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Saudi Arabia takes steps toward post-lockdown normal

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have decided to ease some restrictions put in place over coronavirus fears, allowing movement and resumption of some economic and commercial activities, Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.

The move also allows restarting of domestic flights, opening of mosques, restaurants and cafes and work attendance, however, the temporary suspension of Umrah pilgrimage remains in force.

The easing of restrictions will be carried out in a phased manner, with the first phase beginning on Thursday (May 28) and ending on May 30.

In the first phase, the movement within and between all regions of the Kingdom in private cars will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. except in Makkah. Economic and commercial activities will resume in retail and wholesale shops and malls but beauty salons, barber shops, sports clubs, health clubs, entertainment centers and cinemas will continue to remain shut due to social distancing concerns.

In the second phase, which begins on May 31 and ends on June 20, the movement is allowed from 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. in all areas of the Kingdom, except in Makkah. All congregational prayers, including jummah salaah, will resume in all mosques across the Kingdom except in Makkah.

The suspension of workplace attendance will end, allowing all employees in ministries, government entities and private sector companies to return to working from their offices provided that they follow strict precautionary guidelines.

The suspension on travel between regions in the Kingdom using various transport methods will no longer be in place. Airlines will be allowed to operate domestic flights if they adhere to precautionary measures set by the civil aviation authority and the Ministry of Health. The suspension of international flights, will, however, continue until further notice.

Restaurants and cafes serving food and beverages can reopen, however, beauty salons, barber shops, sports clubs, health clubs, entertainment centers and cinemas will be barred from reopening in the second phase. The ban on social gatherings of more than fifty people, such as weddings and funerals will also continue to remain in force.

In the third phase commencing on June 21, the Kingdom will return to “normal” conditions as it was before the coronavirus lockdown measures were implemented.

Meanwhile in Makkah, the first phase measures will be implemented between May 31 to June 20 and the second phase will begin on May 21. Friday prayers and all congregational prayers will continue to be held in the Grand Mosque, only to be attended by Imams and the employees.

Khashoggi family forgives their father’s killers

The family of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said Friday they have forgiven those who killed their father.

“On this blessed night of the blessed month (of #Ramadan), we remember God’s saying: ‘If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah’,” son Salah Khashoggi said in a tweet.

“Therefore we the sons of martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce we forgive and pardon those who killed our father, seeking reward from God almighty.”

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

Riyadh offered various, conflicting narratives to explain his disappearance before acknowledging he was murdered in the diplomatic building, while seeking to shift blame for his death on a botched rendition operation carried out by rogue agents.

Khashoggi’s body has never been found.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard concluded in an earlier report that Khashoggi’s murder was a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and encouraged an investigation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Saudi officials, however, have insisted that the crown prince was not involved in the murder.

Saudi Arabia announced at the end of last year that five people have been sentenced to death for taking part in Khashoggi’s murder.

Source : Anadolu Agency
Image : AFP

Mosque Okba, kairouan, Tunisia

Tunisia to reopen mosques, cafes after nearly 3 months

Tunisia will reopen mosques, restaurants and cafes as of June 4 as coronavirus outbreak has slowed down in the country, authorities announced on Thursday, Anadolu Agency reports.

Authorities will continue to suspend education in universities until June 8 to avert the risks posed by long distance travel.

Coronavirus measures will be tightened in the coming period, Tunisian Interior Minister Hisham El-Mechishi stressed, adding that intercity travel will not be allowed until the pandemic is brought under control.

Lebanon: Art, theatre group launches mobile film festival in response to pandemic

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh announced on March 13 that the country suspended prayers in mosques, closed cafes at 4 p.m. every day, and banned all cultural, sports and economic gatherings to combat the spread of the virus.

Tunisia’s death toll now stands at 46, with 1,043 infections and 816 recoveries.

The pandemic has claimed more than 329,100 lives in 188 countries and regions since originating in China last December. The US and Europe are currently the world’s worst-hit regions.

More than 5.03 million cases have been reported worldwide and more than 1.91 million people have recovered to date, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Source : MEMO
Image : Haythem Gataa

Palestine flag

Palestinian leader Abbas announces end to agreements with Israel and US

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Tuesday an end to all agreements and understandings with Israel and the United States, including security agreements, as a result of Israel’s intent to annex parts of the West Bank.

