The Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, arrested last month an Israeli citizen indicted Tuesday for serious security offenses committed while working as an Iranian agent. Iranian intelligence officials tasked the suspect, whose name is subject to a gag order, with collecting information about strategic Israeli sites, sowing discord in Israeli society, recruiting additional agents among Israel's Arab population, and committing terrorist attacks. To this end, Iran provided him with money, training, and encryption tools. The suspect traveled abroad to meet his handlers, including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Khaled Yamani.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry informed the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) that it will defer demolishing most illegal Palestinian structures in the West Bank until after the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter from a Civil Administration public inquiry officer to ACRI said that "no final demolition orders issued for populated buildings will be implemented at this time" to reduce friction with the Palestinian population and demolitions will focus on structures erected "to take advantage of the emergency situation."
Pro-Tehran political parties, including the Badr Organization and National Wisdom Movement, seeking to block Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi from forming a government because he is viewed as too America-friendly, are reportedly promoting the alternative candidacy of Intelligence Director Mustafa al-Kazemi. Although Moqtada Al-Sadr maintains less cordial ties with Iran, he informed National Wisdom Movement leader Ammar al-Hakim that he has decided not to back al-Zurfi's candidacy, effectively creating an insurmountable Shi'ite parliamentary bloc opposed to the Prime Minister-designate. Some observers predict that the pro-Tehran factions advancing al-Kazemi's candidacy will abandon him as soon as President Barham Salih withdraws al-Zurfi's mandate to form a government as many accuse the Intelligence Director of complicity in Qassem Soleimani's assassination.
Yehia Rasool, a spokesperson of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, announced Tuesday that the US-led coalition against ISIS withdrew a detachment of French advisers from a military base in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib. This marks the fifth withdrawal of coalition forces from an Iraqi base in the last few weeks.
As the COVID-19 pandemic pummels Qatar's economy, Doha Tuesday postponed awarding $8.2 billion in contracts and sold $10 billion in US dollar-denominated bonds, becoming the first Gulf state to resort to debt sales to offset plummeting oil and gas prices.
An indictment unsealed Monday by the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York said that at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting "Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and co-conspirator #1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup." Last November, FIFA imposed a lifetime ban on former Brazilian Football Confederation president Ricardo Teixeira for accepting millions of dollars in bribes related to commercial contracts for South American competitions between 2006 and 2012. Nicolas Leoz, who resigned as president of the South American Football Confederation in 2013 amidst numerous corruption allegations, passed away last year.
To help Lebanon cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday requested the UN-created International Support Group for Lebanon release some of the $11 billion in aid pledged at a 2018 Paris conference if Lebanon made still unfulfilled structural reforms and budgetary cuts. Even before the pandemic, Lebanon was facing its worst economic crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
Libyan National Army (LNA) jets Monday hit a weapons and ammunition depot controlled by forces aligned with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and killed Turkish officers in the attack, according to an LNA official speaking on condition of anonymity. On Tuesday, the LNA struck a Tripoli water facility, leaving many residents of the capital without water.
The Houthis claim to have recaptured al-Khanjar camp from Saudi-backed government forces. Control of al-Khanjar camp, one of the largest military installations along the Yemeni-Saudi border, has gone back and forth in recent months. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia launched waves of airstrikes against Houthi forces in the Bayda, Marib, and Saada provinces.
King Salman on Tuesday suspended the implementation of final rulings and judicial orders concerning the imprisonment of debtors in cases of private right and ordered the immediate release of those incarcerated due to such rulings and orders.
United Arab Emirates
As a COVID-19-related precautionary measure, Dubai's Personal Status Court on Tuesday halted until further notice the issuance of marriage licenses and divorce certificates.
To help citizens comply with the new rule requiring those entering shops and marketplaces to wear a facemask, everyone not required to remain at home may apply for five free masks per week through the post. The Ministry of Health will oversee the initiative in concert with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Morocco will subsidize the price of facemasks now that those leaving their homes without one can face up to three months in prison and a fine of up to $126.
The Egyptian government Tuesday prohibited public religious gatherings during Ramadan, which starts on April 23, to check the spread of COVID-19. This includes mass nighttime iftar dinners traditionally organized for the poor.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum