Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to carry out his pledge to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, possibly as soon as Wednesday. His vision of redrawing the map of the Holy Land, in line with President Donald Trump s Mideast plan, has been welcomed by Israel s religious and nationalist right wing and condemned by the Palestinians and the international community. But with opponents offering little more than condemnations, there seems little to prevent Netanyahu from embarking on a plan that could permanently alter the Mideast landscape. Here s a closer look at annexation: WHY ANNEXATION, AND WHY NOW? Israel s right wing has long favored annexing parts or all of the West Bank, saying the territory is vital for the country s security and an inseparable part of the biblical Land of Israel. But most of the world considers the West Bank, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, to be occupied territory, and Israel s dozens of settlements, now home to nearly 500,000 Jewish Israelis, as illegal. Surrounded by a team of settler allies, Trump has upended U.S. policy, recognizing contested Jerusalem as Israel s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights and announcing that Jewish settlements are not illegal. Seeking to court hard-line voters on the campaign trail, Netanyahu last year began talking about annexation. After Trump released his Mideast plan in January envisioning permanent Israeli control over 30% of the West Bank, including all of Israel s settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley region, Netanyahu quickly jumped on board. Israel and the U.S. have formed a joint committee to map out precisely which areas Israel can keep. Netanyahu made sure that under the coalition agreement, he can bring a proposal to the new government anytime after July 1. He appears eager to move forward before the November presidential election, possibly with a limited move billed as a first stage, especially with Trump s re-election prospects in question. WHY IS THERE SO MUCH OPPOSITION? The Palestinians seek the entire West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and believe the Trump plan would deliver a fatal blow to their fading hopes of statehood. Among the plan s components: The Palestinians would only have limited autonomy in a fraction of territory they seek. Isolated Israeli settlements deep inside Palestinian territory would remain intact, and the Israeli military would retain overall security control over the Palestinian entity. The international community has invested billions of dollars in promoting a two-state solution since the interim Oslo peace accords of the 1990s. The U.N. secretary general, the European Union and leading Arab countries have all said that Israeli annexation would violate international law and greatly undermine the prospects for Palestinian independence. WILL ANYTHING CHANGE ON THE GROUND? Not immediately. Israel has controlled the entire West Bank for more than 50 years. Palestinians will remain in their towns and villages, while Israelis will live in their newly annexed settlements. The Palestinian Authority is protesting annexation but has ruled out any kind of violent response. But over time, there is a larger risk of conflict. Netanyahu has said he opposes granting citizenship to Palestinians living on annexed lands, presumably because it would undercut Israel s Jewish majority. But failing to grant equal rights to Palestinians in annexed areas opens Israel up to charges of establishing an apartheid system that would draw heavy international condemnation. Palestinians who are not living on annexed lands could face other challenges. Moving between Palestinian population centers _ or even reaching their own properties and farmlands _ could become difficult if they have to cross through Israeli territory. Critics say that Israel could also use its sovereignty to expropriate Palestinian lands. The Palestinian Authority has already cut off its ties with Israel to protest the looming annexation. In the absence of any peace prospects, the Palestinian Authority could see its international funding dry up or decide to close. The collapse of the authority could force Israel, as an occupying power, to pick up the tab for governing the Palestinians. In the long term, it could lead to Palestinian and international calls to establish a single binational state with voting rights for all _ a scenario that could spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. WHY DOESN T THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY STOP THIS? U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said annexation would mark a ``most serious violation of international law. The EU s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has warned of ``significant consequences. Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab states at peace with Israel, have condemned the annexation plan. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, powerful Arab players with informal relations with Israel, have said warming ties will be in danger. But Israel and the U.S. appear to be banking on the international community s poor record of translating rhetoric into concrete action. Days after the UAE warned Israel against annexation, for instance, two Emirati companies reached cooperation deals with Israeli partners in the fight against the coronavirus. Thanks to the U.S. veto over U.N. Security Council decisions, international sanctions appear to be out of the question. Divisions within the EU make concerted European reaction unlikely as well. Individual countries might seek to impose limited sanctions against Israel, and the International Criminal Court in the Hague could take annexation into account as it weighs whether to launch a war crimes investigation into Israeli policies. CAN ANYTHING STOP ANNEXATION? The biggest obstacle to Netanyahu appears to be from within. U.S. officials say they are unlikely to allow Israel to move forward unless Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, are in agreement. Gantz, a former military chief and bitter rival of Netanyahu, has said Israel should move carefully and in coordination with regional partners. Gantz laid the groundwork for further delays Monday when he said his top priority is guiding the country through the coronavirus crisis. ``Anything unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will wait, he said. Ironically, some hard-line settler leaders have also opposed the plan, saying they cannot accept any program that envisions a Palestinian state. If the issue remains frozen, time could run out on Netanyahu. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has said he opposes annexation. A Biden victory in November could mean that any Israeli annexation will be short-lived.
Iran has issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in detaining President Donald Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, a local prosecutor reportedly said Monday. While Trump faces no danger of arrest, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran s nuclear deal with world powers. Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said Trump and more than 30 others whom Iran accuses of involvement in the Jan. 3 strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad face ``murder and terrorism charges,`` the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Alqasimehr did not identify anyone else sought other than Trump, but stressed that Iran would continue to pursue his prosecution even after his presidency ends. Interpol, based in Lyon, France, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Alqasimehr also was quoted as saying that Iran requested a ``red notice be put out for Trump and the others, which represents the highest level arrest request issued by Interpol. Local authorities end up making the arrests on behalf of the country that request it. The notices cannot force countries to arrest or extradite suspects, but can put government leaders on the spot and limit suspects travel. After receiving a request, Interpol meets by committee and discusses whether or not to share the information with its member states. Interpol has no requirement for making any of the notices public, though some do get published on its website. It is unlikely Interpol would grant Iran s request as its guideline for notices forbids it from ``undertaking any intervention or activities of a political`` nature. The U.S. killed Soleimani, who oversaw the Revolutionary Guard s expeditionary Quds Force, and others in the January strike near Baghdad International Airport. It came after months of incidents raising tensions between the two countries and ultimately saw Iran retaliate with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq.
Diplomatic sources from the European Union (EU) told Euronews on Friday that 54 states are on a draft list of those whose nationals will be allowed to pass EU borders after they open. The draft list, which will be reviewed every two weeks, will not include the United States, Brazil, Qatar and Russia, EU sources said. The 54 countries include: Egypt, the Vatican City, Monaco, Montenegro, Andorra, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Albania, Turkey, Kosovo, the Democratic People s Republic of Korea, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Georgia, Bhutan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Palau, New Zealand, Australia, Dominica, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Uruguay, Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana, Paraguay, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Canada, Angola, Tunisia, Namibia, Uganda, Mozambique, Mauritius, Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Morocco and Algeria. The sources pointed out that the EU is having an internal debate over the criteria used for this decision, for some member-states argue that "data about Covid rates is not reliable." They stated that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was contacted to provide more details on this issue. The European travel ban has been in place since 17 March due to coronavirus. The sources also questioned that borders will be reopened by 1 July, as recommended to EU member-states by the European Commission earlier this month.
The spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) said on Wednesday that Turkey continues to send weapons to the northwestern city of Misrata, east of the capital Tripoli, according to Al-Arabiya news agency. Ahmed Al-Mesmari said that Turkish military cargo aircrafts are transferring weapons to the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya. There are also Turkish naval units operating near Libya s western coastal areas, he stated. "Our armed forces had military drills in western Sirte, and the troops are ready to deal with any emergency," Al-Mesmari asserted. "The armed forces men believe that this is the nation s battle to get rid of takfiris and end the Turkish invasion," he explained, adding that "the Turkish presence in Libya does not only threaten the country, but the region as a whole." He also accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of challenging the international community s willingness to reach a ceasefire in the war-torn state. Speaking to Egypt s state news agency MENA on Wednesday, the head of the Libyan parliament Aguila Saleh said that an arms embargo aimed at curbing the fighting in Libya was only implemented on the LNA while armed militias have continued to receive weapons. Saleh added that the international community has failed to stop the arrival of mercenaries and weapons into the Libyan territories. Turkey, which is fighting against the east-based LNA and its commander Khalifa Haftar, is backing the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli with troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. Ankara, according to Reuters, is conducting talks with the GNA for a possible use of the Misrata naval base and Al-Watiya air base.
The U.N. chief called for more pressure to be applied to Yemen s warring parties to come together to arrange a cease-fire in the war that has cost more than 10,000 lives and displaced 2 million people in the world s worst humanitarian disaster. Yemeni people are ``suffering terribly and COVID-19 is worsening their situation, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. He spoke before a closed briefing to the U.N. Security Council by U.N. special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths on Wednesday afternoon. In 2014, Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of Yemen s north, driving the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. A U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to try and restore Hadi s rule. The war has settled into a stalemate, compelling major regional players to seek an exit. Guterres said the United Nations has been working to bring the parties together and has been promoting ``confidence-building measures, namely in relation to the use of the airport, the harbors, the payment of salaries and at the same time the beginning of a political process. ``I m still confident that that is possible,`` the secretary-general said, ``and we need to put all pressure on the parties to the conflict and all relevant actors in order to make sure that the intense discussions that we have had in this regard lead to a positive outcome. Last month, Griffiths reported ``significant progress in negotiations toward a cease-fire, but warned of stark challenges as coronavirus spreads at an unknown rate across the Arab world s poorest nation. He urged the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis to quickly resolve differences over humanitarian and economic measures needed to move peace efforts forward and help the country counter the virus. Diplomats have stressed that a peace deal in Yemen must reconcile not only the government and the Houthis, but the south and the north as well. Guterres said the Yemenis are a generous people ``that has always had difficulties in finding unity among themselves, but it s a people that deserves this. On Monday, the Saudi-led coalition announced a breakthrough in the south. The coalition said the separatists Southern Transitional Council which is backed by the United Arab Emirates and the country s Saudi-backed internationally recognized government have agreed to a cease-fire after months of infighting. The agreement aims to close the rift between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Houthis. In addition to the ongoing war, Yemen is also facing a dire humanitarian crisis. A U.N. humanitarian appeal for Yemen this month fell $1 billion short of what aid agencies needed. Some 75% of U.N. programs for the country, covering essentially every sector, from food to health care and nutrition, have shut their doors or reduced operations. The World Food Program had to cut rations in half and U.N.-funded health services were reduced in nearly 200 hospitals nationwide. *This story was edited by Ahram Online.
The Arab League stressed on Monday the importance of a comprehensive political solution in Libya, while noting its strong opposition to foreign interventions in the conflict-hit state. In a final resolution that was issued following an online meeting of Arab foreign ministers, the Arab League emphasised the “need for restoring the Libyan nation state and its institutions’ role in serving the Libyan people, far from foreign interventions.” The resolution also includes the Arab League’s backing of the 2017 Skhirat agreement, the Berlin conference and the “outcomes of the different regional and international paths.” The document also referred to the “central role of the neighbouring countries to Libya in ending the Libyan crisis,” opposing and seeing a necessity in “stopping foreign interventions—regardless of their source and nature—that facilitate the transfer of terrorist, foreign fighters into Libya, as well as the violation of international decisions about an arms embargo,” as weapons “present a threat to the region and Libya’s neighbouring countries.” The Arab League welcomed a recent Egyptian resolution initiative, as well as all peace-seeking international efforts, expressing complete support for the United Nations’ endeavours to solve the conflict. The resolution also called on for an immediate ceasefire, to be implemented in light of the 5+5 talks in Geneva. The resolution also condemned all human rights violations in Libya and highlighted the importance of protecting all foreigners in the North African country. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the meeting that Cairo has constantly worked, using all diplomatic channels, to achieve a convergence of views among all the Libyan parties. Shoukry, according to ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez, also said that Egypt has been involved in all international initiatives that seek to settle the conflict. He said that Egypt, in cooperating with the UN, is invested in playing a part in making the Berlin political-economic path a successful one, in addition to the 5+5 talks, that will involve military and security arrangements. Egypt also wants Libya to restore its economic wellbeing, reform its institutions under parliamentary supervision, and activate the central bank and oil institutions in the country, within a framework of transparency and equal distribution of resources, Shoukry stated. He said that Egypt has continued to warn about the threat of spreading terrorism in Libya, emphasising that Egypt will not hesitate to take all measures to prevent the fall of Libya and its people in the hands of terrorists. He also warned against foreign interventions in Libya that back militias and transfer terrorists and foreign mercenaries from Syria to Libya, which “threatens Libyan stability and security and Arab national security.” The Arab countries have to work together to end these practices, concluded Shoukry. On Twitter, the Libyan foreign ministry announced it was downgrading its representation at the Arab ministerial meeting, criticising “double standards.” “So far, the [Arab League] session that Libya has called for since April last year has not been held, despite securing the quorum,” the ministry tweeted on Tuesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he opposed removing the towering statue of Theodore Roosevelt from outside New York City s American Museum of Natural History. The move was announced by the museum on Sunday and comes amid anti-racism protests across the United States and the world after the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody on May 25 in the United States. The statue shows Roosevelt on a horse, with a Native American man and an African man by his side. It stands prominently on a plinth outside the museum s main entrance, overlooking Central Park. Roosevelt, a Republican like Trump, was U.S. president from 1901-1909. Known for his exuberant and daring manner, he carried out antitrust, conservationist and "Square Deal" reforms, and, critics said, took an interventionist approach to foreign policy, including projecting U.S. naval power around the world. Many critics have said the Roosevelt statue symbolizes racial discrimination and colonial expansion. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that the city was in favor of the request from the museum to remove the statue because it "depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior." "Ridiculous, don t do it," Trump said in a tweet on Monday. In the ongoing ant-racism demonstrations, protesters across the United States and around the world have demanded that authorities take down monuments honoring pro-slavery Confederate figures and the architects of Europe s colonies. "Simply put, the time has come to move it," the museum s president, Ellen Futter, told the New York Times. She said the museum s decision was based on the statue itself, along with its "hierarchical composition", and not on Roosevelt. Futter said the museum continues to honor Roosevelt as "a pioneering conservationist". Roosevelt s face is also one of the four presidents - along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln - whose faces are cast in 60-foot-high granite sculptures at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Trump has blasted the anti-racism protests, saying demonstrators have behaved badly. "The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments - our beautiful monuments - tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We re not conforming", the U.S. president told supporters at a rally last week.
Several police officers were hurt in clashes with residents of a high-rise apartment block in the German city of Goettingen who had been placed under quarantine over a coronavirus outbreak, authorities said on Sunday. The violence erupted on Saturday as a group of residents sought to break through a metal barrier installed to keep the 700 people living in the residential complex in to prevent possible transmission of the virus. Some flung stones, bottles and wooden slats at officers, the city s police chief Uwe Luehrig told journalists on Sunday. Residents in the complex were put under quarantine on Thursday after two of them were found to be infected with COVID-19. By Friday, 120 people in the building tested positive. Goettingen is one of several outbreak clusters that have emerged in Germany since lockdown restrictions were lifted in May, including a huge cluster at a slaughterhouse in the North-Rhine Westphalia district of Guetersloh. More than 1,300 workers out of a total of nearly 7,000 have tested positive, and the region s state premier Armin Laschet said Sunday that he "cannot rule out a blanket lockdown". Several outbreaks at slaughterhouses, not just in Germany but also in France, have put a spotlight on the working and housing conditions that the workers -- many of whom come from Romania or Bulgaria -- are put under. The German government in May banned the use of subcontractors in the meat industry in a bid to curb the controversial practice of companies using middlemen to supply workers from abroad who are more vulnerable to abuses. Although Germany has weathered the coronavirus storm better than many of its European neighbours, the slaughterhouse outbreaks have dealt a blow to its efforts to restart Europe s top economy.
Turkish forces have hit more than 500 Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq as part of an operation in the region against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in various regions of northern Iraq on Sunday and Tuesday in two separate raids, which Ankara said were in response to an increase in militant attacks on Turkish army bases. Ankara launched the "Claw-Tiger Operation" on Tuesday in northern Iraq s Haftanin region. A Defence Ministry statement said Turkish F-16 jets, drones and howitzers had hit and destroyed more than 500 PKK targets in 36 hours. "The Claw-Tiger Operation is going very well. God willing, by continuing with the same seriousness and determination, we will conclude the operation with success," the statement cited Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying. Turkey regularly attacks PKK militants, both in its mainly Kurdish southeast and in northern Iraq, where the group is based. It has also warned in recent years of a potential ground offensive against PKK bases in Iraq s Qandil mountains. The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday Turkish and Iranian military interventions in Iraq violated Iraqi sovereignty. The UAE and Ankara have strained ties, including over the Libyan crisis where the two countries back opposing sides. The PKK, designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, focused in southeast Turkey.
Syria s central bank devalued the Syrian pound on Wednesday giving in to weeks of depreciation on the black market as new US sanctions took effect. The central bank raised the official exchange rate from 704 to 1,256 Syrian pounds to the dollar, in a statement published on its social media pages. The previous rate had been in force since March. Earlier this month, the war-torn country s currency hit a record low on the black market of around 3,000 pounds to the dollar, sparking rare protests, before appreciating slightly after an apparent injection of dollars. On Wednesday, the rate on the parallel market stood at around 2,600 to 2,800 pounds to the dollar, traders told AFP. The devaluation comes as the United States prepares to implement new sanctions this week under the Caesar Act, targeting foreigners doing business with the Damascus government, as well as reconstruction of the country. Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank, said the central bank was trying to minimise the gap between the official and black market rates. "It is trying to encourage people to use the official channel instead of the black market," he said. But the pound would probably continue its slide, punctuated by short periods of appreciation, he said. Syria s economy has been battered by nine years of war, and is now reeling from the knock-on effects of a financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon that has stemmed the flow of dollars into government-held areas. Analysts have said the recent lows on the black market are likely due to worries ahead of the introduction of new US sanctions, and the sudden fall from grace of tycoon and cousin of the president, Rami Makhlouf, which has set other top businessmen on edge. The Damascus government has long blamed the country s economic crisis on international sanctions. Last week, President Bashar al-Assad sacked his prime minister of four years after criticism of the government s handling of the crisis. Before the conflict, the exchange rate stood at 47 Syrian pounds to the dollar.
