The world goes into lockdown with curfews and closures in the fight against coronavirus

The world goes into lockdown with curfews and closures in the fight against coronavirus
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Updated 25 March 2020

The world goes into lockdown with curfews and closures in the fight against coronavirus

The world goes into lockdown with curfews and closures in the fight against coronavirus
  • Egypt declares a curfew for two weeks starting Wednesday
  • All UAE airports suspending all flights, except evacuation flights

DUBAI: Middle East countries continue to urge people to stay at home and follow social distancing rules as the global spread of coronavirus increases.

Saudi Arabia imposed a curfew, with violators facing up to 20 days jail and fines up to $2,665.

The United Arab Emirates closed public spaces, including malls, beaches, parks and restaurants. Meanwhile, delivery services will continue operating normally as they follow new safety practices.

Tuesday, March 24 (All times in GMT)

22:03 - US President Donald Trump said his administration’s decision to loosen restrictions related to the coronavirus and re-open the US economy would be based on facts and data but said the goal remained to do so by the Easter holiday in April.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said that for the most part he did not expect to have to use the Defense Production Act but would do so as needed.

20:35 - The Dow soared to its biggest one-day percentage gain since 1933, after US lawmakers said they were close to a deal for an economic rescue package in response to the coronavirus outbreak, injecting optimism following the biggest selloff since the financial crisis.

19:21 - 1,657 people have been arrested across Jordan since a curfew, aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus, came into effect on Saturday had been placed in quarantine centers run by the army, a security official said.
The government has warned that people caught breaking the rules would be quarantined for 14 days and could also face up to one year of jail time.
The kingdom reported 26 new cases of the COVID-19 illness on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 153 confirmed infections in the country of around 10 million people.

18:51 - France becomes fifth country to report more than 1,000 deaths from #coronavirus, with official tally now at 1,100 deaths (vs 860) - public health official.

17:40 - President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday that he wants the coronavirus lockdown relaxed in the United States by mid-April, warning that keeping the measures in place could "destroy" the country.

"A lot of people agree with me. Our country -- it's not built to shut down," he said on Fox News. "You can destroy a country this way by closing it down. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," Trump added. Easter is on April 12.

He also said he believed more people would die if the coronavirus restrictions were not lifted.

17:07 - Britain will open a new temporary hospital next week at the Excel exhibition center in London to treat as many as 4,000 people, health minister Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.
The UK is also looking for 250,000 volunteers to help the National Health Service (NHS) and vulnerable people hit by the coronavirus crisis, Hancock added.
17:05 - Officials in Italy announced on Tuesday that the death toll from the virus in the country had risen by 743 to 6,820. Its number of cases now stands at 69,176.

16:30 - Canada reports 2,187 coronavirus cases and 25 deaths as of Tuesday, the government said.

16:30 - Tunisian police arrested more than 400 people for breaking a night-time curfew imposed to fight the spread of coronavirus, the authorities said Monday.

Around 30 of the 408 transgressors who were arrested remained in custody, while the others were released after a warning, Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi told reporters.

15:15 - India to go under total lockdown as of Tuesday evening for 21 days, PM Narendra Modi said in a television address. It means more than 2.6 billion people worldwide are being urged to observe a lockdown.

15:00 - Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who claims she "likely" had and recovered from the coronavirus, said on Tuesday the swift and far-ranging economic and social shifts being brought in to stem the coronavirus pandemic showed that the rapid action needed to curb climate change was also possible.

14:15 - WATCH: This from today in Amioun Koura in northern Lebanon, where the Lebanese Army were calling on people to stay at home as part of the country's coronavirus preventative measures.

13:35 - Amazon's India unit on Tuesday said it will temporarily stop taking orders for non-essential products and disable their deliveries in a bid to fulfil critical needs of its customers at a time much of the country is under lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

13:20 - The UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen appeals for a complete and immediate nationwide cease-fire throughout Syria to enable an all-out effort to combat the virus.

13:15 – Iraq said that coronavirus cases have risen to 316.

12:55 – Global airlines urged governments on Tuesday to speed up bailouts to rescue the air transport industry as they doubled their estimate of 2020 revenue losses from the coronavirus crisis to more than $250 billion. “We clearly need massive action very quickly and urgently,” Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association, told reporters on a conference call.

12:40 – The Saudi Ministry of Health has reported 205 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 767, with the Kingdom reporting its first death yesterday.

12:35 – Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has called on citizens to fully comply with government measures to confront coronavirus, adding the decisions adopted by the Egyptian government were urgent to prevent spread of the virus.

12:30 – Oman has suspended all internal and international flights as of March 29, except cargo operations and Musandam flights, state TV reported.

12:20 – Sudan has recorded the third case of coronavirus infection.

12:15 – Egypt has extended the suspension of air traffic for another two weeks, starting from April 1.

12:15 – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed on Tuesday that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic, despite holidng out and saying the event would go ahead just a few days before. READ THE STORY

12:10 – Tunisia has recorded 25 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 114.

12:00 – Kuwait is imposing mandatory quarantine on nationals returning from abroad for a period of 14 days.

11:55 – Bahrain has reported the death of a 65-year-old citizen due to coronavirus, bringing the death toll to four.

11:55 – Gaza is closing all mosques from tomorrow morning for two weeks.

11:50 – Saudi banking firm Samba said only 40 percent of Samba Group employees currently work from the offices.

11:40 – The number of confirmed cases in Switzerland of infections with the new coronavirus has risen to 8,836 people by midday on Tuesday from the 8,060 reported on Monday, the Federal Office of Public Health said. The number of deaths rose to 86 from 66.

11:30 – Egypt has declared curfew from 7p.m. to 6a.m. for two weeks starting Wednesday to counter the spread of coronavirus. Transportation will stop from 7p.m. to 6a.m. starting tomorrow, while all commercial stores will close from 5p.m. until 6a.m., the Egyptian prime minister said, and there would be a complete closure of commercial premises on Saturdays and Fridays. READ THE STORY

10:45 – Another 514 people have died in Spain over the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 2,696, as the number of infections surged towards 40,000, the government said Tuesday.
The number of people who have tested positive rose by nearly 20 percent to 39,673, the health ministry said, while the death toll represented an increase of 23.5 percent over the figures from Monday.

10:30 – The number of cases of coronavirus in Italy is probably 10 times higher than the official tally of almost 64,000, the head of the agency that is collating the data said on Tuesday. Latest figures show 6,077 people have died from the infection in barely a month, making Italy the worst-affected country in the world, with close to double the number of fatalities in China, where the virus emerged last year.

10:30 – A World Health Organisation spokeswoman said she was seeing “very large acceleration” in coronavirus case numbers in the US, says it has potential to be center of outbreak.

09:55 – UAE’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports are suspending all passenger flights as of 11:59p.m. local time on March 26 for two weeks with the exception of evacuation flights.

09:45 – Iran’s health ministry official said 122 died in past 24 hours, bringing the number of deaths to 1,934, and 24,811 have been infected with coronavirus. 

09:40 – A Lebanese man who was taxi pooling burned his car on Tuesday morning at the Sports City area in Beirut to protest security forces’ strict enforcement of new transport regulations put in place to control the spread of coronavirus. The driver, who was earlier fined for violating the 1-passenger-per-taxi limit, sustained burns and was transported to the hospital.

A taxi driver burned his car to protest Lebanon’s strict implementation of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. (Supplied)

09:10 – The Philippine health ministry reported 90 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 552 and two new deaths, raising the number to 35.

09:05 – Restaurants in Vietnam’s business hub, Ho Chi Minh City, must close until March 31 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the city’s ruling body said on Tuesday.

08:50 – Al Arabiya TV news channel has quoted unnamed sources suggesting Egypt could be about to impose curfew and further social restrictions in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus. 

08:05 – Kuwait’s Health Ministry recorded two new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and nine recoveries, bring the total of recoveries to 39.

Kuwaiti health ministry workers scan employees and visitors of the ministries complex on March 4, 2020. (AFP)

07:55 – The number of people in Israel infected with the coronavirus has increased to 1,656, of whom 31 are in serious condition, Sky News Arabia reported, quoting the country’s Ministry of Health.

