Middle East

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Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassinated, according to state media
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car after the alleged assassination
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car after the alleged assassination Credit: Fars News Agency, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran's top nuclear scientist, has been assassinated near Tehran on Friday, according Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA. Fakhrizadeh was injured after armed assassins fired at his car and died later in the hospital.

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today," Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said in a tweet. "This cowardice -- with serious indications of Israeli role -- shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators Iran calls on int'l community -- and especially EU -- to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror."

Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that "the Iranian nation will avenge the blood of this great martyr from the terrorist elements and their supporters."

On Saturday, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani accused Israel of the assassination, saying that "once again, the evil hands of Global Arrogance and the Zionist (Israeli) mercenaries were stained with the blood of an Iranian son" and adding "Iran will surely respond to the martyrdom of our scientist at the proper time." Israel has not responded to the accusation yet.

Regional News • Middle East
Scientist considered as the architect of the Iranian nuclear program assassinated

A leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near the capital Tehran on Friday, Iran's Defense Ministry announced on state television. Iran's state media reports that the scientist died during an attack in the Absard area of the province of Damavand, about 60 kilometres east of Tehran.

Western officials and experts believe Fakhrizadeh played a pivotal role in suspected Iranian work in the past to develop the means to assemble a nuclear warhead behind the facade of a declared civilian uranium enrichment programme.

In 2018, Netanyahu gave a presentation in which he unveiled what he described as material stolen by Israel from an Iranian nuclear archive and showed a photograph of Fakhrizadeh.

Regional News • Middle East
Kabul: Rockets strike residential areas, several killed

Twenty-three rockets have struck Kabul, Afghan, hitting areas in the centre and the north. According to Tariq Arian, spokesman for the interior ministry, the rockets were fired from a small truck. The regional Islamic State group claimed responsibility. At least eight people have been killed, over 30 wounded.

Regional News • Middle East
Mike Pompeo makes unprecedented visit to Israeli settlement in West Bank
Mike Pompeo makes unprecedented visit to Israeli settlement in West Bank
Credit: Twitter Reproduction

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has toured a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank - the first such visit by a top US official.

Israel’s military occupation has received a symbolic US stamp of approval after Mike Pompeo toured an archaeological dig run by a far-right settler group and visited a settlement that farms grapes on land Palestinians say was stolen from them.

Regional News • Middle East
Economic crisis hits Turkey's population hard
Economic crisis hits Turkey's population hard
Credit: unsplash.com / Osman Köycü

In Turkey, at least 38% percent of the households haven't a monthly income which is sufficient to buy enough food. The consume of red meat sunk by 30 % in the last twelve months, while noodles, one of the cheapest kinds of foods, is up by 25 %. The coalition partner of President Erdogan's AKP, the MHP set up a program to hand out free loaves of bread, which was criticised by the President himself for he claims that the situation isn't that bad.

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Islamic laws get less priority in United Arab Emirates in exchange for personal freedoms
Islamic laws get less priority in United Arab Emirates in exchange for personal freedoms
Credit: unsplash.com / Ainur Kamaev

With newly announced reform plans the United Arab Emirates aim to boost the country’s economic and social standing and “consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance,” according to the state-run WAM news agency.

As of now, it's unclear how the new regulations will put into law, but according to the report they aim to "protect women’s rights," and get rid of laws defending "honor crimes".

Regional News • Middle East
Continued protests against Netanyahu: assaults against protesters reported
Continued protests against Netanyahu: assaults against protesters reported
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

During protests against the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, several assaults against protestors have been reported at different locations in the country. At his official residence in Jerusalem, around 6,000 people have reportedly protested against him.

Regional News • Middle East
Trump: "We're getting your husbands back to work"

At his Michigan rally, President Donald Trump told attendees that he is helping women's husbands to get back to work, in a remark that was wildly called out as sexist.

"I'm also getting your husbands, they want to get back to work, right? They want to get back to work. We're getting your husbands back to work, and everybody wants it," so the president. "We're going to do great. And I love women, and I can't help it. They're the greatest. I love them much more than the men."

Regional News • Middle East
UN's atomic watchdog: Underground nuclear facility being built in Iran
UN's atomic watchdog: Underground nuclear facility being built in Iran
Credit: unsplash.com / Jakob Madsen

The United Nation's atomic watchdog has confirmed that Iran has been building an underground centrifuge assembly plant. Satellite images have not yet shown any signs of construction. Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported that the facility has not been completed yet and further information were confidential.

The country's old facility exploded in what was called "a sabotage attack" during summer.

Regional News • Middle East
Ceasefire in Libya agreed upon

According to the UN, the two opponents in the civil war have signed an agreement for a ceasefire in Geneva. Military representatives of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar had been in Switzerland since Monday to prepare political talks on Libya's future.

The internationally recognized government of Sarraj, based in the capital Tripoli, has been fighting for years against Haftar and a counter-parliament in Tobruk in eastern Libya for power. According to experts, about 1400 Russian mercenaries are currently fighting in Libya.

Regional News • Middle East
Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of breaking new truce
Shushan Stepanyan post on Twitter
Shushan Stepanyan post on Twitter Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating a humanitarian ceasefire that came into force midnight on Sunday. In the early hours of Sunday, Azerbaijan fired artillery shells and rockets. This was reported by Shusan Stepanyan, a spokeswoman for Armenia’s defence ministry. Azerbaijan later accused Armenia of breaking the truce.

The countries have been fighting over Azerbaijan’s ethnic Armenian-controlled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Regional News • Middle East
Israel: Protests demanding resignation of the PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Protests against Netanyahu, July 2020
Protests against Netanyahu, July 2020 Credit: Nir Hirshman (ניר הירשמן) / Nir Hirshman Communication / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

On Sunday, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in central Jerusalem to demand his resignation. Protests have been happening throughout the summer. Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption charges.

People were protesting even though Israel has been under a strict nationwide lockdown since Friday.

Regional News • Middle East
U.S. unilaterally declares U.N. sanctions on Iran are back in force
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Credit: Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The United States unilaterally proclaimed on Saturday that United Nations sanctions against Iran are back in force. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "Today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Pompeo also stated "If UN member states fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity."

In a joint letter to the U.N. Security Council, France, Germany, and United Kingdom said "Any decision or action taken with a view to re-installing [the sanctions] would be incapable of legal effect."

And the Russian foreign ministry stated "The illegitimate initiatives and actions of the United States by definition cannot have international legal consequences for other countries."

Regional News • Middle East
Israel three-week lockdown to start on September 18
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu Credit: Hudson Institute (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Israeli government agreed to impose a three-week nationwide lockdown that would go into effect on Friday at 11:00 UTC, on the eve of Rosh Hashana holiday. The country will be the first to reimpose restrictions on a national scale.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in a press briefing that warnings by health officials led to the government's decision, which would restrict Israelis to a 500-meter radius of their residence.

With the country already hit by a deep, pandemic-induced recession, the decision to reinstate lockdown has divided the government and the nation.

Regional News • Middle East
Israel goes back into complete lockdown
Israel goes back into complete lockdown
Credit: unsplash.com / Daniel Lerman

With 4.038 newly reported Covid-19 cases on Thursday, Israel has reached the highest one-day value of new cases in the country since the beginning of the pandemic for the fourth consecutive day.

The Covid-19 cabinet has now decided in favor of a new two-week lockdown, pending the approval of the government. Israelis would then be only allowed to move up to 500 meters away from their home. Schools, restaurants and shops would be closed.

Regional News • Middle East
Beirut port hit by a new fire
A video of the fire at the port of Beirut, posted on Twitter by activist Imad Bazzi
A video of the fire at the port of Beirut, posted on Twitter by activist Imad Bazzi Credit: @TrellaLB via Twitter (Screenshot)

Weeks after the explosion at Beirut's port, a large fire has erupted. According to reports, a warehouse has started burning which had been damaged previously from the explosion.

So far it is not clear what caused the fire and which extend it has. The Lebanese Army has stated that the warehouse had oil and tires in store.

Regional News • Middle East
Israel: 12 arrests as thousands protest against Netanyahu

In Israel, thousands of demonstrators again demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening. According to the police, twelve demonstrators were arrested in Jerusalem. Some demonstrators had blocked an intersection and refused to clear it. This was the 11th week in a row that people took part in rallies against the head of government.

Regional News • Middle East
Iran enriched uranium stockpile '10 times limit' set in the nuclear deal
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme Credit: United States Department of State (Public Domain)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Tehran continues to violate the limitations set in the 2015 nuclear deal with the US, Germany, France, the UK, China and Russia. The limit was set at 300kg of enriched uranium, while the country now has 2,105kg.

The watchdog noted, however, that Iran's stockpile remains far below the many tons of enriched uranium Iran had amassed before the 2015 deal and that its stockpile of heavy water had decreased and is now back within the JCPOA limits.

Regional News • Middle East
Police and protesters clash during demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Police and protesters clash during demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Credit: גרשון דינרGershon Diner / CC0

On Saturday night and Sunday morning, thousands of protestors have demonstrated and called for the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. He is facing allegations of corruption and criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Demonstrators have protested outside of his residence and all of Israel for the eighth consecutive week.

According to the newspaper Haaretz, an estimated number of 50,000 people across all of Israel have demonstrated against Netanyahu on Saturday. There have been no reports of detained protestors.

Regional News • Middle East
Historic deal to normalize relations between Israel and United Arab Emirates
U.S. President Donald J. Trump announcing the deal
U.S. President Donald J. Trump announcing the deal Credit: Joyce N. Boghosian (White House) (Public Domain)

In a surprise announcement, Israel has agreed to suspend its plans to annex parts of the West Bank and has reached a deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Both countries have agreed to take up normalized diplomatic relations and to cooperate in topics of energy, water, environmental protection, water, the development of a Covid-19 and other topics. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has reportedly helped to broker the deal and announced it.

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon has four months of wheat supply
Raoul Nehme
Raoul Nehme Credit: Twitter Reproduction

Lebanon's outgoing economy minister Raoul Nehme affirmed the country has enough wheat to cover four months of internal demand.

According to him Lebanon has 30,000 tonnes of wheat in stocks and 110,000 tonnes are expected to reach the country in the next two weeks.

The outgoing government, which resigned on Monday, will keep subsidies to basic commodities, he said.

Regional News • Middle East
Syrian President Assad halts speech after suffering from low blood pressure
Syrian President Assad halts speech after suffering from low blood pressure
Credit: Kremlin (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

During a speech in the Syrian parliament the president Bashar al-Assad has halted his speech after stating "I need to sit for a minute if you don't mind". While it is unclear for how long he took a break from his speech, al-Assad stated after returning that he had not "eaten since yesterday afternoon. I have no sugar or salt, and this happens". Adding that "doctors are the worst patients" referencing his training as an eye doctor.

Bashar al-Assad has no known underlying health conditions.

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon's government resigns
Hassan Diab
Hassan Diab Credit: Twitter Reproduction

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed the nation Monday night, announcing his resignation and that of his cabinet.

Three ministers, and nine members of the parliament, had already stepped down after mass protests against the government erupted in the country.

The cabinet was formed in January with the support of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon: $300 million fund pledged by world leaders
Damages of the Beirut explosion
Damages of the Beirut explosion Credit: Mehr News Agency / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

A nearly $300 million fund in humanitarian assistance has been pledged by world leaders to Lebanon and its people. During a virtual conference, led by France's Macron, over 30 world leaders pledged and offered their support for country and the people of Beirut. The "assistance should be timely, sufficient and consistent with the needs of the Lebanese people and directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency."

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon: Resignation of three ministers and 9 members of parliament

On Sunday, Lebanon's Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and environment minister Damianos Kattar resigned from the government in the wake of the Beirut explosion and the pressure that followed. Nine members of parliament also resigned that day: Marwan Hamadeh, Paula Yaacoubian, Nadim Gemayel, Samy Gemayel, Elias Hankash, Neemat Ephrem, Michel Moawad, Dima Jamali and Henry Helou.

On Monday the Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm also resigned and urged others to resign as well and demanded earlier elections. She said she resigned "out of my conviction that staying in power in these conditions, without fundamental change to the system, will not lead to the reform which we worked to achieve."

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon: Over 110 injured during Beirut protests
Lebanon: Over 110 injured during Beirut protests
Credit: via Twitter

Over 10,000 people have taken the streets and protested against the government and political elite after the explosion in the capital city of Lebanon.

During these protests over 110 people have been injured with dozens of them taken to hospitals according to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Regional News • Middle East
Lebanon: Protesters in Beirut call for "revolution", storm ministries
Lebanon: Protesters in Beirut call for "revolution", storm ministries
Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Tens of thousands of people are protesting Lebanese leadership following this week's explosion that killed over 150 people and left the city in ruins. In the city's main square symbolic gallows with nooses to hang politicians were set up. Corruption and negligence is blamed for Tuesday's catastrophe.

On Saturday night, protestors entered several ministries, among them Lebanese association of banks, the Energy Ministry building and the Foreign Ministry. The latter was declared as the "headquarters of the revolution."

Part of the protest got more violent as police fired tear gas and protesters threw stones and fireworks. One protestor said: "You survive an explosion in Beirut only to be teargassed."

The Beirut US embassy tweeted in support of peaceful protests: "The Lebanese people have suffered too much and deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability. We support them in their right to peaceful protest, and encourage all involved to refrain from violence."

Regional News • Middle East
Beirut explosion death toll rises to 137, residents demand answers
Beirut explosion death toll rises to 137, residents demand answers
Credit: Mehr News Agency / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, that was caused by 2,750 tonnes of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate, has killed at least 137 people and injured approx. 5000. The government has put several Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into the explosion and has promised the "maximum punishment" for those responsible.

Beirut residents are now demanding answers, accusing authorities of neglect, corruption and mismanagement. "I've known all the time that we are led by incompetent people, incompetent government [...] But I tell you something - what they have done now is absolutely criminal," so the Beirut resident Chadia Elmeouchi Noun.

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Stored ammonium nitrate cause of Beirut explosion, officials knew of its danger
Stored ammonium nitrate cause of Beirut explosion, officials knew of its danger
Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Lebanese officials claim the explosion in Beirut were caused by an accidental detonation of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port for years. The chemicals had been stored in the port for years after arriving in a Russian-owned cargo ship. Public records show that between 2014 and 2017, Lebanese customs officials wrote at least six letters to courts to get guidance on how to dispose of the material, but the records show no response from the judiciary.

According to the latest reports, approx. 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes and over 100 people were killed by the blast.

Regional News • Middle East
Beirut explosion kills at least 100, thousands injured
Beirut explosion kills at least 100, thousands injured
Credit: Davidushka64 / Wikimedia Commons

The Lebanese Red Cross reports that at least 100 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured in the massive explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital on Tuesday.

"Until now over 4,000 people have been injured and over 100 have lost their lives. Our teams are still conducting search and rescue operations in the surrounding areas," to the Lebanese Red Cross in a statement.

Marwan Abboud, Beirut's governor, said that the blast has left over 200,000 people homeless, with damages reaching at least $3 billion.