Tuesday, March 24, 2020

From Ian:

67-year-old woman dies of COVID-19, becoming Israel’s second fatality
A 67-year-old woman died of the coronavirus Tuesday afternoon in Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center, the hospital said, confirming Israel’s second fatality in the global pandemic.

The woman suffered from “a serious preexisting medical condition,” according to the hospital.

Israel’s first fatality from the virus, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even, was buried overnight Saturday in a funeral service that was capped at 20 mourners. All present were required to stand at a two-meter (6.5 ft) distance from one another.

Hours before the announcement of the latest death, the Health Ministry reported that the number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the country has risen to 1,656, an increase of 214 from the previous night.

So far, 49 people have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the ministry said in its morning update.

Of those being treated, 30 are in serious condition.

Over 71,000 Israelis are in quarantine, down from nearly 75,000 reported on Monday morning. In total, over 135,000 have spent time in self-isolation, almost 6,000 more than the number reported on Monday morning.
Coronavirus cases climb to 1,656, up 214 from Monday night
The number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the country rose to 1,656, the Health Ministry reported Tuesday morning, showing an increase of 214 from the previous night.

So far, 49 people have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the ministry said in its morning update. One person has died.

Of those being treated, 31 are in serious condition.

Over 71,000 Israelis are in quarantine, down from nearly 75,000 reported on Monday morning. In total, over 135,000 have spent time in self-isolation, almost 6,000 more than the number reported on Monday morning, meaning more people are leaving isolation than entering it.

The rise in cases came alongside a boost in the number of tests for the virus, with 3,743 people tested in the previous 24 hours. On Monday morning the ministry said it had tested 3,230 in the previous 24-hour period.

Tuesday’s increase followed what appeared to be the biggest single-day jump on Monday, when the ministry reported 371 new cases for a total of 1,442. The ministry generally sends out two updates a day, in the morning and at night, and Tuesday’s 12-hour surge of 214 since the previous report could indicate the record will again go up by the end of the day.

Israel is in 21st place on a list of cases by countries hit by the virus, according to data from the John Hopkin University virus website, which collates information on the global pandemic. China remains at the top, followed by Italy, the US, and Spain.

Israel is reportedly set to announce drastic new restrictions on public movement it hopes will help stanch the spread of the virus, though policy experts expect any effect to only be seen in 10 days or more.

Israel may order elderly into full lockdown — report
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assesses tightening social distancing measures aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak, the government is reportedly considering imposing a full lockdown on elderly Israelis.

The measure would forbid all men aged 70 and up and women aged 65 and up from leaving their homes, Channel 12 reported Monday.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, has the most adverse effects on the elderly and those with underlying conditions, while younger people often experience only milder symptoms.

As of Monday afternoon, the virus had killed over 15,000 people and infected over 350,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Other options being considered by the government include closing all shops except food stores and pharmacies or placing further limits on what kind of workers can go to their place of employment.

“There is no choice but to step up the measures. This is still not a curfew — but it is the closest there is to it,” a source with knowledge of the deliberations was quoted as saying.
Natan Sharansky: 5 Tips to Get Through the Coronavirus Quarantine
My name is Natan Sharansky. I was born in the Soviet Union and at the age of 29 I was arrested for my Zionist activity. I spent 9 years in prison, half of it in solitary confinement and 405 days in a punishment cell. So I have some experience of spending time in solitary confinement and I want to give you 5 tips to get through the quarantine.
Tip 1: In prison I always had to remind myself I am part of a huge, global battle. You also should remind yourself that we are at war with a very dangerous, though invisible, enemy. And whether we will succeed in the battle depends also on your behavior.
Tip 2: In prison, I didn't know when I will be released or if I will be released at all. Don't build your future plans based on the hope that in the next few days, or the next few weeks, it all will be finished. It does not depend on you. So try to build plans which fully depend on you.
Tip 3: Never give up your sense of humor. I remember how in prison I enjoyed telling anti-Soviet jokes to my prison guards.
Tip 4: Don't give up on your hobbies. I knew how to play chess without the board and in the punishment cell I could play thousands of games in my head. You can enjoy singing, playing music, drawing, or whatever you like to do.
Tip 5: Feel your connection. Remember that you are not alone. We Jews, for thousands of years, were scattered all over the world. But we always had this feeling that we are part of a great people, with our mutual past, with our mutual future, and with our mutual mission. Think about it. Feel your connection. Together we will succeed. Am Yisrael chai [The people of Israel live].




