Amman to close all its borders: Jordan army

Jordanian army members stand guard outside a hotel that was transformed into a quarantine station as the country takes measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Amman, Jordan, March 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Amman to close all its borders: Jordan army

  • Borders will be closed from 7 a.m. on Thursday

LONDON: Amman's borders will be closed starting from 7 a.m. on Thursday until further notice due to coronavirus, the Jordanian army said on Wednesday.
In a statement issued by the Jordanian News Agency, the army said exemptions would be for those “authorized by the concerned authorities and known to the armed forces and security services, and according to the nature of the work.” 
Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday approved a law that gives the government sweeping powers to enforce a state of emergency to help it combat the spread of the virus, state media said.
The royal decree gives Prime Minister Omar Razzaz extraordinary powers under a defense law enacted in times of war and disasters to enforce curfews, closing businesses and placing restrictions on freedom of movement of people.
The country’s central bank also announced measures to help troubled businesses and its tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the impact of the crisis. The kingdom has also imposed other measures to fight the outbreak, including a tighter lockdown that closes all borders and bans all incoming and outgoing flights, which has been in place since Tuesday.
Jordanian officials say the unprecedented measures, which also include closing schools and banning daily prayers in mosques, were taken as the epidemic is spreading fast in neighboring Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
The government has kept borders open for commercial cargo and has assured people hoarding food that the country has a stockpile of commodities and essential goods that would last six months.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.