07:30 – The executive vice president of Eni for the Middle East has confirmed that the energy company was reviewing all energy projects in the region due to market conditions, Al Arabiya reported.

07:15 – Thailand’s prime minister said his government was declaring a state of emergency to control the coronavirus outbreak. Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday also approved additional stimulus measures worth 107 billion baht ($3.25 billion) in a bid to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. READ THE STORY

06:55 – Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said 1.2 million government employees out of a total of 2.5 million were not going to work as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

06:35 – Bahrain’s finance minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa said that the government will implement a 4.3 billion dinars ($11.41 billion) package as soon as possible at the highest priority, Bahrain state TV reported. READ OUR REPORT

05:55 – Oman Ministry of Health registered 18 new cases of coronavirus, bringinf total cases to 84, according to Sky News Arabia.

05:35 – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 27,436, deaths to 114, Robert Koch Institute monitoring shows.

Public order officers walk through an deserted pedestrian zone in Cologne, western Germany, on March 23, 2020. (AFP)

05:10 – China’s central Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first emerged late last year, is to lift travel curbs after two months under lockdown, local officials said Tuesday.

Healthy residents will be allowed to leave the province from midnight Tuesday, while Wuhan, the initial origin of the outbreak, will lift restrictions from April 8.

05:05The Philippine economy could contract this year as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak, the economic planning agency said in a report made public on Tuesday.

Growth this year could be between -0.6 percent to +4.3 percent without mitigating measures, the agency said, adding the estimates assumed that the adverse impact of the fast-spreading virus will be felt until June.

04:25 – Police in India’s capital broke up the longest-running protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s citizenship law on Tuesday, citing a ban on public gatherings because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Dozens of people, many of them women, have been staging a sit-in protest since early December on a street in the Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood, which has become a focal point for opposition to the law seen as discriminating against Muslims. READ THE STORY

04:20 – Italy reported a second successive drop in daily deaths and infections from a coronavirus that has nevertheless claimed more than 6,000 lives in a month. The Mediterranean country has now seen its daily fatalities come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday. The number of new declared infections fell from 6,557 on Saturday to 4,789 on Monday.

03:20 – Thailand has recorded 106 new cases of coronavirus and three more deaths, a health official said on Tuesday. The country now has 827 cases and 4 fatalities since the outbreak began.

02:30 – Macau will ban all mainland Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwan residents who have travelled overseas from entering the city from Wednesday.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

02:20 – Australia’s most populous state recorded its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases on Tuesday and officials warned of harsher penalties for anybody violating self-isolation orders as the country stepped closer to a full lockdown.

New South Wales state identified 149 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 818, and the national toll to 1,886 cases. The national death toll remained unchanged at seven.

Australia has registered significantly lower rates of the virus compared to elsewhere in the world, but the infection rate has quickened in recent days.

02:15 – The Philippine health ministry confirmed 39 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to 501.

A volunteer disinfects a vehicle in Manila on March 20, 2020, after the government imposed an enhanced community quarantine against the rising coronavirus infections. (AFP)

01:50 – The Chinese government said that all overseas arrivals would be subject to centralized quarantine and nucleic acid test from March 25, official media reported.

01:35 – US Olympic organisers joined calls for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the International Olympic Committee, according to member Dick Pound, has decided to delay the event, likely for a year.

01:20 – South Korea reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking its total infections to 9,037, the Yonhap news agency said, citing health authorities.

Monday, March 23 (All times in GMT)

22:20 – Mexico had 367 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country on Monday, up from 316 the day before, deputy health secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell said, with a total of four deaths.
Previously the country had reported two deaths.

21:10 – Yemen’s universities and schools will be suspended from March 23 until May 30 to curb the spread of coronavirus, Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said.

19:50 – Jordan confirmed 15 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total to 127.

19:25 – Morocco has seen an increase in cases to 143.