Abbas said the Palestinian government was “absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones”.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, the 85-year-old leader said Israeli annexation of any parts of the occupied West Bank would ruin chances for a two-state solution.

“The Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine, with all its consequences and repercussions,” said Abbas.

Abbas has made multiple previous threats to end security cooperation with Israel without ultimately following through.

He did not give any details about what his latest declaration would mean in practice, AFP said.

Palestinian sources told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that despite Abbas’ declaration coordination with Israel continues.

A Palestinian official who attended the meeting said Abbas intends to stop coordination, but had not yet “closed the door”.

He told Haaretz the security forces may lower the level of engagement with their counterparts in Israel, but it is not yet possible to determine that coordination will be completely stopped.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday swore in a new unity government with former rival Benny Gantz.

Under the coalition agreement from July the government can discuss annexing parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu campaigned in a March election on annexing both the Jordan Valley, a key strategic area in the West Bank, as well as settlements dotted throughout the territory.

On Tuesday, Joe Biden said Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories would “choke off any hope of peace,” but renewed his pledge to unconditionally continue US military aid to Israel if elected president.

Speaking to Jewish American supporters at a virtual fundraiser on Tuesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee vowed to reverse US President Donald Trump’s “undercutting of peace” and resume aid to Palestinians.

“Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace,” he said.

Abbas last week said any annexation would lead them to rip up all agreements.

Source : Middle East Eye

Salaah to resume at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound next week

Salaah at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound will resume next week after a nearly two-month pause now that the spread of the new coronavirus has slowed.

In a statement, the Council of Islamic Waqf said the restriction on outdoor prayer at the site would be lifted after the Muslim holiday of Eid El-Fitr marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Eid El-Fitr is due to start on Saturday or Sunday.

On March 15, religious officials closed Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, and a week later also banned worshippers from gathering in open areas of the holy hilltop compound..

It was not immediately clear whether worshippers would also be allowed back into Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock next week.

A Palestinian religious official in Jerusalem said further details would be released at a later date.

Source: memo
Image:  Cole Keister

Masaajid, churches in Greece resume services

Masaajid and churches in Greece have resumed services as part of the normalization process following the government’s decision to ease coronavirus restrictions with worshippers required to follow social distancing guidelines.

Most mosques reopened on May 16 night with Tarawih, or special night prayers, performed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Greece was one of the first European countries to order the closure of all schools, bars, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, malls, cinemas, retail stores, museums, archaeological sites and hotels and received much praise for these measures.

Mosques have been closed for almost two months as part of efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Tonight, we performed the Tarawih prayer with the congregation, albeit with limited participation due to the measures,” Sadık Sadık, president of the Western Thrace Mosques and Religious Officers Association, told Anadolu Agency.

“We missed praying with the congregation in our mosques,” Sadık said, adding: “Hopefully, our country and the world will get rid of this pandemic as soon as possible and return to our normal lives.”

Meanwhile, “It is our responsibility to take action against the COVID-19 outbreak that threatens the world,” said MP Hüseyin Zeybek, a member of the Muslim Turkish minority of Western Thrace.

Reopening the mosques caused bittersweet happiness among the minority society, Zeybek added.

Greece has entered the second phase of its gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions introduced in early March to contain the spread of the virus.

The country currently has 2,834 COVID-19 cases with the death toll at 163.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 188 countries and regions, with Europe and the U.S. currently the worst hit.

Source : Anadolu Agency
Image : greeka.com

Statement on the 72nd Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba

Palestinians worldwide are commemorating the annual Nakba day to remember the ethnic cleansing that occurred during Israel’s creation. Over 600 towns and villages were demolished by Jewish paramilitary groups and then by the state of Israel itself during months of violent raids which triggered a mass exodus of the indigenous population, marking a key milestone in the Zionist take-over of Palestine.

Rallies and speeches are usually held across Palestine to mark the event. However, this year’s commemorative events in Gaza and the West Bank have been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Palestinians worldwide are nevertheless marking the event in different ways, remembering the pain of countless victims of Israel’s brutal occupation and to assert their rights.

British-Palestinian groups have joined in the remembrance, issuing a strong statement in solidarity with Palestinians across the world. Below is their statement.

