Iran’s COVID-19 Deaths Cross 12,000

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on July 8, 2020 shows President Hassan Rouhani (2nd-R) attending a cabinet session with ministers clad in face masks, measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the capital Tehran. Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

Iran said on Wednesday that its deaths from the novel coronavirus had surpassed 12,000, with authorities considering reimposing restrictive measures in Tehran to contain a resurgence of the disease.

It came a day after the Islamic republic reported its highest single-day fatality count of 200 from the COVID-19 illness.

Iran has been battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the virus since late February.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said that another 153 deaths had been recorded over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 12,084.

She said total cases had risen to 248,379 with 2,691 more people testing positive.

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Nine of Iran’s 31 provinces are now classified as “red”, the highest category in the country’s virus risk scaling.

Another 10 are on alert including the capital Tehran and the surrounding province, Lari added.

“Tehran is facing a very fragile situation,” said Alireza Zali, the head of the city’s virus taskforce.

“The number of infections, deaths and hospitalisations have been on a sharp rising trajectory in the past 10 days,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

Iran closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between its 31 provinces in March, but the government progressively lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.

Zali said that Tehran needs “more restrictive measures” to contain the virus and will discuss their reimposition in an emergency meeting with the health minister.

His deputy, Ali Maher, told ISNA that measures may be reintroduced as soon as Saturday.

Some red provinces have already reimposed restrictions in recent weeks after receiving a green light from the government.

AFP

Israel Launches New Spy Satellite Against Iran

A plane passes in front of the full moon as seen from Curitiba, Brazil on March 9, 2020. - The supermoon is visible as the full moon coincides with the satellite in its closest approach to Earth, which makes it appear brighter and larger than other full moons. Photo: Heuler Andrey / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A plane passes in front of the full moon as seen from Curitiba, Brazil on March 9, 2020. – The supermoon is visible as the full moon coincides with the satellite in its closest approach to Earth, which makes it appear brighter and larger than other full moons. Photo: Heuler Andrey / AFP

 

Israel launched a new reconnaissance satellite early Monday, the defence ministry said, its latest asset to be deployed against arch-enemy Iran.

“The Israel Ministry of Defence and Israel Aerospace Industries have successfully launched the ‘Ofek 16’ reconnaissance satellite” at 4:00 am local time (0100 GMT), the ministry said in a statement.

The “electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities… will undergo a series of tests,” it added.

Minister of Defence and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz hailed the development.

“The successful launch of the ‘Ofek 16’ satellite overnight is yet another extraordinary achievement” for Israel’s defence sector, he said.

“Technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the State of Israel… We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place.”

Neither statement gave further details on the satellite’s mission, but Israeli public radio said it would be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.

Israel has long sworn to prevent its nemesis from obtaining atomic weapons.

The Islamic republic denies its nuclear programme has any military dimension.

 

AFP

Iran Reports Accident At ‘Inactive’ Nuclear Site, No Casualties

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on January 22, 2020 shows President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran. HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on January 22, 2020 shows President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran. HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

 

Iran’s nuclear body said an accident had taken place on Thursday at a construction site in a nuclear complex without causing casualties, state news agency IRNA reported.

“An accident occurred on Thursday morning and damaged a warehouse under construction in open space at the Natanz site” in central Iran, said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation.

Kamalvandi was further quoted as saying that the complex is currently inactive and there is no risk of radioactive pollution.

The accident did not result in casualties, he added, noting that the cause was under investigation.

He did not give any details on the nature of the reported accident.

Tehran announced in May last year that it was suspending certain commitments under a multilateral nuclear deal unilaterally abandoned by the United States in 2018.

The 2015 accord promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear programme.

US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was followed by Washington reimposing biting unilateral sanctions.

The Natanz facility is one of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plants.

 

 

-AFP

Powerful Explosion Kills 19 In Iran Capital

An image grab from footage obtained from the state-run Iran Press news agency on June 30, 2020, shows footage of a powerful explosion at a clinic in northern Tehran. IRAN PRESS / AFP
An image grab from footage obtained from the state-run Iran Press news agency on June 30, 2020, shows footage of a powerful explosion at a clinic in northern Tehran. IRAN PRESS / AFP

 

A powerful explosion at a clinic in northern Tehran killed at least 19 people on Tuesday, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The blast at Sina At’har health centre caused damage to buildings in the vicinity and sent a plume of thick black smoke into the night sky, state television reported.

“An explosion was reported at 20:56 (1626 GMT) followed by a fire at Sina At’har clinic. Medical units were dispatched immediately,” Tehran’s emergency medical services said in a statement.

