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Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Rights groups urge Turkey to release jailed journalists and activists In joint statement, more than 25 organisations say Turkey’s overcrowded prisons pose health threat to inmates MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 22:40 Death toll from Covid-19 has reached 131 in Turkey (Reuters/File photo)

Several rights organisations have called on authorities in Turkey to release journalists and activists citing the risk of contracting the coronavirus in prison. 

“The undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders and others who have been charged or convicted simply for exercising their rights,” the groups said in a joint statement on Monday.

More than two dozen organisations signed the plea, including Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Coronavirus: Turkey rejects Chinese testing kits over inaccurate results Read More »

Earlier this month, Turkey introduced a law that would pave the way for the release of nearly 100,000 prisoners – nearly one-third of Turkey’s prison population – amid the spread of the pandemic.

The rights groups welcomed reports of the new law on Monday, but said it does not go far enough to protect jailed journalists.

“Under

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Expo 2020 Dubai organisers back proposal to postpone event The Emirate is spending around $8 billion on the event and was hoping to rake in a slightly higher figure from tourism MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 21:14 The UAE has reported five death and 611 cases of the coronavirus (AFP/File photo)

The organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai have supported a decision to postpone the event for a year due to global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dubai has poured billions of dollars into Expo 2020, hoping the exhibition will generate new business and spur its economy amid a slowdown in growth. 

While the event is set to begin in October, the organisers said in a statement on Monday that “many countries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and they have expressed a need to postpone Expo’s opening by one year to enable them to overcome this challenge”.

“The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, we supported the proposal to explore a one year postponement at today’s Steering Committee meeting,” the statement added.

The Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), who supervise and award the event, will make a final decision on

Source: Middle East Eye

Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen in response to Houthi missile attack Bombing kills one person and dozens of horses at military academy in Sanaa, Houthis say MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 18:41 Dust rises from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, 30 March (Reuters)

The Saudi-led coalition at war with Yemen’s Houthis carried out dozens of air strikes on the capital Sanaa on Monday, resuming its bombing campaign after months of indirect negotiations between Riyadh and the rebels. 

Bombs hit horse stables at a military academy in Sanaa, killing one person and dozens of horses, pro-Houthi Al Masirah news network reported

But the coalition said the air raids destroyed “legitimate military targets” in response to Houthi missiles that were intercepted over Riyadh late on Saturday. 

Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki blamed Iran for the renewed Hostility, accusing the Islamic Republic of standing against the “entire world” in its fight against the coronavirus. 

US cuts millions in aid to Houthi-run Yemen despite looming coronavirus crisis Read More »

“The Iranian regime is concentrating all financial, man and logistic powers to support the terrorist militia to realize its ideals and expansionist ambitions on the account

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Fearing ‘humanitarian disaster’ US Senators call for renewed US aid to Palestine Lawmakers demand answers on status of humanitarian aid, giving Trump administration a one-week deadline to respond MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 18:25 A Palestinian health worker wearing a protective face mask and goggles is pictured at an UNRWA facility in Gaza City on 18 March (AFP/File photo)

Eight US Senators have given the federal government until Friday to respond to concerns over the continued withholding of humanitarian aid to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as both regions struggle to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Senators expressed deep concern over the spread of the coronavirus in the occupied territories, which lack the ability to deal with a major health crisis. 

Since US President Donald Trump’s administration froze nearly all US aid to the West Bank and Gaza in 2018, including funding for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA, the Senators said they worry the territories will be unable to handle a serious outbreak. 

Coronavirus: Palestinians cancel Land Day demonstrations for the first time Read

Source: Middle East Eye

‘If people get sick, they will recover’: Egypt’s second richest man tells workers to return to factories Billionaire Naguib Sawiris threatens to commit suicide if coronavirus curfew goes beyond two weeks MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 16:32 Naguib Sawiris, 65, is Egypt’s second wealthiest man, and a founder of the pro-government political party The Free Egyptians (AFP)

Egypt’s second richest man has urged authorities to order people back to work once a curfew ends, and threatened to commit suicide if the measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus exceed two weeks.

In a TV interview widely criticised by labour rights advocates, Naguib Sawiris said Egyptians should go back to work after the end of a two-week curfew – on 8 April – to prevent economic collapse. 

“We need a revolutionary decision, regardless of the consequences,” he told TV host Lamees Hadidi on the Saudi-owned Al-Hadath channel

“Even if people get sick, they will recover,” he said.

“Let me tell you something, I will commit suicide if they extend the [curfew] period.”

Sawiris, who belongs to Egypt’s richest family, suggested three solutions to end the lockdown while keeping the country’s economy in shape. 