Israel's Chief Rabbi calls for public fast day amid coronavirus outbreak
As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau called on the public to fast at least half a day on Wednesday, which marks the eve of the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, according to Srugim.

"Difficult days are affecting all of Israel and the entire world," wrote Lau in a letter on Sunday. "At this time, it is on us to do some soul-searching."

The chief rabbi called for everyone to better their ways concerning commandments which determine behavior between each person and their fellow and concerning commandments between man and G-d.

The Hebrew month of Nisan was referred to as the first month of the Hebrew calendar in the Torah and, according to the opinions of some Jewish scholars, the first day of the month was when the creation of the world occurred and is a day of prayer and supplication, similar to Rosh Hashana, celebrated in the Hebrew month of Tishrei.

The rabbi asked all who can to fast for at least half a day on Wednesday. For those who can't fast due to the difficulty or because of health reasons, Lau asked that they take on a "ta'anit dibur," a practice in which one abstains from all speech that does not concern Torah or prayer.
London rabbinical court loosens Passover dietary rules amid coronavirus crisis
Why will this Passover be different from all others?

This year, the London Beth Din, or religious court, has created a list of permissible products not made under special supervision for Passover, due to difficulties caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The Kashrut Division of the court developed the list, titled “Product guidelines in extremis,” from an array of basic goods to help quarantined families and those who are struggling financially due to the virus, the UK Jewish News reported.

“We are acutely aware of the pressures at this unprecedented time,” the Kashrut Division director, Rabbi Jeremy Conway, said in a statement. “We already know why this Seder night will be different to all other nights and this Pesach will be one unlike any other.”

He added: “This list should be used when regular supervised products are not available, or for people who are older or in isolation and so are unable to go shopping themselves or have Pesach products delivered to their home.

All hand sanitizers have been approved for use on Passover, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
UK Government Amends Emergency Coronavirus Bill to Ensure Jewish and Muslim Burial Practices Are Respected
The British government on Monday amended a bill granting emergency powers to combat the coronavirus pandemic so as to safeguard religious burial practices, drawing praise from both Jews and Muslims.

The so-called “Coronavirus Bill” originally gave medical professionals the ability to override the religious beliefs of the deceased and their survivors in regard to the treatment of the bodies of coronavirus victims after death, allowing for the forced cremation of bodies despite the deceased’s religious beliefs.

This clause caused considerable protest from British Jews and Muslims, both of whose religious laws forbid cremation.

In response, an amendment to the bill has been made that states authorities must “have regard” for the disposal of bodies “in accordance with the person’s wishes, if known, or otherwise in a way that appears consistent with the person’s religion or beliefs, if known.”

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, expressed gratitude for the amendment, saying, “We would like to extend our deep and sincere thanks to the government for working with us to amend this legislation to protect the final wishes and religious freedoms of the deceased. There could be few things more sacred.”

“This has been an inspiring example of interfaith solidarity and responsive government,” she added. “It shows, even in these difficult times for our nation, why we have so much reason to be proud of this wonderful country.”
Fearing corona, France might cancel Passover, Easter festivities
President Emmanuel Macron told religious authorities on Monday he was against the idea of imposing a total lockdown in France to combat the coronavirus outbreak, a source close to one of the participants said.

Macron has ordered the French to stay at home other than to buy groceries, travel to work, exercise or for medical care. However, some medical professionals have called for stricter measures."There will be no total lockdown," a source close to France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who took part in the meeting at the Elysee palace, told Reuters. "[Macron] said [this] in essence, because that would cause more pain than healing."

Macron's meeting with religious leaders also concluded that celebrations of the Christian holiday of Easter and the Jewish holiday of Passover would probably not be held this year, the source said.