“The death of 13 people has been confirmed. Six have also been injured and transferred” to a hospital, it added.

Tehran fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki also told the agency that firefighters recovered six more who died after the blaze was extinguished around two hours later, raising the toll to 19.

Fifteen of the dead were women, state television said.

In a TV interview, Maleki said the explosion occurred as gas canisters caught fire in the clinic’s basement.

Some of the victims “were in upper floors in operation rooms, who were either patients being operated on or those with them,” he said.

“They unfortunately lost their lives due to the heat and thick smoke.”

The incident comes four days after an explosion near a military complex rocked the Iranian capital.

It took place in the Parchin area in the southeast of Tehran due to “leaking gas tanks”, Iran’s defence ministry said on Friday, adding there were no casualties.

Parchin is a site suspected of having hosted conventional explosion tests applicable to nuclear power, which the Islamic republic denies.

It had come under scrutiny from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in 2015.

Iran had refused the IAEA access to the site because of the nature of its work, but the agency’s then chief, the late Yukiya Amano, paid a visit there.

 

AFP

Iran Puts Out Arrest Warrant For Donald Trump, Seeks Interpol’s Help

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

Iran said Monday it has called for Interpol to help arrest President Donald Trump and 35 other US officials for the January killing of its top general in an American drone strike.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Qasi Mehr, quoted by state news agency IRNA, said 36 US political and military officials “involved in the assassination” of General Qasem Soleimani “have been investigated and were ordered to be arrested through Interpol”.

“These people have been charged with murder and terrorist acts,” he said.

“At the top of the list is US President Donald Trump, and his prosecution will continue even after the end of his term,” said the prosecutor, referring to his bid for re-election in November.

Qasi Mehr, quoted on the judiciary’s Mizan Online official website, said “the Iranian judiciary has issued arrest warrants against the 36”.

He called for the international police agency Interpol to issue red notices, which are not arrest warrants but issued for those wanted for prosecution or sentencing.

Interpol, however, told AFP that any such intervention would be contrary to its constitution, without directly confirming it had been contacted by Iran.

Under Article 3 of the constitution, “it is strictly forbidden for the Organisation to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”, said the agency based in the French city of Lyon.

“Interpol would not consider requests of this nature.”

Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani in a January 3 drone strike near Baghdad international airport.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago”, Trump said at the time.

Brian Hook, the US pointman on Iran policy, scoffed at the Iranian request to Interpol as a “propaganda stunt”.

“Our assessment is that Interpol does not intervene and issue red notices that are based on a political nature,” he told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

“This has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability,” Hook said.

“We see it for what it is. It’s a propaganda stunt that no-one takes seriously and makes the Iranians look foolish.”

The killing of Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, provoked massive outpourings of grief at home.

Iran retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but Trump opted against responding militarily.

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens suffered brain trauma.

 

AFP

Nine Iran-Backed Fighters Killed In 2nd Syria Raid In 24 Hours

File: Syrian army units advance in the town of al-Eis in south Aleppo province on February 9, 2020, following battles with rebels and jihadists. Al-Eis, which overlooks the M5, was on a front that saw fierce fighting between the regime and its opponents in 2016.

 

Air strikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria killed nine fighters on Sunday in the second such raid in 24 hours, a war monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel was “likely responsible” for the strikes near the Iraqi border.

They came hours after a similar raid killed six other Tehran-backed fighters, raising the total toll to 15 killed in 24 hours, according to the monitor.

The fighters killed in the early Sunday raids were mostly Iraqi nationals, according to Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.

There was no official comment from Israel.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.

It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar al-Assad is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.

On Saturday, air strikes also blamed on Israel hit positions belonging to regime forces and Iran-backed militias near the border with Iraq, the Observatory said.

Four Syrian nationals were among the six fighters killed in that attack, the monitor added.

Saturday’s raids came only days after Israeli strikes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and the southern province of Suweida killed seven fighters, including two Syrian soldiers, according to the Observatory.

The uptick in attacks has prompted concern among Iran-backed forces in east Syria that Israeli agents may be among their ranks, the monitor said.

These forces have arrested four people on suspicion of providing intelligence to Israel, the war monitor reported on Sunday, shortly before the latest raids.

The war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s pre-war population since 2011.

AFP

Call For Mandatory Masks As Iran COVID-19 Toll Nears 10,000

A man, wearing a protective mask and gloves, checks currency exchange rates in the Iranian capital Tehran amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on June 22, 2020. ATTA KENARE / AFP.

 

An Iranian official called for mask-wearing to be made compulsory as the country on Wednesday reported its highest daily coronavirus death toll in more than two-and-a-half months.