He first suggested that workers be divided into two groups: one group that works on

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Tunisia deploys robots to enforce lockdown Remote-controlled vehicles patrolling the streets in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19 MEE staff Mon, 03/30/2020 – 16:24 The unmanned vehicles are being used by the Ministry of Interior to enforce the lockdown in Tunis (MEE)

Authorities in Tunisia have deployed robots to enforce the country’s lockdown and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In a series of videos that have been widely shared on social media, Tunisians have been approached by remote-controlled vehicles asking if they’re aware of lockdown rules.

According to one video, which is akin to scene from a sci-fi movie, a man is confronted by one of the robots as he steps onto an empty street in the capital Tunis.

The robot castigates the man, asking: “Are you aware of the lockdown?” and demands to know where he is going.

After he explains that he is going to buy cigarettes, the robot tells him to “go get your smokes and go home. Hurry up!”

Dystopian or a necessary law enforcement method?

Tunisia deploys robots during the coronavirus lockdown pic.twitter.com/AHppI6p0nc

— Faisal | فيصل عيدروس (@faisaledroos) March 30, 2020

In another video, a woman is told: “Everyone is

Source: Middle East Eye

Israel: Labor chairman Peretz to join Netanyahu-led unity government: Report Labor legislator Itzik Shmuli will also join, but party colleague Merav Michaeli will remain outside the government MEE staff Sun, 03/29/2020 – 21:29 Israeli leader of Labor Party Amir Peretz greets woman while campaigning in Tel Aviv last year (AFP)

Israel’s Labor chairman Amir Peretz will join a unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a Sunday meeting with representatives of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Peretz follows Gantz, who on Thursday became speaker of parliament and joined Netanyahu in the government, as reported by Middle East Eye. That move provoked an implosion of the anti-Netanyahu block Gantz had led. A committee on Sunday formalised the fracture of Blue and White, with Gantz’s faction keeping that name, AFP said.

Fellow Labor legislator Itzik Shmuli will also be joining the government, but their party colleague Merav Michaeli will reportedly remain outside.

Michaeli had been trying to convince Peretz not to side with Netanyahu, convening an emergency meeting on Sunday to try to convince him otherwise. Former ministers and legislators from the party also took part in the video call to try

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Syria reports first death from pandemic Syria has so far confirmed only five cases, and denied reports of a higher number of infections MEE staff Sun, 03/29/2020 – 16:39 A woman walks in empty Souk al-Hamidieh as restrictions are imposed as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease in Damascus, 24 March (Reuters)

Syria recorded its first coronavirus-related death on Sunday, after a woman rushed to hospital for emergency treatment was found to be infected.                                                                                                      

Syria has officially reported only nine Covid-19 cases, but medics and witnesses say there are more.

“The woman died as soon as she was admitted to hospital,” the health ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA. 

“After testing, it was found that she was a carrier of the coronavirus,” the statement added, without providing additional details. 

While officials have played down a spread of the disease in the war-torn country, the government has imposed a lockdown and harsh

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: UAE opens state of the art drive-through testing facility The facility is said to be able to treat 600 people a day, with priority given to those most at risk MEE staff Sun, 03/29/2020 – 15:02 Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed opened the new drive-through facility (Social media)

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility has been launched by the United Arab Emirates as part of its efforts to fight the disease, the Abu Dhabi government’s media office announced.

The facility will provide safe screening within five minutes, using the latest technology and highly-qualified staff, it said.

“A new drive-through testing facility for COVID-19 has launched … to offer safe testing procedures,” the office said on Twitter Saturday.

Images circulating on social media show the drive-through in action with signs asking drivers to tilt back their head so that a nurse can take a nose swab. 

In another image a nurse wearing a face mask and blue gloves is seen taking a sample from the nose of no less than Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who also inaugurated the facility.

Today, I visited the mobile COVID-19 Test Center set up by SEHA as part of measures

Source: Middle East Eye

Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia shuts down port city of Jeddah An earlier curfew time has also been imposed bringing it in line with Mecca, Medina and Riyadh MEE staff Sun, 03/29/2020 – 10:33 The curfew in Jeddah will now come into effect at 3pm from the later time of 7pm (AFP)

Saudi Arabia on Sunday barred entry and exit into Jeddah and brought forward a curfew in the port city as it tries to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The curfew in Jeddah will now begin at 3pm instead of 7pm. Saudi Arabia applied the same measures to Riyadh, Mecca and Medina on Thursday for an initial 21 days.

The kingdom’s health ministry has reported 1,203 coronavirus infections and four deaths from the illness so far, as it scrambles to limit the spread of the disease.

Saudi Arabia confirmed its first coronavirus-related death on Tuesday, a 51-year-old Afghan resident who succumbed to Covid-19 in Medina. 

A second death was reported on Wednesday, a 46-year-old foreign resident of Mecca. 

The country has already imposed drastic measures to combat the pandemic, including suspension of international flights, closing schools and universities and temporarily closing off the oil-rich eastern province of Qatif,