Morocco to start reopening borders after strict lockdown

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A Moroccan policeman stands guard in a closed street on June 8, 2020 after Moroccan authorities declared a total lockdown following the discovery of many Covid-19 cases in a fish canning factory in the southern port city of Safi. (AFP)
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A man stands in a closed street on June 8, 2020 after Moroccan authorities declared a total lockdown following the discovery of many Covid-19 cases in a fish canning factory in the southern port city of Safi. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Morocco to start reopening borders after strict lockdown

  • Only Moroccan citizens and expats living in Morocco will be allowed to travel in the first stage of the reopening starting July 14

RABAT: Morocco will start gradually reopening its air and maritime borders next week after one of the world’s strictest border lockdowns, which trapped tourists inside the country and left thousands of Moroccans stranded abroad and unable to come home.
Only Moroccan citizens and expatriates living in Morocco will be allowed to travel in the first stage of the reopening starting July 14, according to a government statement Thursday.
National airlines will schedule as many flights as necessary to return Moroccans living abroad as well as foreigners living in Morocco. Passengers are required to present both a PCR virus test taken within fewer than 48 hours of the flight, as well as an antibody test, before boarding planes heading for Morocco.
Ferries from the French port Sete and Italian port Genoa will be allowed to resume serving Moroccan ports. All other ports will be excluded from this operation for now.
Moroccan citizens and foreign residents will be able to leave Morocco by air and sea.
Morocco abruptly suspended all international passenger flights and passenger ships to and from its territory on March 15. Tourists scrambled to get out — and Moroccans abroad struggled to come home.
While other countries also closed borders to keep out the virus, Morocco went even farther, barring its own citizens from coming home in hopes of limiting the risk of coronavirus arriving on Moroccan soil and overwhelming its under-prepared hospitals.
Under pressure from thousands of stranded Moroccans, the government started gradually letting some back in in recent weeks.
Morocco will start opening mosques next week, too, though weekly Friday prayers will remain banned.
When mosques reopen starting July 15, Morocco’s religious authority called on the faithful to wear masks, use personal prayer mats and uphold social distancing during prayers and outside mosques.
Morocco hasn’t announced when churches and synagogues will open.
Morocco has so far recorded more than 14,000 coronavirus cases, and outbreaks within families and factories have complicated efforts to limit the spread.
Local authorities in the coastal city of Safi were forced to put their city back on lockdown earlier this week, forcing more than 308,000 citizens to stay home, after an outbreak in a fish conservation factory. Outbreaks also occurred in a Renault factory in Tangier and in a strawberry plant in Kenitra, where 457 strawberry pickers and workers were affected.


18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

A heavily damaged building following Russian airstrikes and shelling on the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Monday. Three members of the same family were killed in the strike. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 41 sec ago

18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

  • Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack

BEIRUT, JERUSALEM: Clashes between opposition groups and pro-Assad fighters in northwestern Syria on Monday thwarted regime’s advance and left 12 pro-regime men dead, a Britain-based war monitoring group said.
Another 17 pro-regime fighters were wounded while on the opposition-led side six fighters died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion, said the war monitor.
But the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, headed by ex-leaders of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and their allies reportedly thwarted the advance.
Four HTS and two other opposition fighters were killed in the clashes in a rural area of Latakia province, the monitor said.
The HTS-led alliance also controls large areas of Idlib province and slivers of territory in neighboring Aleppo and Hama.
The region they hold is home to some 3 million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
Syria’s 9-year-old war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population.
The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
A Russian-backed regime offensive between December and March displaced nearly a million people in the region.
A Moscow-backed cease-fire agreement in March has reduced violence in the area, but shelling and airstrikes by the regime and its backers continue.
Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack.

Golan Heights Activity
The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Syria early on Monday staged by four suspected militants it accused of trying to plant explosives.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Israeli troops earlier spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected militants, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground, Conricus said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion.

• The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.

There was no official confirmation that the four suspected attackers were killed but a grainy video released by the army shows four figures walking away from barbed wire marking the frontier. The four then disappear in a large explosion that engulfs the area.
The Israeli military has not said if the four are suspected of ties to Iran or Hezbollah, two Syrian allies. However, Conricus said Israel held the Syrian regime responsible for the incident.
Addressing Likud party lawmakers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel “thwarted an attempted sabotage on the Syrian front” and would continue to “harm all those who try to harm us and all those who harm us.”
The incident comes amid heightened tension on Israel’s northern frontier following a recent Israeli airstrike that killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria. Following the airstrike, the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was hit by explosives fired from Syria and Israel responded by attacking Syrian military positions and beefing up its forces in the area.
Israel has been bracing for further retaliation and last week it said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by Hezbollah militants, setting off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the volatile Israel-Lebanon frontier since a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.