“Today, on 15 May, 2020, Palestinians around the world remember the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. Al-Nakba, meaning ‘the catastrophe’ in Arabic, represents the Palestinian exodus and the displacement of roughly 700,000 Palestinians from historic Palestine in 1948 at the behest of the Zionist occupation and British colonialism.

On this occasion, we affirm that the inalienable rights that Palestinians hold under international law will not be compromised, and that the Palestinian people will never concede on their right to return to the homes forcibly taken from them and their ancestors.

Despite the systematic suffering, displacement, and oppression that has aimed to eradicate Palestinian identity and the right of return, Palestinians will continue to resist and remain steadfast in defending their human rights. While occasions remembering the Nakba are not necessitated to remind Palestinians of their collective suffering, it is an occasion where all Palestinians can emphasise the absolute belief and confidence in both the just cause for which we are all fighting, and the belief that we will inevitably return to the land and holy sites that have been forcibly appropriated from us.

Indeed, Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa remain key pillars of the unified struggle of the Palestinian nation and are at the heart of the fight for justice and human rights in Palestine. We affirm that those ceding these pillars and calling for, or pursuing, acts of normalisation with the state of occupation are a stain on this struggle for justice and human rights.

On this anniversary, it is essential to renew the unbinding covenant of the Palestinian people in the fight towards liberation. In this context, we affirm the following:

  • Return to Palestine is an inalienable right of the Palestinian people and will not be reneged and comprised just as the mountains of Safad, Eilaboun and Nablus remain immovable. All unjust Zionist procedures that seek to change the identity of the land upon which our fathers and forefathers resided on will fail.
  • We affirm our categorical rejection of all initiatives and projects designed to liquidate the Palestinian issue or diminish the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Foremost amongst these projects is the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’. In this regard, we affirm the right of the Palestinian people to resist these projects using any and all available means within international law.
  • We affirm our total rejection of all acts of normalisation with the state of occupation. Whether political, cultural, artistic, commercial, or in the sports, we consider such acts detrimental to the pursuit of justice in Palestine. We also note that such acts serve to rationalise the crimes and human rights abuses of the occupier and provide the state of occupation with a carte blanche for the furtherance of these crimes.
  • We salute the steadfastness of the thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, 1948 lands, and in the diaspora, and we invite them to participate in activities pertaining to the commemoration of Nakba72 using all available means (including social media campaigns and physical demonstrations where possible). Foremost amongst these initiatives is the international campaign ‘Return… My Right, My Decision’ and the International Campaign for Preserving Palestinian Identity (Intimaa).
  • We send our warm greetings and well-wishes to the 5,000 heroes of Palestine languishing in uninhabitable conditions across Israel’s jails. We urge our people to provide all forms of support to these heroes, including but not limited to resisting and rejecting the proposed initiative by the occupation state to compel banks in the West Bank to close the accounts of Palestinians spending time in Israel’s jails.
  • We call for our people to remain steadfast and united around the key and fundamental principles underpinning our cause: identity, the sanctity of land, and the right of return. Upholding these principles, we urge the Palestinian people to find unity at this crucial moment as ending fragmentation is key in overcoming this brutal occupation.”

Source: MEMO

US Senate approves Uyghur human rights bill

The US Senate on Thursday afternoon approved a bill to sanction Chinese government officials responsible for forced labor camps in the region of Xinjiang, where up to 2 million ethnic Muslims have been forcibly detained, in the latest congressional move to strengthen the US stance toward China.

The legislation, titled the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, condemns the Chinese Communist Party for the camps and recommends a tougher response to the human rights abuses suffered by Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the region.

If enacted, President Donald Trump would have 180 days to submit a report to Congress identifying Chinese officials and any other individuals who are responsible for carrying out torture; prolonged detention without charges and a trial; abduction; cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of Muslim minority groups; and other flagrant denials of the “right to life, liberty, or the security of persons” in Xinjiang.

The individuals identified in the report would then be subject to sanctions but the legislation gives the White House room to opt against imposing sanctions on the officials if the President determines and certifies to Congress that holding back on sanctions is in the national interest of the United States.

The bill would also require the State Department to assemble a report on human rights violations in Xinjiang, including estimates of how many people are confined in the camps and information on the conditions they face. The State Department currently details the abuses in its annual Human Rights and International Religious Freedom reports.