UN report reveals horrors of daily life for many in Iran

UN report reveals horrors of daily life for many in Iran
Updated 09 March 2021

UN report reveals horrors of daily life for many in Iran

UN report reveals horrors of daily life for many in Iran
  • Women, girls, minorities, human-rights campaigners and protesters are among those who face abuse, jail, torture and execution
  • Study shows ways in which members of certain groups, including activists campaigning for basic freedoms, are targeted

NEW YORK: Women and girls in Iran continue to be treated “as second-class citizens,” according to a new UN report. Published on March 8, International Women’s Day, it details the scale of human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime in Tehran against members of many groups in the country.
The research, by independent expert Javaid Rehman, reveals that women, girls, human rights advocates, ethnic minorities, writers, journalists and people with dual nationality are among those targeted by the regime. They face abuse, torture, arbitrary detention, harassment, forced confessions, and even the death penalty.
Rehman, who will present his report on March 9 to the UN’s Human Rights Council, said females suffer as a result of deep-rooted discrimination in law and day-to-day life. He raised serious concerns about domestic violence, and while he welcomed the introduction of a new law to tackle acid attacks against women, he urged the Iranian government to do more to protect them.
“Violence against women, patriarchal values and misogynist behaviors permeate many segments of Iranian life, with discriminatory legal provisions exacerbating the vulnerabilities of women to domestic abuse,” said Rehman, who is the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
His report also highlights the problem of child marriage, noting that more than 16,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 got married in Iran in just six months last year.
“One of the most concerning issues in Iran today, when it comes to the rights of women and girls, is the issue of child marriage,” Rehman said. “The current legal marriage age is simply unacceptable.”
According to Human Rights Watch, girls as young as 13 can marry in Iran with their father’s permission, and at an even younger age if authorized by a judge.
“It is clear that child marriage is harmful for the development and well-being of girls, including in terms of education, employment and to live free of violence,” Rehman added.
His requests to visit Iran were denied and so he compiled his report using data collected from government, non-governmental and media sources. He also interviewed victims of abuses, along with their families and lawyers.
His report also sounds an alarm about the continuing harassment, arrest and imprisonment of women’s rights advocates, both women and men, including those who campaign against compulsory veiling laws.
Some officials have encouraged attacks against women who do not observe these laws and threatened their safety in other ways, the report stated. The enforcement of veiling laws by the police, Basij militia and vigilante “morality police” often results in violence against women, including acid attacks and murder.
Rehman’s report also details how blatant gender discrimination permeates almost all aspects of the law and daily life in Iran, including marriage, divorce, employment and culture, with the result that women are treated as second-class citizens.
He calls on the Iranian government to repeal discriminatory laws and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women. Iran is one of the few states not to have signed it.
Regarding the Iranian regime’s failure to investigate a brutal crackdown by security forces on protesters during the nationwide demonstrations on Nov. 19, or to hold the perpetrators accountable, Rehman presents evidence that suggests firearms were used “in a manner that amounted to a serious violation of international human rights law,” resulting in the deaths of more than 300 people, including women and children.
In the days following the protests, the report states that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps raided homes, hospitals, schools and workplaces to arrest demonstrators, including children, and crush what Iranian officials described as “a very dangerous conspiracy.”
More than 7,000 detainees were held in secret facilities without access to lawyers, many of them in solitary confinement where they were tortured, starved and forced to make false confessions.
Relatives seeking information on the whereabouts of loved ones were also harassed and detained. Targeting of relatives in an effort to force human rights activists to halt their campaigning has been widely documented.
In July 2020, for example, Alireza Alinejad, the brother of human rights campaigner Masih Alinejad, was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison “on spurious national security charges, in reprisal against his sister’s advocacy,” the report noted.
Rehman also called for an end to the culture of impunity in Iran. This has been reinforced by government reprisals against those who raised allegations of human rights abuses during the protests.
The special rapporteur also voiced concern about the high rate of death sentences in Iran, especially the execution of child offenders, and the recent cases in which protesters received the death penalty.
There have also been reports of secret executions in connection with the protests “following unfair trials and after the systematic use of torture to extract forced confessions.” On Sep. 12 last year, for example, wrestler Navid Afkari, who had participated in Aug. 2018 protests in Shiraz, was put to death “without prior notice in contravention of Iranian law.”
The report also raises concern about the fate of detained human rights activists, journalists, labor rights campaigners, dual and foreign nationals, and lawyers. It points out that the Iranian regime continues to target individuals who advocate for basic freedoms, including Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz, who were imprisoned for taking part in protests on International Women’s Day 2019 against compulsory veiling laws.
Payam Derafshan, who opposed a government ban on the Telegram messaging application, remains detained while he awaits a Supreme Court review of a two-and-a-half year prison sentence.
Rehman also notes with concern “the authorities’ repeated disruption of telecommunications.” Telegram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are “permanently blocked and inaccessible without circumvention tools,” in an attempt to prevent protesters from revealing regime abuses to the world.
“Internet shutdowns and the blanket blocking of websites and applications represent a violation of the right to freedom of expression,” said Rehman.
He also said that ongoing discrimination against ethnic, religious and sexual minorities continues to be cause for alarm, and the report includes details of executions and enforced disappearances of political prisoners from ethnic minorities.
For example, Hedayat Abdollahpour, a Kurd, was executed for allegedly taking up arms against the state, despite a lack of evidence supporting his conviction and a confession extracted under torture.
Iran also targets ethnic and religious minorities simply for “practicing their culture, language or faith.”
On Aug. 15 last year, Liza Tebyanian was arrested and jailed for “teaching the Baha’i faith.” Many Gonabadi Dervishes also remain in prison.
Rehman’s report also includes examples of forced evictions from ethnic-minority areas. These include a raid on a village in Ahwaz, in Khuzestan province, in which demolition orders were issued for 300 houses, security forces fired tear gas at residents who resisted the confiscation of their land and demolition of their homes, and 130 people were arrested despite proof of ownership.
Since Rehman completed his report, further “disturbing incidents” involving the targeting of minorities have come to light, including: more than 20 executions of Baloch prisoners; the “suspicious” death of a Dervish follower; excessive use of force against protesters in Sistan and Balochistan province; the detention of 100 Kurdish activists, and house raids and land confiscations targeting members of the Baha’i faith.
Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender also experience human rights violations and widespread discrimination. Consensual sexual activity between members of the same sex can be punishable by death, while people convicted of “touching and kissing” can be flogged. The report said that “senior officials describe members of the LGBT community in hateful terms, including “subhuman” and “diseased.”
Rehman said he was also disturbed by the Iranian government’s continued targeting of journalists and writers who report on subjects such as corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts who question the regime’s management of the health crisis also reportedly face prosecution or losing their jobs.
Although the report raises concerns that international sanctions have hampered Iranian efforts to respond to the pandemic, it criticized the government’s “opaque and inadequate coronavirus response (which has) resulted in excess deaths, including the deaths of medical workers who were left to fend for themselves without sufficient protective equipment.”
Detainees were also abandoned in “overcrowded and unhygienic” prisons, Rehman adds. According to the World Health Organization, in June 2020 there were 211,000 prisoners in Iran’s state prisons, 2.5 times the official capacity.

Greece and Egypt reach compromise in eastern Mediterranean

Greece and Egypt reach compromise in eastern Mediterranean
In this photo taken on Aug. 31, 2020, by the Greek Defense Ministry, worships from Greece, Italy, Cyprus and France, participate in a joint military exercise in eastern Mediterranean sea. (AP)
Updated 09 March 2021

Greece and Egypt reach compromise in eastern Mediterranean

Greece and Egypt reach compromise in eastern Mediterranean
  • Deal is a blow for Turkey after Ankara's attempt to capitalize by enhancing its own ties with Cairo

ATHENS: Greece and Egypt reached a compromise on Monday in their disagreement over oil and gas exploration in an area of the eastern Mediterranean.
The spat had given Ankara an opportunity to mount a diplomatic offensive in an attempt to show that Turkey and Egypt were close to reaching an agreement of their own on maritime-exploration zones.
However, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke a few days ago with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. Soon after, it was announced that Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias would travel to Cairo on Monday to meet his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.
After the meeting, Dendias said the contentious issue concerning one of the three Egyptian exploration areas, which follows the boundaries of a previous agreement between the two countries but also extends eastwards into an area claimed by Turkey, was merely a “technical one” and had been resolved. The coordinates of the disputed block were reportedly adjusted after consultations between Egyptian and Greek experts.
Earlier, Egyptian diplomatic sources told Arab News that rumors suggesting Cairo had discussed eastern Mediterranean issues with Turkey were not true. In the past week, high-level Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, spoke about the possibility of reaching a delimitation agreement with Cairo.
However, the Egyptian sources said that Cairo remains committed to Greece and Cyprus being part of any negotiations with Turkey about the eastern Mediterranean, and has “no intentions” of negotiating with Turkey over the issue.
In addition, they said “the Egyptian side is sticking to its position rejecting the maritime agreement signed between the Libyan Government of National Accord and Ankara.”
This is not the first time Ankara tried to exploit disagreements between Athens and Cairo to advance its own regional agenda.
“Turkey’s latest attempt to spread news, primarily in English-language media, that it wants to ‘reconcile’ with Egypt, and that Egypt and Turkey are close to a maritime border deal, is part of Ankara’s attempts to sabotage Egypt’s relations with Greece and Cyprus,” Seth Frantzman, an analyst and correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, told Arab News.
“The Turkish propaganda onslaught is one that we have seen before, when Ankara invented a similar non-existing ‘reconciliation’ with Israel. This myth, of Ankara’s own making, is not designed to go anywhere, except to create controversy and concern among the emerging alliance of Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, France and the UAE.”
Turkish authorities simply want to gain control of a large part of the eastern Mediterranean without any recognition or acceptance of Cypriot or Greek claims to it, Frantzman added.
“There is an overarching trend in Turkish strategic-policy circles that seeks to recalibrate Turkey’s relations with key eastern Mediterranean neighbors,” professor Michael Tanchum, a lecturer at Universidad de Navarra and senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, told Arab News.
“As Turkey seeks to expand its commercial influence across the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Africa, its interests are not served by driving countries like Egypt and Israel closer to Turkey’s systemic rivals.”
A rapprochement with Egypt would go a long way to ending the isolation of Ankara in issues related to the eastern Mediterranean, he added.
“Turkey-Egypt commercial relations are significant but there is room for there to be more robust cooperation,” said Tanchum.
“If each side convinces the other of its genuine goodwill for cooperation, then progress can be made. For Egypt and Turkey, a clear mutual understanding about Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood are required.”
He added that “the new Biden administration’s foreign policy reset forms an opportune time to explore options.”
During his visit to Cairo, Dendias also met Ahmed Aboul Gheit, general secretary of the Arab League, as part of ongoing efforts by Athens to gain observer status in the organization.


Split in Israeli-Arab parliamentary bloc could prove costly

Split in Israeli-Arab parliamentary bloc could prove costly
Updated 09 March 2021

Split in Israeli-Arab parliamentary bloc could prove costly

Split in Israeli-Arab parliamentary bloc could prove costly
  • It is predicted the Joint List will lose up to six of its MPs after the United Arab List left the group over political and social disagreements
  • It comes almost a year after the alliance won 15 seats in the Knesset, which was a record high for an Arab political bloc

ATLANTA: With only two weeks to go until parliamentary elections in Israel, a recent split within the ranks of the Joint List, the bloc that represents most of the country’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, threatens to diminish its political power.

The United Arab List (UAL), also known as the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, withdrew from the four-party alliance in February over disagreements about political and social issues. The remaining members are the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, the Arab Movement for Renewal, and the National Democratic Alliance (Balad).

In the previous election, in March last year, the Joint List won 15 seats in the Knesset, a record high for an Arab political bloc. Analysts predict that as a result of the split it will will lose five or six of those seats in the next parliament.

UAL leaders said the conflict with the Joint List is a result of its decision to support Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White coalition, in his efforts to form a government with Arab political support after last year’s elections.

Instead of forming his own government with the support of the Joint List as agreed, Gantz instead decided to form a joint government with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian community viewed this as both a rebuke and a betrayal of the Arab parties that had supported his bid to become prime minister.

However Jamal Zahalka, a former member of parliament and former leader of Balad, said the cause of the rift was the refusal of UAL leader Mansour Abbas to abide by a collective Joint List decision to cast a vote to dissolve the Knesset, which paved the way for this month’s election.

“Abbas floated the possibility that he might swing his vote in either direction of the Israeli political parties in exchange for economic benefits for the Palestinian communities,” Zahalka told Arab News.

“Palestinian political parties, given their marginalized status, should not engage in such political bargains that could weaken them in the long run.”

Ibrahim Hijazi, the UAL’s secretary-general, told the Arab News that the party was effectively “pushed out” of the Joint List because of its desire to be more politically independent.

He said there is no significant difference between the Israeli political right or left when it comes to issues such as the racist treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel, ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and the building of illegal Israeli settlements.

“All shades of the Israeli government are inherently anti-Arab racists,” he said. Therefore Palestinian Arabs should not align themselves with the Israeli left as the Joint List has, he added, which was a major point of contention with the bloc.

The Joint List’s record of voting for laws that support the LGBTQ community in Israel was another cause of disagreements, Hijazi said, because such laws are not in line with the social values of Arab communities in Israel.

He added that his party has forged alliances with a number of community leaders across the country and he expects it to win between four and six seats in this month’s elections.

Palestinian historian Mahmoud Yazbak, a professor of Palestinian History at the University of Haifa, agreed with Hijazi that since 1948 successive Israeli governments have implemented racist policies designed to politically disenfranchise and marginalize Palestinians.

“As a result, the Arab Palestinian parties inside Israel have been operating on the periphery of the Israeli political system without real power,” he said. The historic electoral success of the Joint List in March last year gave it the ability to tip the balance of power for the party seeking to form the government, he added.

To capitalize on this new-found political clout, “the Joint List’s main goal was to topple Netanyahu from power because he is the most anti-Arab racist of Israeli prime ministers,” said Yazbak.

Israeli governments have deliberately neglected the Palestinian community socially, politically and economically, he added. The proliferation of organized crime and the high rate of murders in Palestinian communities is a deliberate result of Israeli policies that aim to dismantle the political and social cohesiveness of Palestinians in Israel.

“Successive Israeli governments for the past 20 years have tacitly encouraged gang members, drug dealers and Mafia-style criminal activities in Palestinian areas,” he said.

‘Visual memory’: Activists in race to save digital trace of Syria war

‘Visual memory’: Activists in race to save digital trace of Syria war
A Kurdish woman walks with her child past the ruins of the town of Kobani. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2021

‘Visual memory’: Activists in race to save digital trace of Syria war

‘Visual memory’: Activists in race to save digital trace of Syria war
  • The videos showing regime bombardments, executions by extremists and chemical attacks had served as a vital window into a conflict which has remained largely off limits to journalists and investigators and was captured mostly by the people living it

