Gaza reports 1st virus-related death amid fears of outbreak

Socially distanced Friday prayers are held in Gaza amid concern about the spread of COVID-19. (REUTERS)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Gaza reports 1st virus-related death amid fears of outbreak

  • The Gaza Strip's dense population and fragile medical infrastructure makes it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic

GAZA CITY: The crowded Gaza Strip recorded its first death from the coronavirus on Saturday, officials said, amid fears an outbreak could paralyze the territory’s already overstretched health care system.
The Palestinian health ministry said the deceased was a 77-year-old woman who had underlying health problems and had been placed at a special field hospital near the Rafah border crossing point upon arriving from Egypt.
Gaza’s authorities, led by the militant group Hamas, reported 35 confirmed new cases this week, bringing the total to 55. All of the infected have been in designated quarantine and isolation facilities hosting returnees from abroad. There were no reports of community transmission of the virus.
Gaza’s health care system is fraying under the weight of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, internal Palestinian division and repeated wars and skirmishes between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.
Home to 2 million people, the Gaza Strip has only a little over 60 ventilators and a chronic shortage of medication.
Since mid-March, Hamas has enforced mandatory quarantining at hotels, clinics and schools for all residents returning via Israel and Egypt. With the recent spike of cases, Hamas said it’s closing Gaza’s borders for all arrivals until the end of June.
But on Friday, mosques were reopened for noon prayers across the Gaza Strip, with worshippers bringing their own prayer rugs, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and receiving hand sanitizer. Authorities say the partial reopening of the mosques after nearly two months of closure came after relative success at keeping the virus at bay and preventing an outbreak.
Schools and wedding halls remained closed in Gaza. Hamas’ interior ministry said public and amusement parks are not allowed to open during Eid Al-Fitr, a major holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, that starts Sunday.


‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

Updated 31 May 2020

‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

  • Turkey claims an agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to create a “fait accompli” over rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling off the coast of Libya, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Ankara’s announcement that it intends to activate last year’s maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli has brought simmering tensions to the boil.   

Turkey claims the agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between its southern coast and Libya’s northeastern coast. However, Greece, Cyprus and the EU say the deal is illegal. Turkey may also face EU sanctions over drilling in Cypriot territorial waters.

Ankara has not said exactly where it will drill, but experts told Arab News they expect exploration activities to begin off Tripoli in the short term, and then near to the coastal city of Sirte.

“From a tactical point of view, Turkey may test the scenario of a crisis with Athens where escalation takes place and then, in the context of de-escalation, the two countries would have to discuss and negotiate their positions,” said Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and co-founder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said: “If we take Turkish operations off the Cypriot coast as an indicator, operations off the Libyan coast might start off on the less provocative part of the spectrum and grow bolder with time toward the more provocative part of the spectrum.

“The objective is to demonstrate a resolute determination in order to extract concessions or, at the very least, to impose itself as a player to reckon with.”