“It is certainly required that the wearing of masks becomes mandatory,” said Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi.

“If we use masks, especially in closed spaces and gatherings, we can very much reduce the virus’ spread,” he added in remarks broadcast on television.

Iran reported its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, and it has since struggled to contain the outbreak at the death toll nears 10,000.

It has refrained from imposing a mandatory lockdown on people to stop the virus’ spread, and the use of masks and protective equipment is optional in most areas.

The Islamic republic closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between its 31 provinces in March, but the government gradually lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.

Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran had hit a near-two month low in daily recorded infections.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on Wednesday that the 133 fatalities in the past 24 hours brought the country’s overall virus death toll to 9,996.

That made it the deadliest day in Iran since April 6, when the government reported 136 virus fatalities.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

It was also the sixth consecutive day that Iran has reported more than 100 virus deaths.

Lari added that Iran’s virus infection caseload had jumped by 2,531 to a total of 212,501 in the past day.

There has been scepticism at home and abroad about the country’s official COVID figures, with concerns the actual toll could be much higher.

AFP

Iran Says COVID-19 Cases Surpass 150,000

Iranian medical personnel, wearing protective gear, work at the quartine ward of a hospital in Tehran on March 1, 2020. KOOSHA MAHSHID FALAHI / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY / AFP.

 

Iran said its caseload of novel coronavirus infections passed the grim milestone of 150,000 on Sunday, as the country struggles to contain a recent upward trend.

The government has largely lifted the restrictions it imposed in order to halt a COVID-19 outbreak that first emerged in mid-February.

But the health ministry has warned of a potential virus resurgence with new cluster outbreaks in a number of provinces.

Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,516 new cases were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 151,466.

Infections have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic republic since hitting a near two-month low on May 2.

Jahanpour said the virus had claimed another 63 lives over the same period, raising the overall toll to 7,797.

READ ALSO: 100-Year-Old Indonesian Woman Beats COVID-19

So far the government has reimposed a lockdown only in Khuzestan province on Iran’s southwestern border with Iraq.

It remains “red”, the highest level on Iran’s colour-coded risk scale.

Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran’s official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.

AFP

Iran Reopens Key Shrines After Two-month COVID-19 Closure

Iranians visit the Shah Abdol-Azim shrine in the capital Tehran on May 25, 2020, following the reopening of major Shiite shrines across the Islamic republic, more than two months after they were closed because of the Middle East’s deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak.  AFP

 

Iran on Monday reopened major Shiite shrines across the Islamic republic, more than two months after they were closed because of the Middle East’s deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak.

At Tehran’s Shah Abdol-Azim shrine, worshippers had to wear a mask, walk through a disinfection tunnel and have their temperature checked as they began returning from the early morning, according to an AFP reporter.

The Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad in northeast Iran and the Fatima Masumeh shrine and Jamkaran mosque in the holy city of Qom also reopened while observing health protocols, state news agency IRNA reported.

They are allowed to open starting from an hour after dawn until an hour before dusk.

State TV showed worshippers crying and running towards Imam Reza’s shrine as they were guided by attendants.

In a statement on its website, the shrine said visitors must observe health requirements such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, and bring their own prayer mats, books and other accessories.

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Shrines were closed alongside schools, universities and all non-vital businesses in March after Iran reported its first two coronavirus deaths in Qom in late February.

Iran has allowed a phased reopening of its economy and gradual relaxation of restrictions since early April, with a further easing expected in the coming days despite a recent uptick in new cases.

COVID-19 has so far killed more than 7,410 people and infected over 135,700 in the country, according to the health ministry.

AFP

Iran Says Coronavirus Deaths Close To 7,000

 

Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday.

The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February.

Jahanpour warned that cases were rising “in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan”.

“Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation,” he added.

The southwestern province has become Iran’s new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical “red” ranking on the country’s colour-coded risk scale.

It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April.

Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry’s latest report said there is a “rising trend or the beginning of a peak” in eight provinces, including Khuzestan.

The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.

READ ALSO: New Virus Deaths In Spain Fall To Two-month Low Under 100

A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

Early in the outbreak “our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised,” said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce’s epidemiology committee.

“It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19,” he told ISNA news agency.

According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198.

Over 1,460 of the new cases were “outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected,” he said.

The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged.

Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran’s official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.

Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week.

President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus.

But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held “decently” and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

AFP

Iran Sentences French Academic To Five Years

 This file handout picture taken in 2012 in an undisclosed location and released on July 16, 2019, by Sciences Po university shows Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah as Iran confirmed her arrest without giving any details of her case, the latest in a long list of dual nationals held in the country's prisons. Thomas ARRIVE / Sciences Po / AFP
This file handout picture taken in 2012 in an undisclosed location and released on July 16, 2019, by Sciences Po university shows Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah as Iran confirmed her arrest without giving any details of her case, the latest in a long list of dual nationals held in the country’s prisons. Thomas ARRIVE / Sciences Po / AFP

 

Iran sentenced a French-Iranian academic to five years in prison on national security charges on Saturday, her lawyer told AFP.

Fariba Adelkhah was “sentenced to five years for gathering and conspiring against national security, and one year for propaganda against the Islamic republic,” Said Dehghan said.

He said his client would only be expected to serve the longer, five-year jail term and added that she intended to appeal.

Adelkhah, a specialist in Shiite Islam and a research director at Sciences Po university in Paris, was arrested in June last year.

She is a citizen of Iran and France, but Tehran does not recognise dual nationality.

Her trial started on March 3 with the last hearing held on April 19 at branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.

Adelkhah’s French colleague and partner Roland Marchal, who was detained along with her, was released in March in an apparent prisoner swap.

Marchal was freed after France released Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who faced extradition to the United States over accusations he violated US sanctions against Iran.

Washington has said that it “deeply regrets” that decision.

Dehghan said Marchal’s release gives grounds for appeal against the charge of “gathering and conspiring against national security”.

“At least two people must be involved for this charge to stand,” he said.

Adelkhah’s defence team also plans to argue that her personal academic opinion regarding the Islamic dress code enforced in Iran cannot amount to “propaganda against a political system.”

Virus-Hit Iran Reopens Mosques For Holy Ramadan Nights

This picture taken on April 25, 2020, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan shows a view from outside the closed Imamzadeh Saleh in the Iranian capital Tehran’s Shemiran district, as all mosques and places of worship are closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE / AFP)

 

In spite of their fears over the coronavirus, hundreds of pious Iranians took advantage of the temporary opening of mosques on Wednesday to pray at one of the holiest times of the year.

The mask-clad faithful for the most part adhered to social distancing guidelines as they sat in designated areas of Reihanat al-Hussein mosque, in west Tehran.

Clutching their own prayer mats and Korans, they showed up with their families, including a couple with a baby, and appeared to be in high spirits.

Worshippers spilled out into grounds outside the mosque were disinfected by a sanitary worker in a hazmat suit who sprayed them as he walked among them.

But some of the gaps between those seated at the back appeared to be too close for comfort, and the Basij militia were on hand to ensure they kept apart.

“Of course, everybody is worried about the disease, even my own family,” said one of the worshippers who gave his name only as Mahmoudi.

“When I decided to come they were concerned about me and I promised them to respect the directives,” he said.

“So I came and saw that everyone is respecting the (social) distancing, otherwise, I wouldn’t have stayed and I’d have gone back home.”

Iran reopened the mosques for two hours from midnight for Laylat al-Qadr, a high point during the fasting month of Ramadan that marks when the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.

The Islamic republic shut its mosques and shrines in March as part of its efforts to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19.

The first cases emerged in the Shiite holy city of Qom on February 19 and spread rapidly to all 31 of the country’s provinces.

It has gone on to claim nearly 6,800 lives in Iran.

‘Special ceremony’

President Hassan Rouhani, whose government has faced criticism for being slow to react to the crisis, praised worshippers for abiding by health guidelines.

“There were concerns about how people would follow health guidelines if mosques were opened, but last night, you found that it was a special ceremony,” he said on Wednesday.

“Wherever people participated, they followed all the instructions,” he said in televised remarks.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki had sounded a note of caution on Tuesday as he announced the special reopening for three out of the next five nights.

And on Wednesday he admitted it had been a “difficult and risky decision… criticised by some of my colleagues”.

“Everywhere people observed the instructions, except in one county where, contrary to our protocols, tea was offered to the participants,” he said.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said another 50 people died of coronavirus and 1,958 were infected in the previous 24 hours, taking the overall tolls to 6,783 dead and 112,725 infected.

The Qadr ceremony lasts three nights because the exact time of the revelation of the words of God is unknown.

Those at the first gathering overnight at Tehran’s Al-Hussein mosque appeared to be exalted at the chance to finally pray after being shut out for more than two months.

“We have brought masks and gloves and everything. I think that if we follow the security and health protocols, then nothing will happen to us and we will be able to continue with this ceremony,” said Masoumeh, a housewife.

For Amir Hosein, a private sector worker, it was a chance not to be missed.

“These nights are special for people and I think the government wasn’t able to cancel these ceremonies because we go out and pray together: that is the whole joy of this ceremony.”

AFP