At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a "violent face-off" with Chinese forces along the disputed Himalayan frontier, the Indian army said Tuesday, in the deadliest clash between the nuclear-armed neighbours for more than four decades. Both sides blamed each other for Monday s clash in the precipitous, rocky terrain of the strategically important Galwan Valley, between China s Tibet and India s Ladakh region, which analysts described as "worrying".
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have opened a broader discussion about racial inequality in the United States. The US civil rights movement in the 1960s was a watershed when it came to formal de-segregation in housing, education, the workplace and public spaces. But more than a half century later, stark divisions remain in how the benefits of a $20 trillion economy are distributed among the largest racial and ethnic minorities and the country s white majority. An array of government programs has attempted to address the issue, including anti-poverty efforts, affirmative action to boost college enrollment, and preferences in contracting for minority-owned businesses. But black and Latino families on average continue to earn less, have higher unemployment, and are harder hit when economic shocks like the coronavirus hit. “The downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been the most affected,” Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said this week. That gap is most apparent in family net worth estimates. Black and Hispanic families accumulate proportionately less in real estate, stocks, business assets and other forms of wealth than white families. Over time, that creates lower inheritances for children and more constraints when it comes to funding education or training – a dynamic that can help perpetuate the problem. Some Fed officials have pointed to deep-seated racism as drag on the U.S. economy. “By limiting economic and educational opportunities for a large number of Americans, institutionalized racism constrains this country s economic potential,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said on Friday, calling for an end to racism as both a moral and economic imperative. “The economic contributions of these Americans, in the form of work product and innovation, will be less than they otherwise could have been. Systemic racism is a yoke that drags on the American economy.” The lack of progress after so many decades has led some to argue that a massive generational transfer, sometimes referred to as reparations, is needed to undo a legacy that has roots in slavery, but continued to compound through the era of formal segregation and beyond.
WASHINGTON (AP) — After months away from the campaign trail, President Donald Trump plans to rally his supporters this coming Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus. Trump will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma — a state that has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases. But health experts question the decision, citing the danger of infection spreading among the crowd and sparking outbreaks when people return to their homes. The Trump campaign itself acknowledges the risk in a waiver attendees must agree to absolving them of any responsibility should people get sick. WHAT MAKES THE RALLY HIGH RISK? Trump s rally will be held indoors, at a 19,000-seat arena that has canceled all other events through the end of July. Scientists believe the virus spreads far more easily in crowded enclosed spaces than it does outdoors, where circulating air has a better chance of dispersing virus particles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the highest risk events for transmission of the coronavirus this way: “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.” The CDC recommends cloth masks in places where people might shout or chant. Trump s rallies typically draw tens of thousands of supporters. They usually stand outside in line for hours before passing through airport-style security and cramming into an arena, where they sit side by side or stand shoulder to shoulder. The rallies are typically raucous, with much shouting, cheering and chanting. Some people dance and jeer at reporters. Sometimes protesters are met with violence before they are removed by security. Many attendees are older, which would put them at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19. It s not unusual for several individuals in the crowd to require medical attention when the temperature rises. The rallies also typically draw supporters from surrounding towns and states. Some die-hard fans travel across the country from rally to rally like groupies for a band. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard s Global Health Institute, called the upcoming Trump rally “an extraordinarily dangerous move for the people participating and the people who may know them and love them and see them afterward.” Trump supporters coming from neighboring cities and states could carry the virus back home, Jha said. “I d feel the same way if Joe Biden were holding a rally.” ___ OKLAHOMA CASES LOW BUT RISING In its final phase of reopening, Oklahoma now allows public gatherings of any size as long as organizers consider social distancing. Participants at any large gathering should stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and wear a cloth face covering when distancing is a challenge, the state health department said. The state has a relatively low death rate compared with the rest of the nation, but new cases are rising. In Tulsa, cases are increasing, with 71 new cases reported Friday. The Tulsa Health Department already was investigating an outbreak linked to an indoor gathering of a large group of people. “I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time,” Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, said in a statement Friday. “It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe.” Dart said the risk of spreading the virus increases with higher numbers of people congregating for longer periods of time. Oklahoma health authorities said that anyone who attends a large public event should get tested for COVID-19 shortly afterward. Shelley Payne, director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease at the University of Texas at Austin, said the Trump rally meets every criteria for the riskiest type of event. “I would certainly recommend that people wear masks and try to keep as much distance as possible,” Payne said. Julie Fischer, an associate research professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University, said the event could have wide repercussions for the