COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms

A helicopter lands on Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
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An Iranian Navy warship is seen during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
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An Iranian Navy warship is seen during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
Troops alight from a helicopter on the Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army via AP)
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Troops alight from a helicopter on the Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army via AP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms

COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms
  • Opposition group says 201,000 people have died; this is almost four times the official total and the highest per-capita death rate in the world
  • US and European nations urged to take a tough stance against Tehran is response to its nuclear ambitions and ‘crimes against humanity’

CHICAGO: Deaths from COVID-19 in Iran have exceeded 201,000, Paris-based opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said on Wednesday. If their estimate is accurate, it means the country has the highest per-capita fatality rate in the world by far.

The figure is almost four times the Iranian government’s official tally. Senior doctors in the country have previously warned that the true total is likely to be much higher than official figures suggest.

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, described the soaring death toll as a catastrophe. She said it is a direct result of the Iranian regime’s response to US sanctions and international calls to abandon its nuclear-research program. She added that the situation will get worse as a result of the announcement last week by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that he is banning the import of COVID-19 vaccines produced in the US and UK, on the grounds that they are “untrustworthy.”

“Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have sent the Iranian people to the killing fields of Coronavirus, (and) by banning the import of vaccines they are creating even a bigger disaster,” Rajavi said.

Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the regime is taking advantage of the presidential transition in the US and fecklessness in Europe to deny the Iranian people access to vaccines as a means of controlling and punishing them.

“This puts the people of Iran at tremendous risk and is a crime against humanity,” he said. “It goes to show that Khamenei wants to use the coronavirus crisis as a barrier against another uprising like the one we saw in 2009.

“Otherwise, why would he prevent the import of vaccines? After all, Khamenei had no problem purchasing weaponry and other goods from the US and Europe in years past, because those purchases served his purposes.”

Safavi added that the regime in Tehran spent more than $25 billion on Airbus and Boeing planes from Europe and the US under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, but now refuses to buy the COVID-19 vaccines offered by biotech companies Moderna and Pfizer.

“The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran has surpassed 201,000, which is a staggering figure in the sense that Iran ranks first in terms of per-capita fatalities,” he said.

“Alongside this the regime has refused to provide any meaningful financial assistance to the millions of Iranians who have lost their jobs and cannot go to work because of the (pandemic). It is a crime against humanity and I think it is high time for the international community to get involved and do something about it.”

Iran’s ruling mullahs are also exploiting the shift in power in Washington to pursue their ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon, Safavi said.

“Anticipating (the arrival of the Biden administration on) January 20 they have upped the ante, saying they are now enriching uranium to a purity of up to 20 percent, which is a clear violation of the terms of the Iran nuclear deal,” he added. “So all of the provocative actions they have been taking is nuclear blackmail, in an attempt to force the Europeans and the US to jump (back) into the JCPOA once the new administration takes office next week.”

The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reintroduced tough sanctions on Tehran. President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he might return to the deal.

Safavi said that the Iranian regime continues to develop its nuclear research program and its weapons industry.

“The European countries and the US should draw a line in the sand and say that Iran does not have a right to enrich uranium,” he added.

He also called on the US and EU to join forces to demand immediate action from Tehran, including: granting full access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, to military sites in particular; halting all nuclear-research activities; ending their nuclear missile expansion program; abandoning their efforts to destabilize other nations in the region. He also called for an end to the continued repression and violence by the Mullahs targeting their own people, and the continued executions of opponents.

“The regime uses executions as a means to instill an atmosphere of terror and repression inside the country,” Safavi said. “We also feel the EU and the US should begin addressing one of the most heinous crimes that was perpetrated by this regime: the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.”

In calling for a tough international stance against Tehran by world powers, he said: “No amount of political and economic concessions to this regime will moderate its behavior.”

He added that the World Health Organization must “internationalize this issue and hold the regime accountable” for denying its people access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

“So long as you remain silent, so long as you do not take any action, that will only embolden the mullahs to continue their policies — and of course the primary victims of this policy are the people of Iran, who are suffering every day. More and more Iranians are dying,” Safavi said.

 

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival
Updated 08 May 2021

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

CAIRO: Egypt will require all visitors arriving from “countries where variants of the virus have appeared” to take a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival, its health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The statement did not specify the countries from which passengers would take the 15-minute DNA test, called ID NOW.
Egypt’s new coronavirus cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Saturday it reported 1,125 new cases and 65 deaths, although experts say that reflects only a fraction of total cases.
In a statement on Saturday, Egypt’s tourism ministry clarified that restaurants and coffee shops attached to hotels were exempt from a recent decree that such outlets as well as malls and stores would close at 9 p.m. local time (GMT +2) in order to not affect tourism.


Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police
Updated 08 May 2021

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police
  • Clashes erupted when Israeli police deployed heavily as Muslims were performing evening prayers at Al-Aqsa

JERUSALEM: A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.
Nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place and have reignited in recent days over threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict.
It was unclear what set off the violence at Al-Aqsa, which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers at the sprawling hilltop esplanade.
Throughout the night large groups of protesters could be seen hurling rocks as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. At one point, the police entered one of the buildings in the complex, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the wounded were hospitalized. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 83 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, including three who were shot in the eye, two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws.
The Israeli police said protesters hurled stones, fireworks and other objects at them, wounding six officers who required medical treatment. “We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots and attacks on our forces,” it said in a statement late Friday.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Some 70,000 worshippers had attended the final midday Friday prayers of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, the Islamic endowment that oversees the site said. Thousands protested afterwards, waving the green flags of the Islamic militant group Hamas and chanting pro-Hamas slogans.
At the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Israel blocked off a popular gathering spot where Palestinians traditionally socialize at the end of their daylong fast. The move set off two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted the restrictions.
But in recent days, protests have grown over Israel's threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighborhood.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides to try and de-escalate tensions.
“It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” the US State Department said in a statement. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”
The European Union also urged calm. It said the potential evictions were of “serious concern," adding that such actions are "illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground.
Neighboring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has also condemned Israel's actions, as has the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel last year in a US-brokered deal.
Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days.
Sunday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa.
Sunday night is also the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital.


Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops
Updated 08 May 2021

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops
  • The US accuses Iran-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A drone strike early on Saturday targeted a military base in Iraq that hosts US troops, causing only minor damage and no casualties, Iraq’s military and the US-led coalition said.
The pore-dawn attack damaged a hangar, tweeted coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto. He said the attack was under investigation. An Iraqi military statement also said no losses were reported.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The US has blamed Iran-backed militia groups for previous attacks, most of them rocket attacks that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq.
Drone strikes are less common. In mid-April, an explosive-laden drone targeted the military section of the international airport in Irbil, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region, causing no casualties or damages. The base also hosts US troops.
The attacks have been frequent since a US-directed drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a non-binding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country.
The Biden administration has resumed strategic talks with Baghdad, initiated under President Donald Trump, in which the future of US troop presence in Iraq is a central point of discussion.


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 08 May 2021

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 08 May 2021

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.