Israel to ban incoming passenger flights to contain COVID-19 spread

Israel to ban incoming passenger flights to contain COVID-19 spread
This picture taken on January 24, 2021 shows a view of the empty departure check-in counter for Israel flag carrier El Al at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv. (AFP)
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Updated 24 January 2021

Israel to ban incoming passenger flights to contain COVID-19 spread

Israel to ban incoming passenger flights to contain COVID-19 spread

Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants.
"Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting.
The ban will come into force from Monday at 2200 GMT and last until the end of January, a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
The country's borders have largely been closed to foreigners during the pandemic, with only Israeli passport holders allowed entry.
Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include late teens. The vaccines were initially limited to the elderly and other high-risk categories, but are now available to anyone over 40 or - with parental permission - those between 16 and 18.
The inclusion of late teens is meant "to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams," the Education Ministry spokeswoman said.
Israel awards a matriculation certificate to high school students in grades 10-12 who pass exams, administered by the Education Ministry, that play a major role in acceptance to universities. They can also affect placement in the military, where many Israelis do compulsory service after high school.
Israel has the world's fastest vaccine distribution rate. With regular imports of Pfizer Inc. vaccines, it has administered at least one dose to more than 25% of its 9 million population since Dec. 19, the Health Ministry says.
The country has been under a third national lockdown since Dec. 27, which it plans to lift at the end of January. Critics say the government has mishandled the crisis, lacking a clear long-term strategy and allowing politics to cloud its decisions.
Education Minister Yoav Galant, speaking on Ynet TV, said it was too early to know if schools would reopen next month. 


Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
Updated 2 min 6 sec ago

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
CAIRO: Egypt is witnessing a third coronavirus wave, a top official has said. Ashraf Hatem, head of the health affairs committee in the Egyptian Parliament and a member of the supreme committee for respiratory viruses of the Ministry of Higher Education, indicated that the number of coronavirus cases at university hospitals is once again increasing daily.
He said that citizens must adhere to precautionary measures, respect the rules of social distancing and wear their protective face masks, as well as avoiding family visits.
He advised of the need to follow proper nutritional habits and eat foods that contain nutrients that boost the immune system.
Hatem said that the number of coronavirus cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures.
He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health.
Egypt has not yet reached the peak of the third wave, he said, and numbers might continue to rise until the last week of Ramadan. He called on citizens to be careful in the coming period to minimize the increase in infection rates.
He praised the decision of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to fine those who violate the instructions of the government.
Ashraf Abdel Basset, president of Mansoura University, said that the number of beds allocated for isolation had not been reduced following the earlier decrease in the number of daily recorded cases. He said that the hospitals are highly prepared for any emergency.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had previously warned of a third coronavirus wave. “We are on the threshold of the third wave … please be careful, especially with the month of Ramadan … We want the matter to end in peace,” he said.

Dubai allows women breastfeeding, planning to conceive to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Dubai allows women breastfeeding, planning to conceive to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Updated 17 April 2021

Dubai allows women breastfeeding, planning to conceive to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Dubai allows women breastfeeding, planning to conceive to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

DUBAI: The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said Saturday it will allow women who are breastfeeding and those planning to get pregnant to take the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The DHA said the step was in line with the latest international studies and guidelines on coronavirus vaccines, according to a Twitter post by the Dubai Media Office.

The authority also announced that it was going to cut the time frame of vaccine eligibility for those who have previously contracted COVID-19 to 10 days from three months. 


Iran names suspect in Natanz nuclear site attack, says he fled country

Iran names suspect in Natanz nuclear site attack, says he fled country
Updated 17 April 2021

Iran names suspect in Natanz nuclear site attack, says he fled country

Iran names suspect in Natanz nuclear site attack, says he fled country
  • State TV report named the suspect as Reza Karimi

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran named a suspect Saturday in the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges there, saying he had fled the country before the sabotage happened.
State television named the suspect as 43-year-old Reza Karimi. It showed a passport-style photograph of a man it identified as Karimi, saying he was born in the nearby city of Kashan, Iran.
The report did not elaborate how Karimi would have gotten access to one of the most secure facilities in the Islamic Republic.
The report also aired what appeared to be an Interpol “red notice” seeking his arrest. The arrest notice was not immediately accessible on Interpol’s public-facing database. Interpol, based in Lyon, France, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The TV report said “necessary actions” are underway to bring him back to Iran through legal channels, without elaborating. The supposed Interpol “red notice” listed his travel history as including Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Ethiopia, Qatar, Turkey, Uganda, Romania and another country that was illegible.
The report also showed centrifuges in a hall, as well as what appeared to be caution tape up at the Natanz facility.
The attack Sunday, suspected to have been carried out by Israel, has inflamed a shadow war between the two nations. Iran has begun enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity — its highest level ever — in response amid talks in Vienna aimed at saving its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.


