Two days after a U.S. Navy statement accused eleven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels of harassing American ships conducting operations in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami told reporters in Tehran, "What leads to insecurity in the Persian Gulf region is actually the illegal and aggressive presence of the Americans who have come from the other end of the world to our borders and make such baseless claims."
Turkey's parliament passed legislation Thursday empowering the country's sovereign wealth fund, chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to acquire controlling stakes in distressed companies deemed strategically important and not compensate minority shareholders for losses within a certain period if the fund's management affects the firm's profits. Parliament also banned layoffs for three months. Employers can send workers on unpaid leave during this period and the government will pay each worker about $170/month. Turkey's net minimum wage is equivalent to roughly $392/month. The government is also postponing some rent payments along with student and agricultural loan payments while authorizing local authorities to postpone water bills. Labor union strikes will be temporarily prohibited.
Yemeni government forces recaptured the large Khanjar military camp in al-Jawf governorate. The base near the Saudi border has changed hands several times in recent months, the Houthis seizing it on April 7 after Saudi-backed tribal forces ousted them in March. Despite U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths briefing the Security Council yesterday that a nation-wide ceasefire is imminent, fighting intensified across the country Friday. The Houthis accused the Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized government of airstrikes on Marib and artillery attacks on the port city of Hodeida while the government reported Houthi shelling of residential areas in Bayda governorate, killing a woman and two children.
Palestinian Authority (PA)
USAID is allocating $5 million in International Disaster Assistance to "provide immediate, life-saving assistance in the West Bank," according to a State Department statement. However, at a Friday press conference, PA Spokesman Ibrahim Melhem denied the receipt of any U.S. aid and said that the PA does not require any U.S. aid.
During a Friday interview with the Gaza-based al-Araby TV network, Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh stated the group is ready to enter indirect prisoner exchange negotiations with Israel. Haniyeh's terms for the release of four Israeli captives in Gaza are Jerusalem freeing all sick, female, elderly, and juvenile Palestinians in Israeli custody along with those released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and have been rearrested on new charges. Hamas claims to be holding two Israeli soldiers captured in the 2014 Israel-Gaza war in addition to two other hostages. However, Israel believes the soldiers died in combat.
Backed by the Turkish air force, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has won a string of victories this week against Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russian mercenaries. After seizing most of the coastal cities between Tripoli and the Tunisian border, GNA forces are now besieging Al-Watiya Airbase. The LNA captured the airbase in August 2014, making it their headquarters for western operations.
Several parliamentary committees plan to convene on Saturday to discuss amendments to the laws governing states of emergency, tax exemptions, and pension increases. A parliamentary source said the reform of the emergency law would empower the president – inter alia – to close certain ministries and authorities entirely or partially; postpone the payment of water, electricity, and natural gas bills entirely or partially; allocate cash and in-kind assistance to individuals and families; and provide financial and in-kind support to damaged economic sectors. The source also reported the committees will mull authorizing the cabinet to offer tax exemptions and delay businesses' payment of taxes and social insurance contributions if they do not layoff workers.
G20 chair Saudi Arabia on Thursday issued a statement urging the international community to raise an extra $8 billion to combat COVID-19 and pledged $500 million in aid: $150 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, $150 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, and $200 million to other health organizations and programs.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum