Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan
Muslim worshippers observe social distancing, as they offer the evening prayer Taraweeh at al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital Cairo, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on May 17, 2020. (Source/AFP)
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Updated 31 March 2021

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan
  • The health ministry has recorded a total 200,739 coronavirus cases since start of outbreak

RIYADH: Egypt would be receiving 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX vaccine-sharing program starting Wednesday, a report from local daily Ahram quoting health officials.

About 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca were shipped to Egypt in January and 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in the past few weeks.

The health ministry has recorded a total 200,739 coronavirus cases, including 153,630 recoveries and 11,914 deaths, since the outbreak started.

With the holy month of Ramadan expected to start on April 13, Taraweeh or nightly prayers have been allowed in authorized mosques as long as COVID-19 precautionary measures were implemented, although prayers should not exceed half an hour.

The ban on huge assemblies in mosques and charity banquets in streets remains in place but some sports events for students however have been allowed.


Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
Updated 17 min 32 sec ago

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
  • Police detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex’s fugitive founder Faruk Fatih Ozer
  • Interior Minister spoke to his Albanian counterpart about the case after news surfaced Ozer fled to Albania

ISTANBUL: Turkey issued an international arrest warrant on Friday for the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange who fled with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets, state media reported.
Police also detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex, the company headed by the fugitive businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer.
He is being sought on charges of “fraud by using information systems, banks or credit institutions as a tool and founding a criminal organization,” the Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkish security officials on Thursday released a photo of Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an undisclosed location.
Security sources later confirmed that Ozer — said to be 27 years old — has been in Albania since Tuesday.
The justice ministry has started legal proceedings to seek his arrest and extradition from the Albanian capital Tirana, Anadolu reported.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke by phone with his Albanian counterpart about the case, the agency added.
The Thodex exchange suspended trading after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.
Media reports said the exchange shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.
The 62 suspects were apprehended in simultaneous raids carried out in eight cities including Turkey’s main hub Istanbul, Anadolu reported.
Police raided the company’s headquarters on the Asian side of Istanbul and seized computers and digital materials, press reports said.
Authorities also imposed an interim freeze on Ozer’s bank accounts, according to Anadolu.
Police have also issued arrest warrants for 16 other people, Anadolu said, without elaborating. There was no immediate information about those being held.
A lawyer for the investors, Oguz Evren Kilic, said Friday that the investigation into Thodex “is deepening.”
“Hundreds of thousands of users cannot get access to their digital wallets. The situation will get more serious unless a concrete step is taken” by Thodex, he told AFP by phone.
Kilic said his clients have already lodged complaints at the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul and other cities.
In a message posted on the company’s official Twitter account on Thursday, Ozer slammed the “baseless allegations” against him.
He said he was abroad for meetings with foreign investors and would return home “in a few days and cooperate with judicial authorities so that the truth can come out.”
Complaints against Thodex have increased by more than 1,160 percent over the week to April 20 compared to the previous week, according to Turkish customer complaint website Sikayetvar.
One investor who reached Sikayetvar said: “I have been unemployed for a year. I trusted Thodex and invested everything I have... I can’t sleep or eat. I am begging you, please help.”
Another said: “Why is Thodex’s CEO silent? Why are they victimising people. Are you making fun of us?“
Growing numbers of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies in a bid to shield their savings in the face of a sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and high inflation.
The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about its safety.
Turkey’s central bank said last week it will ban the use of cryptocurrencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.
It warned that cryptocurrencies “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.


Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
  • Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights
  • Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt

DUBAI: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume flights between the two countries after a five-year suspension, including Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Presidency’s website reported.
The decision comes after Egypt maintained security standards for its air travel and both sides reached agreements on other undisclosed issues.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights between the two countries in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From his side, Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt, praising the extended partnership between the two countries.
He also affirmed that Russia was counting on Egypt’s pivotal role in stabilizing its entire regional environment.
The report added that the call also covered discussions about developments in Libya and the Renaissance Dam file. It also covered issues of bilateral cooperation in investment, especially regarding the economic zone of the Suez Canal Corridor.
Russian aviation and tourism flights to Egypt were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, 2015, with 224 people on board.


Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
Updated 23 April 2021

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
  • The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather
  • Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”

JERUSALEM: Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.
The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs.”
There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.
Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City “hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them toward less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.
Police said officers attempted to “distinguish between them and those who finished prayers” and were not involved in the events.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalized.
Israeli police said 20 officers were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous,” a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.
On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organized a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.
Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.
The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned “the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City.”
A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the “settler” attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.
Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.
Police reported “a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment.”
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.
Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhoods “to end this pointless violence.”
More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.


Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
Updated 23 April 2021

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
  • Envoy Tor Wennesland said the road will not be easy, and called on all sides to protect voting rights
  • Central Elections Commission praised for “professionalism and integrity” and its efforts to ensure safe voting during pandemic.

NEW YORK: The successful staging of credible Palestinian elections on May 22 is a crucial step toward unity and guaranteeing the legitimacy of national institutions, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday.
Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told council members that the elections, along with Israeli efforts to form a coalition government, will have a “significant implication for the prospects for advancing peace in the months ahead,” and called on the international community to provide support.
“Expectations for the holding of elections in Palestine are high and come after a long wait of almost 15 years … a growing number of young people are expected to participate in shaping their political future, and have the opportunity to vote for the first time,” Wennesland said.
“These elections should also pave the way to uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate national authority, which would be an important step toward reconciliation and could advance Middle East peace.”
He praised the Palestinian Central Elections Commission for its “professionalism and integrity, enhancing trust in the electoral process,” singling out in particular the committee’s efforts to create a safe voting environment during the pandemic.
He also underscored the importance of the role of election observers in ensuring that the results of “credible and transparent” elections are respected.
“All sides must work toward protecting the right of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, to participate in credible and inclusive Palestinian elections, as well as to stand for election free from intimidation,” said Wennesland.
He urged all those involved in the process “to refrain from any arrest, detention or interrogation based on freedom of opinion, expression or association.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose “a formidable threat” throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, further exacerbating an already dire social and economic situation, Wennesland said as he called for vaccination efforts to be stepped up and for more vaccine doses to be made available.
The Biden administration this month announced its plans for resuming US funding for the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), which was halted in August 2018 by President Donald Trump. Wennesland welcomed the move by Washington and called on all UN members to recommit to supporting the agency, whose “services are not only a lifeline for millions of Palestine refugees but are also critical for stability throughout the region.”
The envoy repeated his call for Israel to halt the demolition and seizure of Palestinian properties and to allow the Palestinian people “to develop their communities.”
Denouncing the “daily violence” that has resulted in more arrests, injuries and deaths, Wennesland called on all sides “to de-escalate tensions and maintain calm.”
He added: “I underscore that all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice. I reiterate that Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
“Particular care should be taken to protect children from any form of violence. In addition, the indiscriminate launching of rockets toward Israeli population centers violates international law and must stop immediately.”