The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 24 March

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 24 March
Every aspect of public and commercial life has felt the full force spread of COVID-19, and the Middle East is no exception.
4 min read
24 March, 2020
Five stories from the Middle East [TNA]

Here are 5 stories you need to know about coronavirus in the Middle East on Tuesday.

Prison stint for leader of Islamic Movement delayed over coronavirus outbreak in Israeli jails 

The rapid spread of coronavirus in Israeli prisons prompted one regional court on Tuesday to postpone the jailing of Shaykh Raed Salah, head of the outlawed northern branch of the country's Islamic Movement.

The Palestinian cleric, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for alleged ''incitement to terror'', has had repeated run-ins with Israeli authorities, most recently in 2017, when he completed a nine-month prison sentence after being found guilty of similar charges.

On Monday, Israel's public prosecutor rejected a request by his defence team to postpone his current prison sentence.

Yet on Tuesday, the Israeli Central Court in Haifa on overturned the decision ''amid the coronavirus outbreak and emerging news in Israeli media about the spread of the virus in prisons,", Salah’s layer told Andalou Agency.

MSF mysteriously ends operations in hard-hit Iran

Doctors without Borders (MSF) announced on Tuesday the sudden suspension of its operations in Iran, the Middle Eastern country worst-hit by the Coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, a 50-bed makeshift treatment unit was set up by the charity in the central Esfahan province to help critically ill patients, after plans to work with local medical staff and Iranian health authorities were declared on Sunday

In an apparent rejection of MSF's external assistance, an advisor to the Islamic Republics Health Minister Alirez Vahhabzadeh announced via Twitter that his ministry did not ''need a hospital established by foreigners". 

This was because the Iranian Armed Forces "medical capabilities" were "entirely at its [the ministry's] service".

Jordan will deliver ''all basic supplies'' to lockdown citizens

Municipalities, utility companies and businesses in Jordan will deliver food and basic supplies, including medicine and fuel, to all households in the country, Labour Minister Nidall Bataineh told a television programme, BBC News reported on Tuesday.

Jordan has taken some of the most restrictive measures in world in its battle against COVID-19, including a indefinite curfew that bans people leaving their homes under any circumstances. Any violations are punishable by up to one year in prison and hundreds have been arrested.

Vehicles and lorries will begin delivering water and bread to households in Amman between 9am and 5pm each day. The same essentials will be delivered by bus in other provinces.

Deliveries of other foodstuffs, such as chicken, eggs and rice, as well as commodities such tobacco, will begin on Thursday.

"We will try to reach the doors of the homes directly to prevent wandering on the streets, which goes against the curfew order," the labour minister said.

Last week, King Abdullah issued an royal decree which granted the government sweeping powers to curtail basic rights.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz pledged to apply these only to the "narrowest extent" due to fears over civil liberties being curtailed indefinately.

Saudi confirms first coronavirus-related death

Saud Arabia confirmed its first coronavirus-related death on Tuesday, a 51-year-old Afghan resident of the holy city of Medina.

He died on Monday night at a hospital in the holy city, according to a health ministry spokesperson, speaking on television.

Riyad has taken drastic measures to contain the disease after a stalled response, including halting international flights, suspending the Umrah year-round pilgrimage, closing mosques, schools, malls and restaurants, and imposing a nighttime curfew.

On Monday, King Salman introduced a three-week ''dawn to dusk'' curfew, following a warning last week of a ''difficult'' fight ahead.

The oil-rich kingdom unveiled economic stimulus measures totalling $32 billion to support businesses hit my the crisis.

Saudi scholar issues 'discretionary death fatwa' against virus spreaders

In other developments,  a member of the country’s highest ruling religious authority issued a death fatwa against those who consciously spread the novel coronavirus

Abdullah Munee, a member of Saudi’s senior ulema, suggested capital punishment ''left at the discretion of the country’s ruler'' for anyone who knowingly transmitted the virus, according to Watan Serb.

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