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Source: Middle East Monitor

Qatar on Saturday confirmed the first death in the country due to the coronavirus, Anadolu reports.

A Bangladeshi national, who was suffering from chronic diseases, died of the virus, known as COVID-19, the country’s Health Ministry said in a statement.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to 509, as 28 more people tested positive, while 45 patients have so far recovered and been discharged from hospitals since the beginning of the outbreak, the statement added.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China in December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 177 countries and regions, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

More than 640,500 cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 29,800 and more than 137,200 recoveries.

WATCH: ‘Qatar created coronavirus’ says online disinformation campaign 

Source: Middle East Monitor

The Syrian regime and its allies killed hundreds of civilians in northwestern Idlib city between the period of two cease-fire deals reached on Jan. 12 and March 6 by Ankara and Moscow, according to a rights watchdog, Anadolu reports.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported that aggression of the Bashar al-Assad regime, Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups, and Russia left 387 civilians dead.

While regime forces are responsible for the killing of 174 civilians, Russian strikes killed 213 others; among the dead are 104 children and 62 women.

Turkey and Russia agreed on a cease-fire as of Jan 12. However, the Assad regime and its allies defied the agreement and launched incessant attacks.

In response, Turkish and Russian presidents gathered in Moscow on March 5 and reached a new deal, and a fresh cease-fire went into effect the next day. Although regime forces have violated the deal at several points, the parties remain loyal to the cease-fire to a great extent now.

Regime, Russia kill 387 civilians in Idlib, Syria 3

Source: Middle East Monitor

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan replaced Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan in an overnight decree on Saturday, as the country battles a fast-growing coronavirus outbreak that has so far killed 92 people in just over two weeks, Reuters reports.

Adil Karaismailoglu has been appointed as the new minister, the decree published in the Official Gazette said. No details or reasons for the move were provided.

In a statement, the Transport Ministry said there was a handover ceremony from the old to the new minister in Ankara.

“We have very important projects ahead,” Karaismailoglu was cited as saying by the ministry. “We have visionary projects that will contribute to our country’s development and future. We will carry these out rapidly and together.”

The surprise change comes as Turkey rolls out a series of measures restricting international and intercity travel, after the number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

Turhan and his ministry drew criticism this week for holding the first tender to prepare to build a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul amid the outbreak.

Erdogan: Turkey will beat coronavirus within 2 to 3 weeks 

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Turhan said

Source: Middle East Monitor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is claimed to have rejected Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand for medical respirators, amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Anadolu reports.

In a recent phone call between Netanyahu and Merkel, Israel has demanded medical respirators from Germany in the fight with coronavirus, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth’s story.

The news claimed that Merkel rejected the demand, but did not give further details.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu spoke on phone with Merkel, according to Israeli Presidency Office’s written statement. No further details were provided about the phone call.

READ: Israel under cover of the coronavirus crisis 

Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s intelligence service MOSSAD, and Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of National Security Council, have formed a mutual team to provide necessary medical equipment from abroad, Israel’s public press organization KAN reported on March 25.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Israel has reached 3,460 after 425 more people were diagnosed with COVID-19, and the total death toll is 12, a statement by the country’s health ministry said on Saturday.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 177 countries and territories, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.


Source: Middle East Monitor

Saudi Arabian Airlines will begin exceptional commercial flights this week to bring British nationals and their families back to the United Kingdom, and similar flights are being arranged for US citizens to return home, both countries said, Reuters reports.

Flights to London Heathrow will begin on Sunday from Riyadh and later in the week from Jeddah and Dammam, according to a British Embassy e-mail sent late on Friday. A second Riyadh flight is also expected.

The U.S. Embassy said in a consular e-mail on Saturday it was working with the Saudi authorities to arrange repatriation flights on a commercial airline, but no flights had been confirmed yet.

Saudi Arabia suspended all international passenger flights in and out of the country for two weeks starting March 14 to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus around the globe, but there is no indication normal travel will resume on Sunday.

Saudi: Expat with coronavirus could face death penalty for spitting in shopping trolleys 

The kingdom recorded 99 new cases on Saturday, taking its total to more than 1,200 coronavirus infections – the most in the Gulf Arab region – with four fatalities.

Britain has recorded more than 14,500 cases, including Prime

Source: Middle East Monitor

Lebanese security forces cleared away a protest camp in central Beirut on Saturday and reopened roads blocked by demonstrators since protests against the governing elite started in October, Reuters reports.

