President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday night rejected demands from the mayors of Istanbul and Izmir, as well as The Turkish Medical Association, to impose sweeping new restrictions on public activity. Fearing the economic consequences of a nationwide lockdown, Erdogan said: "Turkey is a country where production must continue and the cogs must keep turning under every circumstance and every condition."
Facing the prospect of COVID-19 sweeping through Turkey's crowded jails, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ally introduced legislation to furlough 45,000 prisoners and permanently release another 45,000. Since AKP deputy Cahit Ozkan informed reporters that the program will exclude those convicted of terrorism, it is unlikely that many political prisoners will be released.
Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co, accused the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) of halting Iran's natural gas exports to Turkey through a terrorist attack on a pipeline inside Turkey. Although Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said an investigation was ongoing to find out what caused the explosion, the PKK has a history of sabotaging the pipeline, which carries approximately 10 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas to Turkey annually.
In a Manhattan federal court Tuesday, Halkbank, which is majority-owned by the Turkish government, pleaded not guilty to six charges related to transferring billions of dollars' worth of Iranian oil revenue in contravention of US sanctions. Former Halkbank deputy director general Mehmet Hakan Atilla has already served a 32-month sentence for his role in the scheme.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government unveiled on Tuesday a plan for Lebanese abroad to begin returning home on Sunday. To contain COVID-19's spread, Diab previously announced that the roughly 20,000 Lebanese desiring to return home must wait until airports and seaports reopen on April 12. However, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri threatened to topple Diab's government if he did not act sooner. Any delay in repatriating Lebanese overseas placed them in an economically perilous situation because Beirut imposed stringent restrictions on money transfers abroad to deal with the financial crisis gripping the country before the pandemic.
Germany's foreign ministry announced Tuesday the first transaction conducted through INSTEX, a bartering mechanism established by Britain, France, and Germany to export humanitarian goods to Iran without violating US sanctions imposed after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal. The transaction involved the exportation of medical supplies.
The Israel Institute for Biological Research began testing a COVID-19 vaccine prototype on rodents at its bio-chemical defense laboratory on Tuesday.
Although Israeli law prohibits the PA from operating in Israel's sovereign territory, Israel invited a PA anti-riot force to quell violence that erupted Monday night in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kfar 'Aqab. Residents of the nearby Qalandia refugee camp blocked the roads in and out of Kfar 'Aqab, purportedly to prevent the spread of COVID-19, resulting in armed clashes leaving several seriously injured.
As Gaza's Health Ministry confirmed a 12th case of COVID-19 Tuesday, UNRWA began delivering food to Palestinians' homes to prevent the virus's transmission at the agency's crowded distribution centers. UNRWA made 4,000 deliveries Tuesday and plans to make 70,000 more over the next three weeks.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) suppressed a riot by ISIS members in Hasakah city's Ghweran prison. While some news outlets said yesterday that multiple inmates escaped, SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel denied the reports. However, the autonomous Kurdish regime in northern Syria claims to lack the resources to hold the more than 10,000 ISIS fighters in their custody, 3,000 of whom are located at the Ghweran facility alone.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Israeli jets attacked Al-Shayrat airbase in Homs with more than eight missiles. If true, this would be the second Israeli attack this month on the base used to import Iranian weapons.
Saudi Minister for Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Salih bin Taher Banten urged Muslims to delay planning a pilgrimage this year "until the path of the epidemic becomes clear." Since Riyadh has suspended all international passenger flights until further notice and blocked entry and exit to several cities, including Mecca and Medina, it looks increasingly possible that this year's Hajj, falling between July 28 and August 2, will be cancelled.
The Houthis' al-Masira TV station accused Saudi Arabia of dropping protective facemasks infected with COVID-19 and of trying to contaminate the country by returning Yemenis who had visited the kingdom for pilgrimage.
To contain COVID-19, Tunisian President Kais Saied on Tuesday pardoned 1,420 prisoners and the government announced that on Friday it would commence food deliveries to thousands of homes, a service that will last about two month.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Nigeria effectively vetoed an effort by some OPEC members concerned about plummeting prices to move up June's Economic Commission Board meeting to April. Although a bare majority of members could reschedule the meeting, the oil output of the four aforementioned countries makes any agreement without their consent meaningless.