New curbs in West Bank as first Gaza virus cases confirmed

This picture taken on March 22, 2020 shows a view of vehicles crowding in a street in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, as shoppers prepare to stock up ahead of a "mandatory quarantine" that was announced by the Palestinian Authority to take effect from later in the evening as part of measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

New curbs in West Bank as first Gaza virus cases confirmed

  • An Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, has restricted cross-border movement for years, amid security concerns following the militant Hamas movement’s takeover of Gaza in 2007

GAZA: The densely populated Gaza Strip reported its first coronavirus cases, and stay-at-home orders were announced in the occupied West Bank on Sunday as Palestinian health officials tried to limit contagion.
Two Palestinian men, one aged 79 and the other 63, tested positive after returning from Pakistan via Egypt late on Sunday.
Officials said the two patients, initially reported by authorities in Gaza to be in their 30s, were in stable condition in a quarantine area in the border town of Rafah.
“Thank God, the circle of contact wasn’t big,” said Salama Marouf, chairman of the Gaza government media office.
All those who had been in contact with the two men had also been quarantined, he said.
Schools, public markets and event halls have all been shut in Gaza over the past two weeks.
Religious authorities in Gaza and the West Bank urged people to pray at home, rather than in mosques, and not to hold traditional mourning gatherings at relatives’ homes in the event of fatalities.
The Palestinian Health Ministry listed 59 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank, while Israel had 945 confirmed cases and one death.
Gaza’s 375 sq km are home to around 2 million Palestinians. Health experts say infection could spread fast among people living so close together, especially as medical supplies are scarce.

BACKGROUND

The Palestinian Health Ministry listed 59 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank, while Israel had 945 confirmed cases and one death.

An Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, has restricted cross-border movement for years, amid security concerns following the militant Hamas movement’s takeover of Gaza in 2007.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian government ordered people to stay home for two weeks to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers were exempted. A Palestinian official said people would be allowed to shop for food.
On Saturday, Israeli authorities said they were closing borders with Gaza and the West Bank to commercial traffic, though some patients and humanitarian staff could cross.
People entering Gaza via Rafah or Israel’s Erez crossing since March 15 have been quarantined at designated facilities, the World Health Organization said, putting the number of those in isolation at 1,287. Another 2,017 are in home quarantine.
In the West Bank, more than 9,900 people were in quarantine at home or in other facilities.


Hagia Sophia will open outside prayer time, says Turkey

Updated 14 July 2020

Hagia Sophia will open outside prayer time, says Turkey

  • The sixth-century Istanbul landmark’s museum status — in place since 1934 — was revoked on Friday
  • Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Hagia Sophia could open to visitors outside prayer times and its Christian icons will remain, religious officials said on Tuesday, after a court ruling paved the way for it to become a mosque.
The sixth-century Istanbul landmark’s museum status — in place since 1934 — was revoked on Friday and control was handed to the religious authority, Diyanet.
The decision sparked condemnation from Western governments, Russia and Christian leaders — Pope Francis saying he was “very distressed.”
Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453 and later a museum.
Diyanet said in a statement on Tuesday that Christian icons in Hagia Sophia were “not an obstacle to the validity of the prayers.”
“The icons should be curtained and shaded through appropriate means during prayer times,” it said.
“There is no obstacle from a religious perspective to Hagia Sophia Mosque being open to visitors outside prayer times.”
Hagia Sophia, a major tourist attraction, has been the scene of Islam-linked activities in recent years. In 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited a verse from Qur'an at the building.
Erdogan, who said the first Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia would begin on July 24, has insisted the building will be open to all, including non-Muslims.