Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths
A man wearing a face mask to protect from COVID-19 arrives at a hospital in Tunis, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 24 July 2021

Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

TUNIS: Tunisia recorded 317 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The ministry also reported 5,624 new cases, increasing concerns about the country's ability to fight the pandemic, with intensive care units in hospitals completely full and a lack of oxygen supplies. The vaccination campaign is moving slowly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the daily COVID-19 death tally in Tunisia is now the highest in Africa and in the Arab world.
The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic has reached about 560,000, with more than 18,300 deaths, out of a total population of 11.6 million.
This month several European and Arab countries have sent medical aid and more than three million doses of vaccine to help Tunisia tackle the rapid spread of the coronavirus. 


Tunisia president takes new powers, says will reform system

Tunisia president takes new powers, says will reform system
Updated 32 sec ago

Tunisia president takes new powers, says will reform system

Tunisia president takes new powers, says will reform system

TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied has put in place special measures for wielding legislative and executive power, the presidency said on Wednesday, without elaborating.
It added that Saied would form a committee to prepare amendments to Tunisia's political system and that he would maintain the suspension of parliament that he declared in July.

More to follow...


Jordan’s King Abdullah: ‘Critical need’ to support Palestine refugee agency

Jordan’s King Abdullah: ‘Critical need’ to support Palestine refugee agency
Updated 11 min 56 sec ago

Jordan’s King Abdullah: ‘Critical need’ to support Palestine refugee agency

Jordan’s King Abdullah: ‘Critical need’ to support Palestine refugee agency

LONDON: King Abdullah II of Jordan told the UN General Assembly that there is a “critical need” to continue supporting the UN agency responsible for the welfare of Palestine refugees.

“The suffering we continue to see points us once more to the critical need to keep supporting UNRWA as it continues to fulfill its UN mandate and provide vital humanitarian services to 5.7 million vulnerable Palestinian refugees,” the king said.

The 11-day Gaza war in May was “a reminder that the current situation is simply unsustainable,” he added.

King Abdullah said that global partnership is critical to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict- one of the longest standing conflicts in modern history.

“How many more homes will be lost, how many more children will die before the world wakes up?” he asked the 76th session of the assembly.

The king said that “genuine security” for both the Palestinians and Israelis can only be achieved through the two-state solution.

“A solution that leads to the establishment of an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state on the basis of the June 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security,” King Abdullah said.


Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government
Updated 22 September 2021

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government
  • King Mohammed VI appointed billionaire Aziz Akhanouch as prime minister earlier this month
  • A former agriculture minister, Akhanouch is one of Morocco’s richest men

RABAT: Morocco’s prime minister-designate announced Wednesday that a three-party coalition will form the country’s next government.
King Mohammed VI appointed billionaire Aziz Akhanouch as prime minister earlier this month after his party placed first in a legislative election, netting 102 out of the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament.
The coalition includes Akhanouch’s liberal National Rally of Independents Party, or RNI, the Authenticity and Modernity party (PAM) and the conservative Istiqlal (IP).
Formed in 2008 by Fouad Ali El Hima, a personal friend of the king and one of his close advisers, PAM has never before been part of a Moroccan government.
The Istiqlal Party is Morocco’s oldest party and has participated in several governments since the kingdom gained independence from France in 1956.
The three parties together won 270 seats in the House of Representatives, giving the coalition government a comfortable majority to pass laws.
“We will work together to form an effective and coherent majority before presenting the government lineup to King Mohammed VI,” Akhanouch said during a press conference. “We share many historical backgrounds and we intersect in a number of priorities.”
A former agriculture minister, Akhanouch is one of Morocco’s richest men.
He replaces Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, whose Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) suffered a stinging a defeat in the Sept. 8 election. The party, which has been in power since 2011, secured only 13 parliament seats, down from 125 in the 2016 election.
The PJD’s leadership resigned en masse after this month’s elections and said the party would join the opposition ranks.
In a statement, the moderate Islamist party alleged “many violations and imbalances witnessed” during the elections,” adding that “the results do not reflect the reality of the political map and the free will of the voters.”


Arab coalition: We received no information from UN over Shabwa airstrike claim

Arab coalition: We received no information from UN over Shabwa airstrike claim
Updated 22 September 2021

Arab coalition: We received no information from UN over Shabwa airstrike claim

Arab coalition: We received no information from UN over Shabwa airstrike claim
  • The spokesman said the coalition applies the highest standards of targeting in its military operations

