COVID-19 hits Syria
Russia chokes off needed medical and food supplies to the region
SYRIA: Authorities reported the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Idlib, where protracted fighting has displaced about 1 million Syrians and destroyed hospitals. Medical personnel believe they have been treating COVID-19 cases for weeks but lack testing to be sure, one nongovernmental organization leader told me. The UN Security Council is making that more difficult, as Russia and China this week vetoed a resolution extending humanitarian access to northwest Syria via Turkey. The Security Council is expected to vote on Friday on a Russia-crafted measure limiting aid to one border crossing, which puts a chokehold on needed medical and food supplies. A single border crossing “cannot provide access for aid agencies to reach all areas in need,” said CARE’s Tue Jakobson.
IRAQ: Nurse Soror Al-Husseini has volunteered to treat Mosul’s coronavirus patients at al-Shifa hospital, where ISIS set up headquarters during its occupation. Al-Shifa, one of nine (out of 13) hospitals in the city destroyed or heavily damaged during the ISIS takeover, was rebuilt by Doctors Without Borders and is designated a COVID-19 treatment center with a spike in cases underway. In 2018, Iraqi symphony conductor Karim Wafsi played a cello concerto amid the destroyed hospital.
Hisham al-Hashimi, a well-known research analyst, was brutally murdered outside his Baghdad home on Monday. Hashimi worked as an adviser to President Barham Salih and was vocally committed to reforming the political system. Many suspect Iranian-backed militias murdered him, but no one has claimed responsibility.
NORTH KOREA: New satellite images show suspected nuclear activity at a previously undisclosed site near Pyongyang. President Donald Trump said he is open to another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even as Pyongyang officials state they aren’t interested.
HONG KONG: The national security law imposed by Beijing contains provisions that will regulate news outlets and impose limits on their reporting. It also can be used to threaten journalists anywhere in the world and already is prompting news outlets to self-censor content to comply.
ISRAEL: Christians on both sides of the border between Israel and the West Bank worry about annexation as part of the U.S.–Middle East peace plan. The plan will only deepen divisions, said Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian pastor. “If the annexation is done, we would have more roads not accessible to us,” he said. “These are features of an apartheid system.”
IRAN: An opposition news outlet calculated Iran’s COVID-19 death toll at more than 68,000, while an official toll stands at 12,447. Despite the coronavirus surge, recent sentences plus arrests of Christians and a raid on a house church in a Tehran suburb continue.
RUSSIA: More than 150 wildfires are burning across hotter-than-average Siberia, with smoke and haze reaching Portland, Ore.
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