Former FBI agent dies in Iranian custody
The Telegraph, Reuters and BBC News report that former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran 13 years ago, has died in custody there, according to statement from his family, who added that his death appeared to have occurred before the coronavirus pandemic.
BBC News and Reuters report that Iran’s government has banned internal travel and warned of a “second wave” of its coronavirus outbreak, as the official death toll passed 2,000. On Sky News, a video report explores Iran’s new 2,000 capacity field hospital set up to help provide medical treatment to coronavirus patients, in an explicit admission its existing health facilities have been overrun by the virus.
The Guardian, the Associated Press, the Financial Times and The Telegraph report that the speaker of Israel’s Knesset has resigned after fierce criticism of his refusal to reopen parliament, which he suspended last week citing a ban of large gatherings while the country tackled the coronavirus.
The Independent reports that nearly a third of all Gulf coalition air raids on Yemen have hit civilian targets including hospitals, schools and food stores, new data has revealed, as the war-ravaged country marks the fifth anniversary of the conflict. Reuters reports that Yemen’s warring parties welcomed a UN call for an immediate truce on Thursday as the country entered its sixth year of a conflict that has unleashed a humanitarian crisis, rendering it vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak.
The Independent and the Associated Press report that one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s key henchmen has been named in an indictment prepared by Turkish prosecutors pursuing justice for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Times reports that millions of civilians trapped in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province fear a new assault by the regime is imminent after the ceasefire agreed by Turkey and Russia two weeks ago began to collapse.
The Associated Press reports that Iraq’s military said at least two rockets hit inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Thursday, the seat of Iraq’s government and home to the US Embassy, according to an Iraqi military statement.
The Financial Times reports that the US has raised the pressure on Saudi Arabia to change course in its oil price war with Russia, calling on the kingdom to “rise to the occasion” and start working to stabilise global energy markets.
The Independent and Reuters report that Libya’s internationally recognised government announced the country’s first case of coronavirus, but the prospect of an outbreak of the pandemic wasn’t enough to prevent a major escalation in the country’s ongoing civil war.
Reuters reports that the IMF said its board had approved a four-year $1.3 billion loan program for Jordan on Wednesday, signaling confidence in the country’s reform agenda while it takes strong measures to cushion its economy from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Associated Press reports that the Norwegian Refugee Council has said that closures aimed at containing the coronavirus are preventing it from reaching 300,000 people in conflict zones, as the virus arrived in war-torn Libya andinfection rates increased in Syria and the Gaza Strip.
The Times reports that the emirate of Dubai says it is going to build a “skypod” monorail system to whisk commuters around the city in the air.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has credited Benjamin Netanyahu with “waking him up” to the scale of the coronavirus crisis.
In The Guardian, Beth McKernan explains how conflicts of interest between the UAE and the Saudi leadership are keeping the war in Yemen alive, as the conflict nears its fifth anniversary this weekend.
The Israel media report the government’s decision to tighten restrictions on daily life in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The new restrictions came into force yesterday afternoon, and include the closure of most public transport and restricting outdoor activity to 100 metres from one’s home or for essential supplies like groceries and medicine. Police have already begun enforcing the new measures although fines to individual citizens may only commence in a few days. In an evening TV statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened a full lockdown if the latest measures were not enough. As of this morning there were 2495 cases in Israel, 41 in serious condition and 5 fatalities.
All the Israel media report on the lack of available ventilators in the country, with figures ranging from 1437 to 2173 of which 708 are currently in use and 28 are out of order. In addition, as of January, Israel had only 758 intensive care beds. The figures were released by the Health Ministry at the request of the Knesset’s new Coronavirus Oversight Committee.
Israeli and Palestinian media report 7 new coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip, bringing the total in the territory to 9. The new cases were “security men” that had come into contact with the original 2 patients who recently returned from Pakistan. All of the infected are in quarantine and, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, did not come into contact with the general population. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank yesterday reported its first coronavirus death – a 62-year old woman from a village in the central West Bank. There have been 77 confirmed cases in the Palestinian Authority – including 13 in the past day in a Bedouin village outside Jerusalem – 17 patients have recovered.