country. “With a little bad luck, that scenario could end in the seeding of community outbreaks of COVID-19 across the U.S.,” she said. ___ MASKS AND PRECAUTIONS The Trump campaign has declined to respond to repeated questions about whether it will require attendees to wear masks, socially distance or take other measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Trump has made clear that he believes empty seats are bad optics. “I can t imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full. Every — every six seats are empty for every one that you have full. That wouldn t look too good,” he said in April. Trump also insisted that the marquee event of the Republican National Convention — his acceptance of his party s nomination for reelection — be moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina s Democratic governor refused to promise he would not impose restrictions. ___ WHY NOW? Trump has been eager to resume the rallies that are the centerpiece of his campaign. The president revels in his large crowds. The events let him vent and gauge the kind of rhetoric that will appeal to his ardent political base. They also help his campaign expand its voter databases and will serve as a contrast to Democratic challenger Biden, who has suspended campaign events because of the virus and hasn t attracted the same size of crowds. But the decision to pull the trigger now was driven, in large part, by the mass anti-racism protests that have taken place across the country in the wake of George Floyd s death in Minneapolis. Campaign and White House officials say the protests — and the limited public health outcry they generated — gave them cover. If it was OK for tens of thousands of people to march through the streets, demanding racial justice, why can t Trump rally his supporters, too? Of course, the protests were held outside, with many participants wearing masks. “Any large gathering, whether of protesters or ralliers, is dangerous,” Jha said. But infection is less likely at an outdoors moving march than at a crowded event in an enclosed space, he said, citing the air flow. ___ THE WAIVER The Trump campaign, in recognition of the risk, has tried to protect itself from lawsuits with waiver language on its registration website. “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the campaign advised those signing up for the rally. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” liable for illness or injury.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed moves by US President Donald Trump to sanction any International Criminal Court officials who investigate US troops, as the tribunal examines alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. "This court is politicised and obsessed with carrying out a headhunt against Israel and the United States as well as other democratic countries that respect human rights, but turns a blind eye to the world s worst human rights offenders, including the terrorist regime in Iran," Netanyahu said at a press conference. He accused the ICC of fabricating accusations against Israel by claiming that Jews living in their historic homeland constitutes a war crime. "This is ridiculous. Shame on them." Trump, ramping up pressure for the Hague-based court to stop its investigation of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, issued an executive order Thursday to block all US property and assets of anyone involved in investigating or prosecuting American forces. Washington has never accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration would not let US forces be "threatened by a kangaroo court". But the US and Israel, its top Middle East ally, have refused to sign up to the ICC since its creation in 2002. A decision from the Hague-based court s chief prosecutor in December 2019 to open a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories sparked a furious reaction from Israel and condemnation from the US. Netanyahu said the decision made it a "political tool" against the Jewish state. The Palestinians had joined the court in 2015. The Trump administration has been livid over the ICC s investigation into alleged atrocities in Afghanistan, the longest-running war of the United States. ICC judges had initially refused to authorise the investigation after Washington threatened sanctions. In The Hague, a spokesperson said the court was "aware" of the announcement from Washington and would react after examining it.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travelled to Jerusalem on Wednesday where he was set to voice European "concern" over Israel s controversial annexation plans in the occupied West Bank. Maas, the first high-level European visitor to touch down in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic hit, on arrival touched elbows with his Israeli counterpart, both wearing face masks. The focal point of talks will be Israel s proposed annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, with initial steps slated to begin from July 1, the same day Germany takes the rotating EU presidency. The European Union opposes the move although it remains divided on how to react, with Maas s visit seen as an opportunity by Israel to tone down the bloc s response. The German foreign ministry said on its website that "in the Middle East conflict, Germany and its European Union partners are committed to the resumption of negotiations and a two-state solution. "In Israel, Foreign Minister Maas will also express European concern about the possible consequences of annexation, as announced by the Israeli government." Germany s top diplomat held talks with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi before meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz. Israeli annexation forms part of a US peace plan unveiled in January, which paves the way for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state. But it excludes core Palestinian demands such as a capital in east Jerusalem and has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians have sent a counter-proposal for the creation of a "sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarised" to the Quartet, made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia, Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Tuesday. "We want Israel to feel international pressure," Shtayyeh said. Maas is due to travel on to Jordan, from where he will hold a video conference with Shtayyeh and meet with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi. Last month Jordan s King Abdullah II warned that Israeli annexation risked sparking a "conflict" with his country, speaking to German magazine Der Spiegel. - EU weighs response - While Berlin