"If the lockdown is maintained, which should be the case, places of worship will be inaccessible and family reunions won't be possible," the source added.
JCPA: Israel, the Palestinians, Corona and Peace
Contagious diseases, like water, know no borders. They do not distinguish between peoples, countries and religions, nor do they recognize conflicts. They do not observe treaties, armistices or ceasefires. They affect all states and individuals, posing health, economic and social challenges to all.

International regulation of contagious diseases by the World Health Organization is not obligatory and is dependent on the good will and openness of states in providing vital and timely information in order to enable the organization to take the necessary measures to halt the pandemic.

International legal issues such as the potential violation of human rights and freedom of movement arise in the face of travel and trade restrictions imposed by states as a means of halting the spread of the virus.

In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians have developed frameworks for cooperation in preventing the spread of contagious diseases. Such cooperation should not be prejudiced by incitement, hatred and hostility.

Collaboration, openness, good faith and the genuine need to protect and heal the populations of the area in the face of the Corona pandemic should lead to the realization that good neighborly relations have the potential to enhance mutual trust and confidence between Palestinians and Israelis, as a basis for good faith and peace between them.
Seth Frantzman: Will coronavirus bring more peace in Middle East this year? – analysis
The global pandemic forcing countries to race to protect themselves could be a major catalyst for more peace in the Middle East.

So far, the results have been mixed, and there are still conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Syria. However, there are questions about whether countries will have the resources to wage war if they have to wage a second war on the virus at home.

Already, the armies of Iran, Jordan and Israel have been prepared to deal with aspects of a pandemic or preparing for a pandemic. Armies across the region are likely undertaking similar preparations. This is especially important if countries need to enforce curfews or martial law.

Turkey, which has been invading and bombing parts of Syria over the last several years, and which deployed forces to Libya, Qatar and other countries, will have to weigh continued militarism with the need to deal with the pandemic.

Some countries may see the pandemic as a reason to increase militant activity to distract their publics from failures at home. However, even Iran, a country likely to use this kind of distraction, has serious problems at home with the virus and with flooding.

Iran’s media has had no new propaganda videos about new rockets or drones. In the past, Iran seemed to be producing new rockets, drones and other military hardware every month, and it enjoyed boasting about various military maneuvers. Now that seems off the table.
Isi Leibler: Stop the madness, Blue and White! Form a national-unity government now!
It is scandalous that while the majority of the nation are isolated in their homes, Blue and White leaders are still playing petty, inciting politics. Netanyahu appeared on the main TV channels on Saturday night and set out the terms of his offer for a national-unity government. He offered the Blue and White Party equal government representation with the right-wing bloc (even though it holds 33 seats to the 58 held by the right-wing bloc), with the key ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, and undertook that he would resign as prime minister after 18 months. An extremely generous offer, given the election results.

Hearing Netanyahu outline the offer and confirming that the terms of a national-unity government have essentially been formulated, most Israelis were hugely relieved.

But within minutes, Lapid tweeted that Bibi is a liar and that Blue and White will persist in its efforts in the Knesset to oust him. Ya’alon proclaimed on TV that it really doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says or offers – he cannot be trusted and he must resign.

I have always respected Ya’alon as a man of integrity who placed the nation above all. But his bitter hatred has blinded him. In the midst of an unprecedented crisis of major proportions, he wants the only experienced leader with the ability to reassure the nation to step down in favor of an inexperienced politician lacking any governmental expertise. Does he really believe Gantz is capable of leading Israel in this crisis? And even if we set aside all reservations about him, is now the time to replace a leader who has demonstrated that he was ahead of the rest of the world in tackling this crisis?

Gantz has been offered the opportunity to become prime minister in 18 months, when hopefully the coronavirus will be behind us. Now is the time for Gantz to demonstrate true leadership qualities and to reject those who, because of their obsessive hatred of Netanyahu, are pressuring him to lead the county into disaster and reject a unity government.

For the sake of the country, we urge opposition leaders to set aside their hatred and focus solely on the welfare of this nation. There is no alternative but to form a national-unity government at this time of emergency. Those who oppose this are literally putting our lives at risk. History will not forgive them.
JCPA: Has the Coronavirus Infected Israelophobes?
The COVID-19 virus has already claimed thousands of lives across the globe. Unsurprisingly, it has also fanned anti-Semitism. Today, as the long and bloody history of Jew-hatred has shown, anti-Semites, Israelophobes, and BDS crusaders have wasted little time exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to spread corona conspiracies against the Jewish state.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are operating in a vacuum. Readily accessible facts on the ground undermine their claims. The metastasizing spread of the COVID-19 virus in Israel has brought Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, to increase medical and humanitarian cooperation to fight the pandemic. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held consultations with Israeli Arab physicians. He has dispatched urgent medical testing equipment to the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu noted, “It (coronavirus) does not distinguish between Jews, Arabs, Circassians, Bedouins, and Christians. It does not distinguish between religions and sectors.” Since March 19, the Israeli government has sent hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza as well as 2,000 protective suits, twenty tons of disinfectants, and 100 liters of sanitizing gel. Israeli doctors and specialists have also been dispatched to the West Bank city of Jericho to train Palestinian medical teams to save lives in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Palestinian Authority officials Ahmed Deek and Hussein al Sheikh, responsible for cooperation between the PA and Israel, praised Israel’s assistance, particularly the Israeli government’s honoring of the PA’s request to provide accommodations in Israel for 45,000 Palestinian worker-commuters from the West Bank to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. According to Al Monitor, quoting the PA’s al Sheikh, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas to thank him for the high level of cooperation and coordination.1
Ambassador Danny Danon: The UN's time to shine
As the nations of the world adapt to life in the shadow of a global pandemic, and as countries lock their gates and their citizens in quarantine, now is the time to capitalize on what the United Nations' can offer. We are accustomed to criticizing UN institutions, and justifiably so, due to their hypocritical approach toward Israel and the dozens of unilateral resolutions adopted against it.

However, in times such as these, we must put criticisms and faults aside and focus on the advantages of the world's preeminent international body. UN institutions, particularly the World Health Organization, are proving that the UN is still the organization the world needs most to fight the coronavirus.

In past pandemics, the limited movement of people between countries helped stunt their spread. Today, a virus that originated in a Chinese village is quickly spreading across the planet. The global nature of this attack obligates a unified and coordinated global response, and the UN is duty-bound to spearhead it. Naturally, every country is focused first and foremost on protecting its own citizens.

The UN, on the other hand, views the world as a global village without barriers. From its headquarters in New York and WHO offices in Geneva, the UN can assess the spread of the virus, allocate resources and issue universal directives to help halt the rate of infection. All these steps fall within the organization's declared reason for existing: To harmonizing the actions of countries to achieve the shared goals of global peace and security.

On the diplomatic front, now is the time to utilize our network of ambassadorial connections and relationships, in order to shorten bureaucratic processes and mobilize inter-governmental systems. Sharing knowledge at this juncture is critical. This is the time to focus on the essence, join hands and make progress on the research front. We are all hopeful that the teams of scientists currently laboring to develop a vaccine quickly will deliver good news. The UN must continue helping integrate these international efforts.
UN Chief Urges World To End Wars To Fight Coronavirus
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the world to end its armed conflicts and direct focus on fighting the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported Monday.

“It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said according to AP. The world faces “a common enemy — COVID-19” which doesn’t care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.”

He said women, children, the disabled, marginalized and displaced and people caught in armed conflicts are the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19,” AP reports. He called for the end of air strikes and other violent features of conflict in order to open windows for diplomacy.

“The fury of the virus illustrated the folly of war,” he said. “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”


Link to WHO Director-General Was Accused Of Covering Up Cholera Epidemics In Africa
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, was accused in 2017 of downplaying cholera epidemics that hit Ethiopia and Sudan.

A group of American doctors wrote that Tedros was “fully complicit in the terrible suffering and dying” that stemmed from a cholera outbreak in Sudan.

Before that, Tedros faced allegations that he refused to investigate three cholera outbreaks when he served as Ethiopia’s health minister.

He is now under fire for accepting the communist Chinese government’s spin about its handling of coronavirus, which has killed more than 16,000 people to date.