BEIRUT: From videos of deadly airstrikes to extremists' takeovers, Al-Mutez Billah’s YouTube page served as a digital archive of the Syrian war until automated takedown software in 2017 erased it permanently.
The page exhibiting footage that violated YouTube’s community standards could not be restored because Al-Mutez Billah, a citizen-journalist, had been executed by Daesh three years earlier over his documentation efforts.
“It’s not just videos that have been deleted, it’s an entire archive of our life,” said Sarmad Jilane, a Syrian activist and close friend of Al-Mutez Billah, who was killed at the age of 21.
“Effectively, it feels like a part of our visual memory has been erased.”
The Google-owned YouTube platform has deleted hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded by Syrian activists since it introduced automated software in 2017 to detect and delete objectionable content, including violent or graphic videos.
It is not the only social media giant relying on artificial intelligence takedowns, but the platform is home to the majority of Syria war footage, making it an even bigger blow.
The videos showing regime bombardments, executions by extremists and chemical attacks had served as a vital window into a conflict which has remained largely off limits to journalists and investigators and was captured mostly by the people living it.
With the war entering its 11th year, there is growing concern that digital evidence of history’s most documented conflict is being syphoned away by the Internet’s indiscriminate trash can.
“The videos are part of an entire population’s memory,” Jilane said.
“Every clip helps us remember things like what shells were fired that day, the date of the event, or even how we were feeling at the time,” the activist told AFP over the phone from Germany.
Jilane is one of the founders of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a renowned activist-run page that documented abuses by extremists from Daesh.
Four years ago, YouTube deleted the page’s account but it has since been restored with the help of the Syrian Archive — a group working to preserve the conflict’s digital footprint.
The Syrian Archive has helped restore more than 650,000 YouTube videos removed since 2017, but that is only a fraction of deleted content.
“There is a real feel among people who do open-source investigation that Syrian history is being erased by machine-learning technology,” said Dia Kayyali of the parent company Mnemonic.
“It is a steady and ongoing bleeding-out of this body of evidence.”
To get a sense of how much content is being removed, the Syrian Archive compares videos available online against those collected on its servers.
Almost a quarter of its collection is no longer available on YouTube, Kayyali said.
The situation is set to worsen as global powers ramp up pressure on social media giants to curb terror content online.
In December, EU lawmakers reached a provisional agreement on tougher regulations, including an obligation that platforms take down offending material within an hour.
If enforced, this would make preservation all the more difficult.
“As soon as we find things, we archive them,” Kayyali said.
“But we can’t keep up with the technology, it’s specifically designed to be much faster than human beings,” she added.
“Right now, it’s really a race against time.”
YouTube usually relies on a mix of automated software and human reviewers to flag and delete problematic videos.
But the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to lean more on artificial intelligence as it reduces “in-office staffing,” according to its latest transparency report.
This “means we are removing more content that may not be violative of our policies,” it said.
But “when it’s brought to our attention that a video or channel has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it,” said a YouTube spokesperson.
Despite the erasures, countless hours of Syria content survive.
“We have more footage of the Syrian war than the length of the conflict itself,” said Nick Waters of the open-source investigation website Bellingcat.
Bellingcat has gained prominence as a pillar of open-source intelligence since it started using videos and images to probe the use of weapons in Syria’s war, which has claimed more than 380,000 lives.
Rights groups have also used open-source information to investigate chemical weapon use in Syria.
“User-generated content is very good at establishing certain things: what happened, where and when,” Waters said.
“It’s less good in terms of the why and sometimes the whom.”
Experts believe social media evidence could potentially play a future role in Syria prosecutions.
Its use in court is still being developed, Waters said, but its added value should not be overlooked.
“Each one of these videos or images potentially shows a piece of history,” said the open-source analyst.
“By deleting these videos, especially from accounts of people who may have been killed ... these social media giants are effectively destroying evidence.”

Egypt condemns Houthis’ targeting of civilian areas and Saudi institutions

Egypt condemns Houthis’ targeting of civilian areas and Saudi institutions
A view shows branded oil tanks at Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia October 12, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt condemns Houthis’ targeting of civilian areas and Saudi institutions

Egypt condemns Houthis’ targeting of civilian areas and Saudi institutions
  • In the past week, Saudi air defenses have intercepted 31 armed drone and missile attacks, mostly targeting cities in the Kingdom’s south, amid an escalation in Houthi strikes

CAIRO: Egypt has expressed its condemnation of the Houthi militia’s terrorist operations against Saudi Arabia through the targeting of civilian areas and vital institutions, including the sites of energy facilities that affect the whole region.

The latest of the terrorism acts targeted the port of Ras Tanura and the facilities of Saudi Aramco in attacks by a drone and a ballistic missile, which were intercepted and successfully countered.
A statement by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its strong rejection of such attacks, which are inconsistent with international and humanitarian law and hinder efforts to bring peace to Yemen, and undermine the region’s security and stability.


Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its strong rejection of Houthi attacks, which are inconsistent with international and humanitarian law and hinder efforts to bring peace to Yemen, and undermine the region’s security and stability.

Egypt said that its government and people stand with the Saudi government and people, and expressed its solidarity with the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront the attacks and preserve its security and stability.
In the past week, Saudi air defenses have intercepted 31 armed drone and missile attacks, mostly targeting cities in the Kingdom’s south, amid an escalation in Houthi strikes.
After the latest Houthi attacks, the coalition released footage showing an airstrike on a mobile SAM-6 surface-to-air missile system.
Other footage showed Houthi Qasef-2K drones and Samad attack drones aimed at civilian sites in the Kingdom being intercepted and destroyed.