shares Amman s opposition to annexation, the EU is yet to outline retaliatory measures and sanctions would need the approval of all 27 member states. Europe holds significant financial clout in Israel as the country s top business partner, with trade totalling 30 billion euros ($34 billion) last year, according to EU figures. Some European countries could formally recognise a Palestinian state but, according to an Israeli official, Germany would not be one of them. "Germany even with annexation would not recognise a Palestinian state and is not going to support sanctions against Israel," he told AFP. Looking beyond the West Bank, other matters on Maas s Jerusalem agenda include Israeli foe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Berlin was one of the European parties to a landmark 2015 accord with Iran to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. But US President Donald Trump s decision to pull out of the deal and reimpose crippling economic penalties -- a move praised by Israel -- has led Tehran to suspend its compliance with some of the curbs. Germany won praise from Israel in April for announcing a ban on all Hezbollah activities after previously tolerating the militant group s political wing. Israel occupied a swathe of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000 and went on to fight a war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Turkish authorities have ordered the detention of 414 people, mainly military personnel, over suspected links to the network that Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup in 2016, prosecutors and state media said on Tuesday. Authorities have carried out a sustained crackdown on alleged followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of President Tayyip Erdogan, since the coup attempt, when 250 people were killed. Gulen denies any involvement. One police operation to detain 191 suspects was coordinated from the western city of Izmir and targeted people in 22 provinces, state-owned Anadolu news agency said. The police have already detained 160 of the suspects, it said. Separately, an Istanbul prosecutor ordered the detention of 158 people including military personnel, doctors and teachers, out of which 86 people were so far detained, Anadolu said. Anadolu said detention warrants were issued for 32 people as part of another operation targeting members of air force with suspected links. Turkish authorities were also seeking to detain 33 people from gendarmerie forces and others, it said. In a separate operation, police detained 16 military personnel the southeastern city Diyarbakir over the weekend, security sources said. On Tuesday, a local court jailed six of them pending trial and freed 10 others, the sources added. Since the coup attempt, about 80,000 people have been held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others sacked or suspended. Turkey s Western allies have criticised the scale of the crackdown, while Ankara has defended the measures as a necessary response to the security threat. Erdogan has for years accused Gulen s supporters of establishing a "parallel state" by infiltrating the police, judiciary, military and other state institutions. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.
A jihadist group active in northwest Syria launched an offensive Monday, capturing two villages and killing 19 regime forces, a war monitor said. "Jihadist factions led by Hurras al-Deen launched an assault on two villages in Sahl al-Ghab," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They seized the villages of Al-Fatatra and Al-Manara, in Hama province, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. He said the clashes left 19 government soldiers and six jihadists dead. The area from which the offensive was launched lies in the broad Idlib region, which is controlled by jihadists and rebels and is the last bastion of resistance to Damascus. A truce reached on March 6 has largely stemmed the fighting in the region, which President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to fully retake. Hurras al-Deen is a relatively small but powerful armed group led by Al-Qaeda loyalists, the closest thing to the mother organisation s franchise in Syria. Although they cooperate at times, it is a rival of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of Islamist factions dominated by former members of Al-Qaeda s ex-Syria affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The Idlib truce brokered by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey has largely kept Syrian and Russian warplanes out of the region s skies. Aid groups had warned that an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Idlib region could cause a humanitarian disaster of previously unseen proportions if the fighting did not cease.
Lebanon s President Michel Aoun called for national unity on Sunday after violence erupted in parts of Beirut between supporters of rival sectarian political parties. Lebanon maintains a fragile sectarian balance since its many religious sects fought a 1975-1990 civil war with factions often backed by regional rivals. A financial crisis that began late last year, rooted in decades of state waste and corruption, is seen as the biggest threat to the country s stability since the war. "Our strength remains in our national unity...What happened last night is a warning bell," Aoun s office quoted him as saying on Twitter. "We must put our political disputes aside and hurry to work together to revive our country from the depth of the successive crises." Gunfire was heard in some Beirut neighbourhoods and suburbs on Saturday night during scuffles between supporters of rival parties, local media reported. Security forces deployed in large numbers. Calm returned after a tense standoff in a Christian-Shi ite district linked to the start of the civil war, along a former frontline, local media said. Earlier on Saturday, security forces had fired tear gas at protesters who threw rocks, angry at the ruling elite and its handling of the crisis.
Forces fighting for Libya s internationally recognised government said on Thursday they had regained control over Tripoli and a military source with the eastern forces that have been attacking the capital said they were withdrawing. The Government of National Accord (GNA) military operations room said in a statement it had control over all borders of the Tripoli city administrative area. Separately, a military source in the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) said it would complete its withdrawal on Thursday from the Tripoli districts of Ain Zara, Abu Salim and Qasr Ben Gashir towards a town near its stronghold of Tarhouna.