Keep your workers, Israel chief scientist urges, as virus threatens startups
Startups should do their utmost to hold on to their workers in order to get through the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, Israel’s tech chief said, warning that the loss of manpower could spell the end of the nation’s thriving startup ecosystem.

Startups should “preserve their workers and not let them go,” Ami Appelbaum, the nation’s chief scientist and chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said in a phone interview.

“It is globally hard to find good people,” he said.

The Innovation Authority is in charge of setting out Israel’s policies for the tech industry.

The coronavirus, which has killed thousands globally and rocked economies, may deal startups a harsh blow, he warned.

“I expect there will be many closures,” Appelbaum said, as firms struggle with fixed costs — like rent and salaries — while they are unable to market or sell their products to clients worldwide because of lockdowns and canceled flights. Investors and VC funds are also likely to clamp down on spending due to the uncertain times.

Five percent of Israeli tech companies have already fired workers, and 64% have frozen new hires, an unofficial survey by Israel’s Viola investment group has shown. The venture capital firm queried 135 chief financial officers and human resources staffers at tech companies to study the effects of the virus on the Israeli tech industry.


IDF Efforts to Fight COVID-19
Over 160 countries have been affected by COVID-19, including Israel. This is what the IDF is doing to protect Israeli civilians.


First-ever direct El Al flight to Australia evacuates stranded Israelis
In a historic first, El Al flew a commercial flight directly from Israel to Australia to evacuate Israelis as it became increasingly difficult to leave the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 17-hour flight landed in Perth on Tuesday morning Israel time and took off several hours later. About 230 Israelis registered for the flight from Perth, 80 of whom came from New Zealand.

Like many other countries in the world, Australia plans to close its borders to foreigners and stop all commercial flights on Thursday in the wake of the coronavirus’ spread.

The Israeli Embassies in Canberra and Wellington worked in the past few days to help Israeli tourists in the two countries to reach Perth, including arranging permission for those in New Zealand to enter Australia even if they did not have the appropriate visas. The diplomats also coordinated the security and logistics for the El Al flight to arrive in Perth.

The El Al flight sold out 15 minutes after it was announced and there was a long waitlist. Passengers had to pay for their tickets. This was El Al’s first commercial flight to Australia, though the airline had flown directly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his entourage aboard in the past.
NGO accused of collecting classified IDF intel given 2 months to respond
The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the NGO Breaking the Silence, a left-wing watchdog group that reports on alleged IDF abuses, to respond within two months to a petition filed against Breaking the Silence which alleged that the group – in conjunction with it foreign backers – was illegally collecting classified military intelligence.

Earlier this month, the group Ad Kan, which tracks the activity of leftist NGOs that target the Israel Defense Forces, petitioned the High Court of Justice, asking that it instruct the attorney general to launch an investigation against Breaking the Silence and the foreign nations that fund it. The petitioners suspect Breaking the Silence of collecting sensitive military intelligence that, if made public, could put national security at risk.

Ad Kan decided to seek an investigation into Breaking the Silence after its researchers reported that the NGO's project of "collecting testimonies" from IDF combatants went beyond testimonies pertaining to alleged human rights violations and included the collection of classified military information.

Ad Kan is also alleging that Breaking the Silence is in close contact with foreign governments and has signed contracts with a number of European governments to supply them with information about IDF activity in exchange for funding.

Despite these reports, Mendelblit decided to support the decision by the State Attorney's Office not to open an investigation because the matter was deemed "irrelevant to the public interest."
JCPA: A U.S. Victory in Lebanon
President Trump won a victory over the Lebanese government and Hizbullah. Last Thursday an American helicopter landed in Beirut and brought Amer Fakhoury, a former senior South Lebanese Army (SLA) officer and the commander of Khiam prison, to Cyprus. He was released from a Lebanese prison based on the decision of a military court.

Fakhoury has American and Israeli citizenship. He was arrested in Lebanon a few months ago, after continuous pressure from Hizbullah, and charged with killing and torturing Lebanese prisoners. The Trump administration applied a lot of pressure on the Lebanese government to release Fakhoury from custody. The Trump administration threatened to impose economic sanctions on Lebanon, stopping military aid the Lebanese army. Hizbullah objected to the release of Fakhoury and tried to torpedo his release, but in the end the Lebanese surrendered to American pressure.

