.

“Iran’s army has downed an unknown drone in the port city of Mahshahr,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Other Iranian news outlets carried the same report, without elaborating on whether it was a military or civilian drone. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Students News Agency ISNA and the Young Journalists Club (YJC), affiliated to Iran’s state broadcasting, said “an unknown flying object” had been shot down by the Iranian army, adding that the report had yet to be confirmed by Iranian officials.

Iran’s Arabic-Language Al-Alam TV channel said “residents of Imam Khomeini port city heard the sound of a missile being fired on Friday morning.”

In June, Iran shot down an unmanned US surveillance drone, which the elite Revolutionary Guards said was flying over southern Iran. Washington said the US drone had been shot down by Iran in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.

Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since last year when President Donald Trump pulled out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.


Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 26 January 2020

Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

  • King Abdullah II ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from Wuhan
  • WHO representative in Egypt commends efforts taken by officials to screen incoming travelers for infection

DUBAI: Countries across the Middle East have taken swift steps to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus 2019-nCoV following an outbreak that began in China’s Hubei province.

From Jordan and Lebanon all the way to Egypt, governments are on high alert to ensure the safety of their citizens.

The infection with pneumonia-like symptoms was first detected on December 31, 2019, in Wuhan city in Hubei.

Wuhan is one of at least 10 cities placed under lockdown by Chinese authorities to control the outbreak.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II has ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from the Wuhan “as soon as possible,” according to a statement.

The statement said the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, had obtained the consent of Chinese authorities for the evacuation from Wuhan.

The Jordanian embassy in Beijing said it was in contact with Chinese authorities and Jordanian nationals to complete the evacuation as soon as possible.

Earlier, John Jabbour, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Egypt, confirmed that no cases had been reported in the country.

“The Egyptian Health Ministry has taken all necessary preventive measures,” he told the state news agency on Thursday.

“We are keeping daily contact with Health Minister Hala Zayed and the ministry’s preventive-medicine sector to follow up on any developments.”

Jabbour commended the ministry’s efforts to deal with the situation by screening incoming travelers at all harbors and airports.

He said advisory preventive guidance measures have been issued to all health directorates for educating citizens about the outbreak.

The Egyptian Embassy in Beijing said on Saturday night that there were no infections among the Egyptian community in China, adding that it was monitoring conditions in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Hamad Hassan, Lebanon’s Minister of Public Health, said on Friday no 2019-nCoV cases had been reported in the country. “(There was some) concern over the spread of the H1N1 flu,” he said, adding that “there is no need to panic over the spread of this or any other disease.”

He said patients with suspected coronavirus infection will be offered treatment immediately after diagnosis free of charge, adding that the ministry’s epidemiological surveillance unit would be deployed in the field.

In neighboring Syria, the Health Ministry also said no 2019-nCoV infections had been detected in the country, although strict measures were being taken at border crossings.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the ministry said that strict measures were being taken at harbors, land border crossings and at Damascus International Airport to detect suspected coronavirus infections.

Turkish authorities have not reported any 2019-nCoV cases during screenings of aircraft passengers from China using thermal cameras, according to news agencies.

Announcing on Friday that thermal cameras had been installed at all airports in the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca disclosed that one suspected infection had been detected and action taken.

“A Chinese national, who had a complaint of nausea, headache and uneasiness in Istanbul’s Buyuk Cekmece district, was isolated from other patients as a precaution on Wednesday night after (we learnt) she came from Wuhan,” he said.

“Although the general condition of the patient was good, her case was considered as suspicious due to her travel history. We sent her back to China this morning upon her request.”

Although no cases have been proven or confirmed yet in the Middle East, the WHO wants travelers with symptoms to seek medical attention and share travel history with their healthcare provider.

The WHO wants public health authorities to provide travelers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry. 

“Coronavirus infections are highly contagious, and symptoms are usually similar to that of the flu,” Dr Ali Mohammad, specialist pulmonologist at Aster Clinics in Dubai, told Arab News.

“Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, as well as, rarely, fecal contamination.”