Bethlehem church to close after suspected coronavirus cases

People wearing masks visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where the Palestinian health ministry called for local churches and mosques to close. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2020

Bethlehem church to close after suspected coronavirus cases

  • Palestinian health ministry called for local churches, mosques and other institutions to close

JERUSALEM: The church built on the Bethlehem site revered as the birthplace of Jesus is to temporarily close after a suspected outbreak of the coronavirus, a church official said Thursday.

The Palestinian health ministry called for local churches, mosques and other institutions to close after a number of suspected cases at a hotel in the city of Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Church of the Nativity remained open Thursday morning, an AFP photographer said.

“We respect the authorities’ decision because safety comes first,” the church official said on condition of anonymity.

“If not today then (the closure) will be tomorrow.”

The Palestinian health ministry earlier announced that a number of suspected cases had been detected at a hotel in the Bethlehem area, the first in the Palestinian territories.

The head of the local health directorate, Imad Shahadeh, said that a group of Greek tourists had visited the hotel in late February, with two later discovered to have the virus.

Four suspected cases have been identified among hotel workers, with full confirmation expected later today, he said.


Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

Updated 29 October 2020

Lebanon sets out its claim in maritime border talks

  • A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”

BEIRUT: Lebanese negotiators laid out their claim to maritime territory on Wednesday as they began a second round of talks with Israel over their disputed sea border.
The contested zone in the Mediterranean is an estimated 860 square kilometers known as Block 9, which is rich in oil and gas. Future negotiations will also tackle the countries’ land border.
Wednesday’s meeting took place at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) amid tight security. An assistant of the UN special coordinator for Lebanon chaired the session, and the US Ambassador to Algeria, John Desrocher, was the mediator.
A military source told Arab News: “The Lebanese side considers that Israel, through the border line it drew for itself, is eating into huge areas of Lebanese economic waters.”
The Lebanese delegation produced maps and documents to support their claim to the disputed waters.
In indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel in 2012, US diplomat Frederick Hoff proposed “a middle line for the maritime borders, whereby Lebanon would get 58 percent of the disputed area and Israel would be given the remaining 42 percent, which translates to 500 square kilometers for Lebanon and 300 square kilometers for Israel.”
On the eve of Wednesday’s meeting, Lebanese and Israeli officials met to discuss a framework to resolve the conflict through the implementation of UN Resolution 1701.
UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col praised the “constructive role that both parties played in calming tensions along the Blue Line” and stressed the necessity of “taking proactive measures and making a change in the prevailing dynamics regarding tension and escalation.”