In Lebanon and the Arab world there is much criticism of the Lebanese government and Hizbullah in social media, where there are allegations that Hizbullah and the Lebanese government made a deal with the American president to release Fakhoury. As a result of this harsh criticism, the head of the military court in Lebanon resigned. The Lebanese government is keeping quiet and the head of Hizbullah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, denied that there was a deal between Hizbullah and the American administration. Nasrallah called for setting up a committee to investigate how Fakhoury was released from prison. In a television interview, he admitted that there was a great deal of pressure put on the Lebanese government and that Hizbullah strongly opposed Fakhoury’s release.
BESA: Sheikh Raed Salah and His Endless Struggle Against Israel
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Sheikh Raed Salah was recently sentenced to 28 months in prison for encouraging and supporting terror attacks by his followers, including the attack at the Temple Mount on July 14, 2017, that killed police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan. Though Salah has been behind bars for security offenses on multiple occasions, legal verdicts have never prevented him or his illegal Northern Branch from continuing to incite Israeli Arabs against the country in which they live.

In his life story and the attitudes he espouses, Sheikh Raed Salah embodies the radicalization of Muslims in Israel.

Salah (literally “honest pioneer”) was born in the town of Umm al-Fahm in 1954. His father and two brothers served as officers in the Israel Police. After the 1967 Six-Day War, young Israeli Arab Muslims were able to attend religious institutions in the West Bank that were under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood. Salah, along with Kamel Khatib, became the original nucleus of the Islamic cell at Hebron College (now Hebron University), which eventually turned pro-Hamas. Another member of that cell was Salah Aruri, founder of Hamas’s military wing and now deputy head of its political bureau.

Salah was arrested for the first time in 1981 for joining the Asrat al-Jihad (Family of Jihad) organization, which was set up by Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Members of this group, including Khatib, were arrested for belonging to an illegal organization, then freed in the 1985 Jibril Deal. After their release, some members of the Islamic Movement appeared to renounce their support for terror and focus instead on the political sphere.
PMW: PA Corona update: Israel criticized for closing mosque, while Hamas criticized for not closing mosques, on same page in official PA daily
The Palestinian Authority published two opposing messages on the front page of the official PA daily:

One article reported on the condemnation of Israel by the Islamic Waqf Council for fining a Waqf official for not closing the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday. Although the Waqf’s stand contradicted the instructions of the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs, which told Palestinians to pray at home and stay away from the mosques, the official PA daily printed the reactions of Islamic Waqf Council Chairman Abdul Azim Salhab. Salhab accused Israel of exploiting the Coronavirus to harm Muslim worshippers by closing the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He emphasized that the Waqf “opposed closing the mosque.”

At the same time the paper’s editorial – also printed on the front page - slammed Hamas for not closing mosques in order to contain the spread of the virus in Gaza.

Official PA daily: The Waqf slams Israel for wanting to close mosque:
“The Israeli occupation police yesterday evening [March 21, 2020] broke into the home of Jerusalem [Islamic] Waqf Council Chairman Abdul Azim Salhab and gave him a fine of 5,000 [Israeli] shekels, because he did not prevent worshippers from participating in Friday prayers two days ago. Salhab said: … ‘The goal of these fines and steps is to close the Al-Aqsa Mosque to worshippers… on the pretext of preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. Our position in the Waqf is that we oppose closing the mosque. It will remain open to worshippers, so that they will pray in the optimal manner that protects their health and welfare.’”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 22, 2020]


Official PA daily: PA criticizes Hamas for not wanting to close mosques:
“The Muslim Brotherhood organization (i.e., Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza) … only recognize [their own] party religious rulings… And therefore they are currently attempting to break the [PA] government’s steps to quarantine the Coronavirus, including a temporary closure [by the PA] of the mosques so that the dangerous virus will not spread among the worshippers.”
[Editorial in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 22, 2020]








Workers locked into Qatar labor camps while coronavirus spreads within
Qatar “labor camps” are being locked down by authorities and workers with coronavirus concentrated inside them are in conditions that deny them basic human rights. According to a report at the Guardian, hundreds of construction workers now have the virus amid the global pandemic and Qatar’s policies of concentrating the people together in “squalid,over-crowded camps” enables the virus to “spread rapidly.”