A bipartisan coalition of more than 50 senators cosponsored the legislation, which was introduced by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project welcomed the Senate passage of the legislation, saying in a statement Thursday that it was “an important first step to a more comprehensive policy response.” The World Uyghur Congress said on Twitter that the passage “gives great hope for all of us” and urged the House of Representatives to act quickly on the bill.

Members of the House overwhelmingly passed an amended version of the bill last December, with a vote of 407-1. The Senate’s passage of the legislation is certain to invoke Beijing’s ire — the Chinese government reacted with fury to the House version, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying saying it “wantonly smeared” what China claims are counterterrorism efforts.

Senators had hoped to approve the legislation by the end of 2019, but Republicans took issue with some of the provisions the House had added to the measure. The matter was also put on hold during impeachment proceedings. The House will have to vote again on the legislation now that the Senate has passed its version.

In floor remarks last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell connected the Senate’s movement on the legislation to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the United States “is going to be asking tough questions about our relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.”

The Kentucky Republican added that he expects the Senate’s passage of the Uyghur human rights bill to bring “more attention to the plight of this mistreated minority.

“The bill passed under unanimous consent, a process used for expedited passage of uncontroversial legislation.

The action comes as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to advance another bill soon that is seen as a rebuke to the Chinese government.The Tibetan Policy and Support Act, introduced by Rubio and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, would make it US policy that the succession of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, be left solely to the Tibetan Buddhist community, without interference from the Chinese government.

Once it has been approved in committee, the measure will be able to go to the full floor for consideration.Under the legislation, if Chinese officials interfere in the process of selecting Tibetan Buddhist leaders, they would be subject to sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act — including denial of entry into the United States. The measure also calls for the creation of a new US consulate in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Lawmakers in the House approved a similar bill in January. There are some small differences between the House and Senate measures, so the House will have to vote on the Senate bill once it has passed before it can become law.

Source: CNN
Image: AFP

Afghanistan: Newborn babies, their mothers, nurses killed in terrorist attack

An armed assault in a maternity section of a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan left at least16 people dead. Among the victims were newborn babies, their mothers and the nurses. In another attack on the same day, suicide attack took place at a funeral prayer in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan killing 24 civilians and injuring 68.

“Today’s terrorist attack on a maternity hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul is unforgivable,” Marwa Amini, an interior ministry spokesperson, wrote on social media. “Attacks on pregnant mothers, on sick people and on newborns that have new eyes to the world are not in any dictionary. Newborns breathe the first moments of life with the most horrific scenes. Shame on the terrorists.”

According to Government officials, at least three gunmen wearing police uniforms entered the hospital, throwing grenades and shooting. Some sources said the armed men attacked on the hospital with suicide bombing. The gunmen then proceeded to maternity section, which is operated by international aid group Doctors Without Borders, or MSF. The hospital is the Shia Hazara community which has been the target of ISIL.

Afghan police and special forces were able to evacuate more than 100 people to safety. They managed to kill the terrorists.

Afghani President Ashraf Ghani blamed the attacks on the Taliban. However, Terrorist group ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“In order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I am ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defence mode to an offensive one and to start their operations against the enemies,” he said in a televised speech.

“Today’s terrorist attack on a maternity hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul is unforgivable,” Marwa Amini, an interior ministry spokesperson, wrote on social media. “Attacks on pregnant mothers, on sick people and on newborns that have new eyes to the world are not in any dictionary. Newborns breathe the first moments of life with the most horrific scenes. Shame on the terrorists.”

Source: MuslimNews
Image: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

All places of worship in Iran to reopen today

All places of worship in Iran will reopen on Tuesday, a further step in the government’s plans to ease restrictions that aimed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the official IRIB news agency reported.

The decision to reopen the places of worship was made in consultation with the ministry of health, IRIB quoted Mohammad Qomi, the director of the Islamic Development Organization, as saying.

The move comes even though some parts of the country have seen a rise in infections.

Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday that a county in southwestern Iran had been placed under lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. It also quoted the governor of Khuzestan province, where the county is located, as saying there had been a sharp rise in new cases across the province.

Last Friday, prayer gatherings resumed in up to 180 Iranian cities, and towns are seen as being at low risk of coronavirus contagion after a two-month suspension, state media reported.

The resumption of Friday prayers — still banned in the capital Tehran and some other major cities — followed the reopening last Monday of 132 mosques in areas consistently free of the virus.

Schools will reopen next week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, according to the official presidency website.

Iran has already lifted a ban on inter-city trips and malls, with large shopping centres resuming activities.

The total number of Iran’s coronavirus deaths rose by 45 in the past 24 hours to 6,685, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV. The total number of diagnosed cases in the country has reached 109,286.

Iran, one of the countries in the Middle East hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, has begun easing restrictions on normal life in order to keep afloat its economy, already battered by US sanctions. Health officials have repeatedly warned, however, that easing restrictions could lead to a renewed spike in the number of infections.

Rouhani also announced the replacement of the minister of industry, mines, and trade on Monday, according to the official presidency website, a decision that appeared to be an attempt to boost the economy.

Hossein Modares Khiabani will replace Reza Rahmani as the caretaker head of the ministry, the announcement said without noting why Rahmani was dismissed.

Rouhani called on Khiabani to stabilise car prices, eliminate obstacles for domestic production, and expand non-oil exports.

In a letter addressed to Rouhani, Rahmani wrote that the reason for his removal was that the parliament had not agreed to the formation of a ministry of commerce, according to Fars News, which published a copy of the letter.

Rouhani’s chief of staff had warned Rahmani that if he did not lobby parliamentarians for the formation of the ministry he would be dismissed, Rahmani wrote.

Source: MEMO
Image: Photo by Arman Taherian

Senegal president eases virus lockdown

Coronavirus restrictions will be eased in Senegal, President Macky Sall said late on Monday, with mosques reopened and night-time curfews shortened.

While confirming the rules would change on Tuesday, Sall said in a televised address that Senegalese would need to “adapt individual and collective behaviour” and “learn to live with the virus”.

He said the COVID-19 disease would continue to circulate for at least another three months even under the best-case scenario.

Under the new rules, curfews will run from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, shaving two hours off the current restrictions.

Mosques will be reopened for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, and churches will also be allowed to accept worshippers.

Markets and businesses, which have only been allowed to open a few days a week during the lockdown, will now only need to be closed for a day’s cleaning each week.

Restrictions imposed on public transport will also be eased, though schools will not begin reopening until next month.

Senegal has been relatively lightly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering 1,886 cases and 19 fatalities, according to the official figures.

The authorities did not impose a total lockdown but the borders were closed and travel between the main cities was banned.

Image: Worldatlas.com

Facebook, YouTube remove ‘Plandemic’ video with ‘unsubstantiated’ coronavirus claims

Facebook Inc and YouTube, the video service of Alphabet Inc’s Google, said on Thursday that they were removing a video that made medically unsubstantiated claims relating to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The 26-minute video dubbed “Plandemic” went viral this week across social media platforms. It features Judy Mikovits, an activist among people who contend that many common vaccines are dangerous.

Mikovits says in the video that wearing masks activates the coronavirus within people, without providing evidence, and criticises orders to stay away from beaches.

“Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video,” Facebook said.

Mikovits could not be reached for comment, while producers of the video did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the video, Mikovits also describes the coronavirus as a conspiracy among people trying to profit from vaccines and raises concerns about vaccines. She says anyone who has ever received a flu vaccine had a coronavirus injected into them, without providing substantiation.

Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, emerged in late 2019 and there is no known vaccine and or cure for it. Vaccines are available for seasonal flu, which is caused by a separate virus.

YouTube said it was working to keep the video off its service in accordance with its rules against “content that includes medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice” about the coronavirus and the related respiratory illness Covid-19.

But late on Thursday, slightly edited copies of the original video remained available on YouTube.

Twitter Inc said it had blocked users from using the hashtags #PlagueOfCorruption and #Plandemicmovie, but said that content in a shorter clip posted on its service did not violate its policy against COVID-19 misinformation.

The companies have been under pressure from the World Health Organization and other health authorities around the world to police harmful content and misinformation about the pandemic.

While the companies have dedicated workers to address the challenge, misinformation continues to flow, including from groups growing frustrated with business closures and stay-at-home orders and taking to social media to argue against them. Reuters

Source: IOL
Image: YouTube

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