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Wednesday it has not received any information from the United Nations about an allegation that six civilians were killed in an airstrike in Yemen.
The UN secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Sunday that the UN was concerned about a reported airstrike by the coalition in Shabwa that allegedly killed six civilians from the same family.
The comments were made within a statement strongly condemning the Houthi militia for executing nine people on Saturday.
Spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said he “deeply regretted” the UN’s decision to issue the statement linking the airstrike claim with the Houthi executions.
He said the coalition has followed up on Dujarric’s statement about the alleged Shabwa airstrike and “accordingly, the coalition confirms that it did not receive any coordination or information from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen about this claim, as is customary in the coordination mechanism and in such cases.”
He said the coalition is seriously looking into the allegation and taking the necessary measures to verify the accounts. The issue has been referred to the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which will announce the results, he said.
Al-Maliki said the coalition applies the highest standards of targeting in its military operations in accordance with international humanitarian law, and applies the best international practices in rules of engagement.
He said there had not been any claims of incidents during the past 14 months, which showed the coalition was taking all necessary measures to spare civilians from collateral damage.
The coalition, he said, was exercising the highest degree of restraint while the Houthi militia launched hundreds of ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones at civilian targets in populated cities in Saudi Arabia. He added they have not even targeted Houthi capabilities and terrorist leaders after the militia used civilians as human shields.


Turkey’s top Islamic cleric moves center stage, irking secularists

Turkey’s top Islamic cleric moves center stage, irking secularists
Updated 22 September 2021

Turkey’s top Islamic cleric moves center stage, irking secularists

Turkey’s top Islamic cleric moves center stage, irking secularists
  • Political foes says Ali Erbas’s growing profile is at odds with the Turkish Republic’s secular constitution
ISTANBUL: When President Tayyip Erdogan opened a new court complex this month, Turkey’s senior cleric sealed the ceremony with a Muslim prayer, triggering protests from critics who said his actions contravened the secular constitution.
“Make this wonderful work beneficial and blessed for our nation, my God,” Ali Erbas said in his address, adding that many judges had “worked to bring the justice which (God) ordered.”
Erbas’s appearance at the Sept. 1 ceremony in Ankara, and the wave of opposition criticism over his comments, reflect his rising profile at the head of a state-run religious organization and the growing influence it has attained under Erdogan.
The president, whose ruling AK Party is rooted in political Islam, has overturned decades-old restrictions imposed on religion by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, placing Islam center-stage in political life.
Last year Erbas delivered the first sermon in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia after the Byzantine church-turned-museum was reconverted into a mosque. He did so while clutching a sword, saying this was traditional for preachers in mosques taken by conquest. The church was captured by Ottoman forces in 1453.
His state-run Diyanet organization, or Religious Affairs Directorate, has its own television channel which is recruiting 30 new staff. Its budget, which already matches that of an average ministry, will rise by a quarter next year to 16.1 billion lira ($1.86 billion), government data shows.
Erdogan further endorsed Erbas last week by extending his term at the Diyanet. He was with Erdogan again on Monday in New York, reciting a prayer at the opening of a skyscraper that will house Turkish diplomats based there.
Erdogan’s political foes says Erbas’s growing profile is at odds with the Turkish Republic’s secular constitution, and shows the president is using religion to boost his waning ratings ahead of an election scheduled for 2023.
“It is completely unacceptable for the Religious Affairs Directorate to be used politically by the AKP,” said Bahadir Erdem, deputy chairman of the opposition Iyi Party.
“The reason for Ali Erbas repeatedly making statements that polarize the nation is very clearly the government using religious sensitivities of those whose votes it thinks it can win,” he said.
Apart from the Diyanet’s growing prominence, secularists also fret over a sharp increase in religious ‘Imam Hatip’ schools, a 10 percent rise in mosque numbers in the last decade, the lifting of a ban on Muslim headscarves in state institutions and the taming of Turkey’s powerful military, once a bastion of secularism, all during Erdogan’s rule.
Responding to the criticism over the Diyanet, the presidency shared a picture of Ataturk standing in prayer beside a Muslim cleric at a ceremony outside Turkey’s new parliament 100 years ago, suggesting that even the founder of the secular republic gave space to religion alongside politics.
The secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) accuse Erdogan of deliberately using Erbas to distract public attention from Turkey’s mounting economic woes.
“He has put the Religious Affairs Directorate chairman on the field like a pawn,” CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak said.
Turkey’s constitution says the Diyanet must act in line with the principles of secularism, without expressing political views.
Erbas, a former theology professor who took office in 2017, has not addressed the criticism directly but says his role is limited to religious guidance.
“In line with the duty set out in the constitution to ‘enlighten society regarding religion’, our directorate is working to convey to our people in the most correct way the principles of Islam,” he said in a speech last week.
That message does not reassure secularist critics.
Erbas’s frequent presence at Erdogan’s side reveals a “very significant elevation of the role of Sunni Islam in government in Turkey,” said Soner Cagaptay, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The secularist firewall of the 20th century, established by Ataturk and guarded by his successors, that has separated religion and government, and religion and education, has completely collapsed,” he said.
Erbas has courted controversy in the past. Last year his suggestion that homosexuality causes illness triggered a clash between Erdogan’s AKP and Turkey’s lawyers’ associations over freedom of expression.
But he has won support from Erdogan’s nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli.
“Turkey is a Muslim country,” he said. “The allergy against the Islamic religion of those wicked people who have broken off ties with our national and spiritual values is an incurable clinical case.”