The workers are some of the thousands slaving away on the FIFA World Cup infrastructure projects. “Inside the quarantined camps, workers describe an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty,” the report notes. Workers are being put on unpaid leave and it is getting worse by the day. Labor camps where the coronavirus sufferers are concentrated are given numbers within Qatar’s expansive gulag of workers camps. “Workers from camp 1 to camp 32 are in lockdown,” one man from Bangladesh said to the Guardian.

The dystopian universe of Qatar’s work camps is often far from view amid the lavish parties for expats, the armies of lobbyists the kingdom pay abroad and its investment in major media and sports, universities and brokering peace talks for Washington and the Taliban. However the reports like that at the Guardian every once in a while shed light on the hellish conditions. Underpaid men live crammed into containers.

The industrial area in Qatar is “home to hundreds of thousands of men, most of whom live in cramped dormitories, often packed eight to 10 to a room, making it extremely difficult to stop the transmission of the virus.” The workers lack hand sanitizers and other basic needs. There are concerns now about workers getting paid on time and other challenges. Many Gulf countries have stopped flights so people can’t even go home and Nepal has even banned its own people from coming home from the Gulf, according to the report.
Coronavirus: Should the U.S. Lift Sanctions on Iran?
In a recent video, a masked man holding a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle warns that the attacks on Taji and Basmaya military camps were only the beginning of a much larger offensive. — Usbat al-Thayireen, or League of Revolutionaries, a new Shiite militia group, Newsweek, March 19, 2020.

"The Islamic resistance of Usbat al-Thayireen vows to strike the occupation forces' bases and [US] embassy in the coming days and will continue striking the occupation until it exits the country, and the matter will be taken further if the occupier does not leave. We say to the hypocrites who are collaborators at the evil embassy: Your days are numbered and you will face your fate very soon." — Usbat al-Thayireen, or League of Revolutionaries, a new Shiite militia group, Newsweek, March 19, 2020.

The idea that the ruling mullahs of Iran and the top state sponsor of terrorism will use the extra revenues from the lifting of sanctions for humanitarian purposes is totally irrational. Easing sanctions will enable, embolden and empower the Iranian regime to damage the US and its allies' national security interests still further and kill more Americans. The US President's Iran policy of maximum pressure, which should probably be even more maximum, is headed in the right direction.
Iranian Officials Stole More Than $1 Billion in Humanitarian Coronavirus Funds, Pompeo Says
Iranian regime officials stole more than $1 billion in humanitarian funds meant to be used to help the country's people fight the spread of coronavirus, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

European countries intended for more than $1 billion cash for medical supplies to go to the Iranian people, who have been ravaged by the virus. But American officials say regime leaders instead pocketed the money and are now using it to protect themselves from the virus as it spreads throughout the population. This includes hoarding medical supplies that were meant to aid Iranian citizens.

Multiple regional reports have showed that before and since the virus began spreading, Iranian leaders stole funds purposed directly to support the ailing Iranian people.

Iran has been among the hardest hit by the virus, and its government's response has drawn international criticism, especially from the Trump administration. Secretary of State Pompeo accused Iran of mass corruption as the regime continues to spread propaganda, including accusations that the United States manufactured the coronavirus and is using its tough global sanctions campaign to prevent Iran from accessing medicine and humanitarian aid.

Pompeo on Monday issued a series of new allegations about Tehran's mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. "Supreme leader [Ali] Khamenei's fabrications regarding the Wuhan virus are dangerous and they put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk," Pompeo said. "Facts matter."

"Regime officials stole over a billion euros intended for medical supplies," Pompeo said in one of the first public accountings of Iran's alleged misuse of humanitarian funds that were meant to be used in cases such as the coronavirus outbreak. That sum amounts to well over one billion in American currency. Pompeo also said Iranian officials "continue to hoard desperately needed masks, gloves, and other medical equipment for sale on the black market."








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