US evacuates detainee from Lebanon
The Guardian and The Times report that a US citizen detained in Beirut on accusations of overseeing torture and murder at a Southern Lebanese prison during Israel’s occupation of the region has been spirited out of the country by US helicopter.
BBC News and The Independent report that Iran has urged people to stay at home during Nowruz, the Persian New Year, warning that the coronavirus is currently killing one person every 10 minutes. The Financial Times reports that exhausted Iranian healthcare workers are at risk of contracting the coronavirus, as a shortage of kit has added to doctors’ woes and sanctions have complicated supply chains. Reuters and the Associated Press report that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Friday that US sanctions have forced the country to become self-sufficient as he called on Iranians to preserve unity.
The Associated Press reports that Israel appeared to be barreling toward a constitutional crisis on Thursday as opponents took to the streets and turned to the Supreme Court to fight a series of unprecedented steps taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while confronting the coronavirus pandemic.
The Times and The Telegraph report that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is waiting to hear whether she will be freed to return to Britain after Iran’s supreme leader announced that he would pardon 10,000 convicts, including political prisoners, to mark Nowruz.
The Guardian and Reuters report that Israel’s secretive Mossad intelligence agency launched a covert international operation this week to fly in up to 100,000 coronavirus testing kits, although the effort may have been in vain as critical parts were reportedly missing.
Reuters reports that oil prices recovered further on Friday, following steep gains in the previous session after US President Donald Trump hinted he may intervene in the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia at an “appropriate time”.
The Associated Press reports that troops from the US-led coalition pulled out from a base in western Iraq on Thursday as part of a planned drawdown, Iraqi and coalition officials said, while training activities by the coalition were suspended amid concerns about the coronavirus.
Reuters reports that the UN Libya mission condemned a shelling attack on Thursday that it said killed four girls and young women hours after international pleas for a humanitarian pause to help with the fight against coronavirus.
The Guardian reports that a locust crisis now affecting 10 countries could endanger millions more people, forecasters have said, after the locusts were able to spread from Yemen, where civil war has devastated the ability to control locust populations.
The Guardian reports that Qatar’s largest labour camp for migrant workers has become a virtual prison and is in total lockdown after hundreds of construction workers became infected with Covid-19.
All the Israeli media report increased restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus outbreak announced last night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and approved overnight by the cabinet. According to the new emergency regulations, Israelis will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential supplies and medical care, as well as limited outdoor activity in, at most, groups of five people. The right to demonstrate and pray will be upheld so long as Health Ministry guidelines are followed. The binding regulations now allow greater enforcement by the police, including NIS 5000 (£1170) for breaking quarantine and NIS 3000 (£700) for illegal assembly. The number of coronavirus cases spiked to 677 this morning – 200 more than two days before – with at least two people in critical condition.
Yediot Aharonot report a Bank of Israel report on the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak that says if the crisis continues until the end of April, the Israeli economy will lose NIS 50 billion (£11.7bn), the deficit will rise to 7 per cent of GDP, and the ratio between public debt to GDP will climb to over 70 per cent. If the national shutdown lasts through May, the losses will increase to NIS 80 billion (£18.75bn). The Bank of Israel called on the Knesset to formulate an emergency budget that would provide a “budget safety net” for the private sector.
Palestinian media report on an Israeli army arrest operation early yesterday morning in the Dheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem. The entire Bethlehem district is under lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak. Images from the operation showed some Israeli forces wearing hazmat suits and other protective equipment, while a detainee himself was placed in a hazmat suit. Three Palestinian locals were arrested in the raid. The IDF made it clear that, regardless of the coronavirus crisis, it would continue to operate throughout the entire West Bank.