Sudan denies that delegation will visit Israel

Sudan denies that delegation will visit Israel
Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 April 2021

Sudan denies that delegation will visit Israel

Sudan denies that delegation will visit Israel
  • Sudan’s general intelligence service said “news circulating on some media and social media about the visit of a security delegation to Sudan was not true,” state news agency SUNA reported

KHARTOUM: Sudan has denied reports that it would send its a first delegation to Israel months after a deal for ties between the two countries, and two Sudanese sources said Khartoum had scrapped a planned visit.
Sources had previously told Reuters that a Sudanese delegation comprising security and intelligence officials would travel to Israel next week.
Sudan agreed to take steps toward normal ties with Israel last year in a deal brokered by then US President Donald Trump’s administration. This month, Sudan’s Cabinet voted to repeal a 1958 law to boycott Israel.
The issue is divisive in Sudan, which is going through a delicate political transition following the overthrow of former leader Omar Bashir in 2019.
Two official Sudanese sources told Reuters that an invitation to visit Israel had been accepted, but that plans had later changed. They gave no explanation for the change.
Sudan’s general intelligence service said “news circulating on some media and social media about the visit of a security delegation to Sudan was not true,” state news agency SUNA reported.
Sudan’s security and defense council also denied the news.
The deal for Sudan to normalize ties with Israel was struck alongside normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, and came as the US agreed to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Sudan’s military is seen to have led the move, but civilian groups with which it is sharing power are more reluctant and say the deal must be approved by a yet-to-be formed transitional parliament.
Cyprus, meanwhile, hosted a meeting of top diplomats from Israel and the UAE, as well as Greece, for talks they said reflected the “changing face” of the Middle East.
“This new strategic membership stretches from the shores of the Arabian Gulf” to the Mediterranean and Europe, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told a news conference in the coastal resort city of Paphos.
Standing alongside Anwar Gargash, adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, he said their encounter was a sign of “the changing face of the Middle East.”
He called for a “strategic partnership in energy between the Eastern Med and the Gulf.”
Gargash said ties with the Jewish state amounted to an “alternative strategic view” aimed at bolstering regional security, adding that the Paphos talks covered economic and political cooperation, as well as “using technology to fight COVID-19.”
The Cypriot and Greek foreign ministers, unmasked before a backdrop of the Mediterranean, both stressed the new regional grouping was open to all parties.
“The path is open for all countries of the region to join us,” said host Nikos Christodoulides, without a direct mention of Turkey, whose troops occupy the northern third of Cyprus and which is in dispute with Nicosia and Athens over gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who has visited both Turkey and Libya over the past week, stressed calls for “the withdrawal of all foreign forces” from the North African country, where Turkish troops are posted.
On Iran and its controversial nuclear program, Ashkenazi reiterated that Israel would “do whatever it takes to prevent this radical and anti-Semitic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.”


Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack
Updated 17 April 2021

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack
  • Strikes hit two militant ‘training sites’ in southern Gaza and another target in central Gaza
  • Airstrikes come hours after militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Saturday it had conducted airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack from the Palestinian enclave, in the second such exchange in as many days.
The strikes hit what the military described as “terror targets” operated by Gaza’s Islamist ruling party Hamas.
They included a “training facility, an anti-aircraft missile launcher post, a concrete production plant & terror tunnel infrastructure.”
Witnesses and security sources said the strikes hit two militant “training sites” in southern Gaza and another target in central Gaza.
A Hamas spokesman said that despite the Israeli action, “Gaza still fights and doesn’t break.”
The strikes came hours after militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel.
An Israeli army spokesperson said the rocket hit open ground and caused no casualties or damage.
It was the second such exchange in recent days. Late Thursday, Palestinian militants fired a rocket at southern Israel, prompting the army to launch retaliatory air strikes on Gaza that caused no casualties.
Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza’s sea and land borders after Hamas seized control in 2007. The two sides have since fought three wars.
A fragile truce has endured in recent years despite occasional flareups, with Palestinians firing rockets at Israel and the Jewish state responding with airstrikes on the coastal enclave.