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Palestine warns Israel against annexation policy

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

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Mohammed Ishtaye

Ramallah, April 8 : Palestine warned Israel against pressing ahead with annexation policy amid its process to form a new government.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Tuesday warned of the danger of an Israeli government coalition favoring the annexation of parts of the West Bank and emphasized the importance of an international role to confront such illegal plans that undermine international law and resolutions and threaten to end the two-state solution, according to a statement by his office, reported Xinhua news agency.

Ishtaye made the remarks in two separate video-conference and telephone meetings with the new Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, and the UN Envoy for the Peace Process in the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov.

They also talked over international support for the efforts of the Palestinian government amidst the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said.

Ishtaye briefed both Lazzarini and Mladenov on the obstacles facing the coronavirus outbreak and ways to alleviate its economic and financial consequences on the government and the Palestinian economy, which is affected by the unilateral Israeli measures against Palestinians and their territory.

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

“We have received promises of aid, few of which have been translated on the ground and we’re awaiting the rest. We will face this pandemic with a comprehensive national plan covering the West Bank, the Gaza strip, and the diaspora,” Ishtaye was quoted as saying.

Palestine declared a state of emergency on March 5, as the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the West Bank, and has taken measures to implement an austere budget, amidst forecasts of a significant negative economic impact.

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Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque reopens after 2 months

The Al-Aqsa mosque is part of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, which is one of Islam’s holiest sites and the holiest site in Judaism.

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Masjid Al Aqsa

Jerusalem, May 31 : After remaining closed for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the compound of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which is the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, started welcoming worshippers from Sunday again.

Hundreds of people, many of whom wore protective masks, chanted “god is great” as they stood at the mosque’s wooden doors, while some kissed the ground, reports the BBC.

They were then greeted by mosque director Omar al-Kiswani, who thanked them for being patient.

The compound also houses the Dome of the Rock.

Prayers will be held in the open in marked sections, each holding up to 50 people, reports The Times of Israel.

The Al-Aqsa mosque is part of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, which is one of Islam’s holiest sites and the holiest site in Judaism.

The site is a source of religious and political tension between Israelis and Palestinians and a frequent flashpoint for violence.

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Middle East

Nationwide lockdown eased in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has had more cases of coronavirus than any other place in the Arab world, with 78,541 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 425 deaths.

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Saudi Arabia Lockdown

Riyadh, May 28 : Saudi Arabia on Thursday started easing a five-day nationwide lockdown imposed during the festival of Eid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A round-the-clock curfew has been partially relaxed except in the holy city of Mecca, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, reports the BBC.

Anyone wishing to leave home though is required to obtain a permit through a government app.

Measures will be further eased in phases over the next few weeks until the lockdown is fully lifted.

It is still unclear whether the major annual Haj pilgrimage will go ahead at the end of July.

Saudi Arabia has had more cases of coronavirus than any other place in the Arab world, with 78,541 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 425 deaths.

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Middle East

US to end sanctions waivers on Iranian nuclear projects

The Trump administration withdrew Washington from the Iranian 2015 landmark nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

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mike pompeo

Washington, May 28 : US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the end of sanctions waivers on several Iranian civilian nuclear projects, Washington’s latest effort to pressure Tehran.

In a statement on Wednesday, Pompeo said that the measure applied to Iran’s Arak reactor conversion, the provision of enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor, and the export of spent and scrap research reactor fuel, reports Xinhua news agency.

Multiple foreign companies have been working at these civilian projects to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“The sanctions waiver covering these activities will end following a final, 60-day wind-down period allowing companies and entities involved in these activities to cease their operations,” Pompeo said in the statement.

According to the statement, US President Donald Trump’s administration extended a 90-day waiver covering ongoing international support to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1, as a means “to ensure safety of operations”.

“We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can modify this waiver at any time,” Pompeo added.

Analysts said ending the sanctions waivers is counterproductive.

“Another bad move. Trump and Pompeo are trying to goad Iran into abandoning all nuclear constraints,” tweeted Mark Fitzpatrick, a former Sstate Department official.

The Trump administration withdrew Washington from the Iranian 2015 landmark nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Tehran, however, dismissed US calls and vowed resistance against the pressures.

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