Some 50 Iranian MPs test positive for COVID-19 as Omicron rages

Some 50 Iranian MPs test positive for COVID-19 as Omicron rages
Some 50 members of Iran’s 290-seat parliament have contracted COVID-19, a senior MP said on Saturday. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 February 2022

Some 50 Iranian MPs test positive for COVID-19 as Omicron rages

Some 50 Iranian MPs test positive for COVID-19 as Omicron rages
  • Iran has seen a surge in cases after a brief respite following mass vaccinations

TEHRAN: Some 50 members of Iran’s 290-seat parliament have contracted COVID-19, a senior MP said on Saturday as the omicron variant spreads unabated across the county.
MP Alireza Salimi, speaking to YJC, a news agency linked to Iran’s state TV, said this week’s parliamentary session would be held in accordance with health regulations.
Parliament was suspended for two weeks last April due to an outbreak among MPs. In the early days of the pandemic, several lawmakers died from the virus.
Iran has seen a surge in cases after a brief respite following mass vaccinations. In recent days it has reported an average of more than 30,000 new infections a day. However, the number of cases over the previous 24 hours was 23,130, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.
Iran, with a population of about 85 million, has reported more than 6.5 million infections and more than 132,500 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.
More than 50 million people have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, and more than 19 million have received three doses.


Shoot-to-kill: ‘Extremist Israeli soldiers’ in killing campaign

Shoot-to-kill: ‘Extremist Israeli soldiers’ in killing campaign
Updated 7 sec ago

Shoot-to-kill: ‘Extremist Israeli soldiers’ in killing campaign

Shoot-to-kill: ‘Extremist Israeli soldiers’ in killing campaign
  • The US State Department has asked its embassy in Israel to report on the battalion

BIRZEIT: Palestinian activists believe a single extremist unit in the Israeli military is responsible for an upsurge in shoot-to-kill targeted assassinations in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli soldiers have killed 113 Palestinians so far this year, the highest death toll in five years. Most of the killings have taken place in and around Jenin — the operational area of the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Israeli army. The 1,000-strong unit was set up in 1999 to enable ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempt from conscription, to join the military. It accepts only volunteers, many from overseas.

The US State Department has asked its embassy in Israel to report on the battalion following its involvement in the killing of Omar As’ad, 78, a Palestinian-American shot dead in northern Ramallah in January. Israel also rejected a US request to review its military rules of engagement in the West Bank.

A senior official at the Palestinian Ministry of Health told Arab News the Israeli military had changed tactics to be more aggressive. Previously they aimed their weapons at targets’ lower limbs, to disable but not kill. “Now they deliberately shoot with live ammunition at the upper parts of the body, to ensure the target is killed rather than wounded.”

Israeli military expert Eyal Alima told Arab News that although the Israeli military denied it had adopted a shoot-to-kill policy, the death toll told a different story.

He said: “They justify the fatal shooting of Palestinians by saying that when their forces come under fire they are on a battlefield rather than on a police mission.”


Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry
Updated 55 min 12 sec ago

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry
  • Adel Dawoud, 14, "succumbed to a critical wound sustained by live occupation (Israeli) fire to the head" in Qalqilya
  • Another Palestinian was shot dead near the city of Ramallah

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces on Friday shot dead two Palestinians including a 14-year-old in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Fourteen-year-old Adel Dawoud “succumbed to a critical wound sustained by live occupation (Israeli) fire to the head” in Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank, the health ministry said.
Another Palestinian was shot dead near the city of Ramallah, the ministry said in a statement.
The Israeli military said soldiers in Qalqilya fired at “a suspect who hurled Molotov cocktails at them.”
“A hit was identified,” the army told AFP.
Palestinians gather each Friday in parts of the West Bank to protest Israel’s occupation of the territory since the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its medics treated 50 people in the area northwest of Ramallah who were hit by tear gas, rubber-coated bullets or were beaten.
Israel’s military said security forces responded to a “violent riot” in the area, during which a soldier was lightly hurt by a rock thrown at his head.
“The forces responded with riot dispersal means to restore order... including using live fire toward the two main rioters. Hits were identified,” the military said.
The Palestinian foreign ministry described the deaths as “executions.”
It accused Israel of trying to “drag the region into a cycle of violence and an explosion of the entire arena of conflict,” in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in recent months during Israeli military raids in the West Bank.
Those shot dead include militants as well as civilians, such as Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering a raid in May.


Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move
Updated 07 October 2022

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move
  • Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” to international reputation of UK

LONDON: The top Catholic cardinal in the UK has urged prime minister Liz Truss not to move the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols posted on Twitter on Thursday to say he had penned a letter to Truss about his concerns over the potential move.

“I have written to the Prime Minister to express profound concern over her call for a review of the location of the British Embassy to the State of Israel, with the suggestion that it might be moved away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he tweeted.

Truss, who took up her position as prime minister last month, said recently she was reviewing whether or not to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, a move that would mirror a controversial decision made by former US president Donald Trump in 2018 to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” for “any possibility of lasting peace in the region” as well as to the “international reputation of the United Kingdom.”

The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has consistently called for maintaining the status quo on the issue of Jerusalem.

Israel currently claims the whole of the city as its capital, but the Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to form the capital of any future state.

Speaking to Reuters, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said Truss understood the “importance and sensitivity” of the location of the British embassy in Israel.


Iran summons Danish ambassador over Copenhagen embassy attack

Iran summons Danish ambassador over Copenhagen embassy attack
Updated 07 October 2022

Iran summons Danish ambassador over Copenhagen embassy attack

Iran summons Danish ambassador over Copenhagen embassy attack
  • Iran’s foreign ministry said the ambassador, Afsaneh Nadipour, had been threatened

COPENHAGEN: Iran summoned the Danish ambassador on Friday to protest an incident at its embassy in Copenhagen in which its ambassador was threatened, Iran’s foreign ministry said in state media.

Danish police said they had arrested a 32-year old man earlier on Friday after he had entered the grounds of the embassy carrying a knife.

The man, an Iranian citizen, was stopped by an employee before entering the embassy building, the police said in a statement.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the ambassador, Afsaneh Nadipour, had been threatened, a local employee injured, and embassy vehicles damaged.

The man will have a court hearing on Saturday and will be charged with two counts of vandalism, for violence, and for breaching a section of the penal code that deals with crimes against people with diplomatic status, the Danish police said.

No further details on the attacker or motive were provided. Iran’s government has faced more than two weeks of protests at home and overseas over the death of a young women while in detention by the country’s morality police.

Iran state media earlier quoted Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as saying: “It is unfortunate that, in the heart of Europe, such an attack takes place on a woman and an ambassador who has diplomatic immunity, and the police do not arrive in time.”


Libyan group: At least 15 dead after migrant shipwreck

Libyan group: At least 15 dead after migrant shipwreck
Updated 07 October 2022

Libyan group: At least 15 dead after migrant shipwreck

Libyan group: At least 15 dead after migrant shipwreck
  • Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in a desperate attempt to reach European shores
  • Local authorities had informed the aid group of bodies washing up onshore

BENGHAZI, Libya: A spokesman for Libya’s Red Crescent said Friday that at least 15 bodies have been recovered after a migrant shipwreck off the country’s western coast.
Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in a desperate attempt to reach European shores.
Tawfik Al Shukri said that local authorities had informed the aid group of bodies washing up onshore. He said they were retrieved and transported to a hospital, where the remains would be examined to determine the cause of death.
In a video circulated online, the burnt hull of the wrecked boat is seen lodged on coastal rocks with bodies strewn on it and nearby. The cause of the deaths was not immediately clear, nor was it apparent when the fire was started that burnt the vessel.
The shipwreck took place off the western Libyan city of Sabratha, a major launching point for the mainly African migrants making the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean.
The International Organization for Migration said in June that at least 150 migrants departing from Libya were feared to have drowned in the first sixth months of 2022. Crossings typically increase in the summer and early fall months.
Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East amid internal strife. Torn by civil war since 2011, the oil-rich country is divided between rival governments, each backed by international patrons and multiple armed militias on the ground.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across desert country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then typically packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.
Many of those who have been intercepted and returned to Libya — including women and children — are held in government-run detention centers where they suffer from abuse, including torture, rape and extortion, according to rights groups.