Major General Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA), has said that combatting terrorism and ending foreign intervention in Libyan affairs is the responsibility of Libyans themselves, not the international community. Speaking to Egyptian media outlets in a video conference Tuesday, Al-Mismari argued that the international community “did not give the right description for the Libyan case.” “Libya is now engaged in a war on terrorism, not a conflict over power or wealth as claimed by terrorist groups such the [Muslim] Brotherhood, Turkey and Fayez Al-Sarraj,” he said. “On Monday, we reached victory in the Asbiah battle, south of the capital Tripoli, and now Arab Libyan troops are bombing Al-Gharyan from both southern and southwestern sides.” The Libyan military spokesman added that the LNA achieved victory in a number of battles around Tripoli in an “eight-day battle.” “Fighting took place continuously for 155 hours. We successfully targeted large numbers of terrorists, whether Syrian mercenaries or Libyans, and many of them were leading figures,” Al-Mismari explained. “Through redeployment around Tripoli and the cities that surround it, we are seeking to target terrorist militias, many of which are affiliated to Al-Qaeda, Daesh, or the Muslim Brotherhood, and get them out of their fortifications. We want to defeat them easily without having civilian casualties.” Al-Mismari stressed that the situation remains calm in eastern Misrata, though some artillery skirmishes occurred. Al-Mismari noted that this war, “in which we are using new tactics to exhaust the enemy,” requires patience. Al-Mismari, meanwhile, believes that Qatari money will not help Turkey in having a strong base in Libya. “Watch what will happen in the coming days and weeks,” he said. Al-Mismari confirmed the presence of Islamic State (IS) militants in southern Libya, though not on a large scale. “Given the vast spaces, some of them managed to escape to Niger, Mali and Sahel and Saharan countries,” he revealed. “Yet, we cornered them till we eradicated them. But there is a new variable, which is the presence of those who have white skin, not Africans as it used to be in the past. Those are mercenaries that the Turks brought to take our army’s attention away from fighting around Tripoli.” On the political level, Al-Mismari announced that the LNA has accepted the UN invitation for a 5+5 talks because “they want peace, although I know that a political settlement is still unsuccessful in Libya.” “We have three conditions to start negotiations with Al-Sarraj, including the complete withdrawal of Turkey and its mercenaries from the Libyan scene, excluding terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Deash from the final deal, and dissolving militias and disarming them,” Al-Mismari said. When asked further about a political solution for the Libyan conflict, Al-Mismari said that the Muslim Brotherhood and the militias that affiliated to it “believe that they made the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi, and accordingly they don’t accept any party to negotiate with them.” “Secondly, which is more important, revolutions were a conspiracy against the Arab armies so as to facilitate the Muslim Brotherhood’s path to power. This is why they will not accept the Libyan Arab army, no matter what the price is,” he pointed out. Al-Mismari noted that Al-Sarraj “is a prisoner of these terrorist groups” and their backers, mainly Turkey and Qatar. “He (Al-Sarraj) only consults with Al-Salaby, Abdel Hakeem Belhag and other terrorists. He is a puppet in their hands,” argued the LNA spokesperson. Concerning the US and Russian positions towards the Libyan crisis, Al-Mismari said Russia did not interfere during the events of 2011 and accordingly did not “sell Libya for the Brotherhood and the terrorists,” adding that “we have old, military ties with Moscow.” “All our weaponry has come from Russia since 1970, and we cannot move to the West because this will take a long period of time.” Al-Mismari stated that the arms embargo on the LNA remains in place, while after its end the LNA will have arms deals with Russia. He added that the Americans decided to take action and get in touch with Al-Sarraj after Turkey has declared that it will search for gas and oil in western Libya. The aim for the United States, said Al-Mismari, is to “maintain the interests of the US oil companies.” “We will not allow or accept Turkish plans in that aspect. Firstly, they don’t have international expertise in this field. Secondly, since 1957, we have contracts with US, Italian, French and British companies, and we will not violate any of them, whether conducted with companies or states,” he warned. Meanwhile, Al-Mismari said that Egypt trusts the LNA and understands the situation. “It is enough to say that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi always stresses that Libya is engaged in a war on terrorism, and not a conflict over power. Others don’t say it,” he said. “Regarding Algeria, I don’t understand its position yet, while there is division in Tunisia. The majority of our Tunisian brothers back the Libyans, while Ghannouchi supports the Brotherhood and the terrorists,” Al-Mismari concluded.
Perhaps there are few positive aspects of the Corona pandemic such as highlighting the importance Scientific research in general, and especially in the field of health. In this regard, no one denies that universities in Egypt have played a wonderful role in building the national cultural identity of the Egyptian personality. People considered universities as holy places like houses of worship. Now, after several