The camp centred around Martyrs Square had mostly fallen dormant in recent months as the protests waned. Lebanon this week tightened measures to restrict movement as part of its effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Security forces began pulling down tents on Friday night, meeting resistance from several dozen protesters who were still camped out. One protester set himself on fire before being quickly smothered in blankets by members of the security forces, a Reuters witness said.

On Saturday, a handful of protesters took away furniture used during the sit-in. Although Martyrs’ Square was reopened to traffic, a security source said roads leading to the nearby Riyad al-Solh Square remained closed.

The government declared a medical emergency on March 15 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

READ: Lebanon’s leading coronavirus hospital stages second protest in three weeks 

This week it banned people from leaving their homes from 7pm to 5am. Lebanon has recorded 412 cases of coronavirus and eight deaths.

Martyrs’ Square was a focal point of large nationwide

Source: Middle East Monitor

Iran announced on Saturday that it would cover 90% of the health care expenses of each of its citizens diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, Anadolu reports.

Speaking at the country’s coronavirus prevention center in the capital Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani said the government had fortified the country’s health care system over the past six years, IRNA news agency reported.

Rouhani noted that 90% of health care expenses of Iranians diagnosed with COVID-19 who apply to hospitals, would be met by the government through health insurance.

He added that there was no food shortage in the country and that officials were cautiously following developments.

Blaming U.S. sanctions for difficulties faced in the country, he said that 20% of this year’s budget — translating to 10 trillion rials ($237.5 million)– had been allocated to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“It might be surprising for the world to see that a country facing harsh sanctions could allocate this budget. Besides, our health care personnel’s motivation is high, our hospitals are fully equipped,” he added.

Rouhani stressed that it was a moral and cultural responsibility for people to respect and protect one another: “If someone is diagnosed, or is suspected of having COVID-19, hiding this

Source: Middle East Monitor

Libya’s UN-recognized government said Saturday it has detected the arrival of three military cargo planes from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to an airbase controlled by warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, Anadolu reports.

In a statement, the government-led Volcano of Rage Operation said the planes took off from the Sweihan airbase in Abu Dhabi and arrived in Al-Khadim airbase in the city of Al-Marj.

The internationally recognized government said previously that it had detected the arrival of several foreign cargo planes to airbases controlled by Haftar.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Haftar in eastern Libya, supported by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Libya’s legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, and more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.

On Thursday, the GNA launched Peace Storm Operation in response to ongoing attacks by Haftar’s forces.

READ: Fighting escalates in Libya despite coronavirus threat 

Source: Middle East Monitor

Palestinian groups in Gaza cancelled mass rallies planned for next week along the border with Israel amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in the densely-populated territory, organizers said on Saturday, Reuters reports.

The rallies were called for March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the so-called “Great March of Return” which had prompted weekly protests by Palestinians seeking to regain access to land, now in Israel, from which their ancestors were forced to flee during the country’s creation in 1948.

“We call upon our people not to go to the Return encampments on March 30 and to stay home in order to maintain the safety of our people in the face of this lethal pandemic,” said Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the Islamic Jihad militant group.

Instead, Batsh called upon Gazans to mark the day by raising Palestinian flags on their rooftops and burning Israeli ones.

According to Gaza medical officials, 215 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers firing from the other side of the border during the protests, with another 8,000 suffering gunshot wounds. In the past few months, the weekly protests have been smaller.

A Terrifying Scenario: Coronavirus in ‘Quarantined’ Gaza 

One Israeli soldier

Source: Middle East Monitor

The number of COVID-19 cases in Israel has reached 3,460 after 425 more people are diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the statement by the country’s health ministry, Anadolu reports.

50 of the patients are in critical condition and 89 have recovered, the statement added.

Until now, COVID-19 claimed the lives of 12 in the country.

As part of measures, all schools have been closed in the country, all meetings in public, open or closed areas with more than 10 people have also been banned.

All trading firms except supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks have also been closed beginning with March 15.

Tel Aviv also banned the entry of foreign citizens to the country, except for those who have residency in Israel.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 177 countries and territories, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The data shows over 607,900 cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with the death toll above 28,100 and over 132,600 recoveries.

READ: Israel reopens nuclear bunker in Jerusalem to help fight coronavirus