Starting Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Houthi rebels will unilaterally freeze military operations for two weeks, in part to ease Yemeni preparations for treating COVID-19 patients. So far, there have not been any confirmed cases of the virus in Yemen. Whether the Houthis will agree to a truce remains to be seen. The Saudi ceasefire comes after 10 days of intense fighting, causing 270 fatalities, in which waves of Saudi airstrikes enabled Yemeni government forces to advance in the Marib, Jawf and Bayda provinces.
The Trump administration plans to block Iran's request for a $5 billion loan from the IMF's Rapid Financing Initiative to cover COVID-19-related costs, claiming Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has at least $300 billion stashed away and Tehran's true aim is undermining US sanctions. US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told BBC Persian that the US does not believe any IMF assistance would reach the Iranian people, being spent instead on Iran's terrorist proxies.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which monitors compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, released a report on Wednesday blaming the Syrian Air Force of attacking the town of Ltamenah with sarin gas on March 24 and 25, 2017 and with chlorine gas on March 30, 2017. The OPCW investigators identified the officers who ordered the attacks, but redacted their names in the report.
Bahrain Wednesday allocated $570 million to pay the salaries, from April through June, of all 100,000 of its citizens working in the private sector. The government will also cover electricity and water bills for all Bahraini citizens and businesses over that interval while extending certain tax breaks on properties and tourism to stimulate the economy.
The Sudanese government, which covers 75 percent of bakers' flour costs in exchange for the state fixing the price of bread, raised the price of bread in Khartoum from 1 pound per loaf to two pounds. Facing a weakening pound and higher labor costs, bakers threatened to go on strike if the government did not act. Increasing bread prices sparked the 2018 demonstrations that toppled Omar al-Bashir's government. Al-Bashir Wednesday lost an appeal against his two-year sentence for corruption.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Tuesday that in June Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale will lead strategic negotiations with Baghdad to review America's economic and security role in Iraq, including the future presence of US troops.
Tunisian authorities arrested four labor union leaders in the southeastern city of Sfax in connection with the March 24 assault on Dignity Coalition lawmaker Muhammad al-Afas. Dignity Coalition chairman Seifeddine Makhlouf earned the Tunisian General Labor Union's ire by promising to expose the corrupt practices that have allegedly enriched the union's leaders. The opposition Islamist Dignity Coalition won 21 seats in the last parliamentary election, making it the fourth largest legislative faction and the second largest in the opposition.
Likud and Blue and White are expected to resume coalition negotiations on Thursday, following the first day of Passover, after Prime Minister Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz issued a joint statement Wednesday stressing the "need for a national emergency government." However, Netanyahu's bargaining power may be increasing with most recent polls showing Likud winning 40 or more seats in a fourth election, more than twice as many as the second-largest party, whether it is Blue and White, the Joint Arab List, or Yesh Atid-Telem.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that the Strip halted COVID-19 testing after running out of kits and entreated international organizations to supply more, along with 100 ventilators and 140 beds for intensive care units.
With 34,000 COVID-19 cases and 725 deaths, the Turkish government announced Wednesday that it will monitor the mobile phones of those diagnosed with the virus to ensure they remain at home.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum