Near Iran's Ras al-Kuh coast, armed men seized and then released the Hong Kong-flagged SC Taipei oil tanker en route from Fujairah, UAE to Jubail, Saudi Arabia. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The ship's tracking system indicates that its captors steered it to Bandar-e-Jask, where the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) brought a commandeered Norwegian-owned oil tanker last year. Many theorize that the IRGC hijacked the SC Taipei thinking it was a western-owned vessel and promptly released it upon learning of its Chinese ownership. A mail-forwarding address for the SC Taipei's owner in a UN database suggests the ship belongs to Shanghai-based Aoxing Ship Management, a company previously penalized for violating US sanctions on Iran.
Thanks to assistance from the Turkish Air Force, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) over the last two days captured seven towns northwest of the capital from Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and shot down three LNA aircraft, two Chinese-made Wing Loong drones as well as a Russian Mi-35 helicopter. The LNA responded by shooting dozens of rockets at Tripoli, hitting several homes around the Mitiga airbase, the capital's only functioning airport.
Turkish riot police Monday dispersed a sit-in protesting Russian participation in joint patrols with the Turkish military on Idlib province's M4 highway, a provision of the March 5 de-escalation agreement negotiated by Moscow and Ankara. A commander of the pro-Turkish Faylaq al-Sham rebel militia accused Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a rebel coalition including al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, of organizing the sit-in and of detaining Faylaq al-Sham members in retaliation for the actions of the Turkish riot police.
The Communications and Media Commission, Iraq's media regulator, revoked Reuters's license for three months and levied a 25 million dinar ($21,000) fine for an April 2 article claiming that the number of COVID-19 cases in Iraq is "many times more" than that reported by the ministry of health.
The IMF published on Tuesday its World Economic Outlook, April 2020 -- The Great Lockdown, which projects global GDP contracting by 3 percent in 2020. While the economies of most Middle Eastern countries are expected to shrink, Lebanon's preexisting financial crisis makes it particularly susceptible to the international COVID-19-induced recession, the IMF predicting its GDP will decline 12 percent this year.
Turkey's parliament Tuesday passed legislation, 279 to 59, that will temporarily release around 45,000 prisoners and permanently release another 45,000 to prevent overcrowded prisons from becoming incubators of COVID-19. Opposition lawmakers opposed the bill because it does not include journalists and politicians convicted of "terrorism."
National flag carrier Turkish Airlines, which boasts the world's sixth-largest cargo capacity, extended Tuesday its cancelation of international flights until May 20, marking the second delay since Ankara initially suspended all international flights on March 27. Turkish Airlines halted all domestic flights on April 3, but still plans to resume operations on April 20.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained a letter sent by Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) president Mark Mellman and co-chairwoman Ann Lewis to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid that said any annexation of West Bank territory "would make a two-state solution harder — if not impossible to achieve — and would likely have far-reaching negative consequences for the U.S.-Israel alliance." Since many Likud and Yamina MKs have expressed support for annexing parts of the West Bank allocated to Israel by the Trump administration's peace plan, the letter stressed, "While the Trump Administration may well approve of some annexation, we can say for certain that this President will not be running America alone — or indefinitely... Counting on his support to carry the day suggests a fundamental misreading of American government and politics."
Oman's finance ministry Tuesday directed each ministry, state agency, and public entity to trim its operating budget this year by at least 10 percent, even if this entails cutting salaries and benefits.
As Amman considers re-opening shops and easing mobility restrictions in governorates with no confirmed cases of COVID-19, it prohibited mosque prayers during Ramadan, which starts on April 23, to arrest the virus's spread.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum