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Iran’s armed forces to respond to U.S. military threats: top commander

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Iran’s top military commander said Friday that Iranian armed forces monitor U.S. military movements in and far beyond the region and will respond to their threats against Iran’s interests, Press TV reported.

Iran’s armed forces have “a thorough intelligence command of the status, location, tactics, and movements of enemies, including America, … in the region and remote territories,” Mohammad Baqeri, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said in a statement on Friday.

Iran’s armed forces are ready to “give an appropriate response to any miscalculated move by those forces against … Iran’s national interests anywhere in the world,” Baqeri was quoted as saying.

The remarks by the Iranian top commander came after the White House announced last week that the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to the crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Iran’s defense minister on Wednesday said that moves causing any insecurity to the oil tankers and maritime trade routes is in violation of the international law and would draw reaction of international institutions and countries.

(XINHUA)

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Turkey’s pandemic slowdown continues, while Iran sees record daily rebound in COVID-19 cases

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Turkey’s COVID-19 pandemic continued to slow down on Tuesday, with 786 new cases of infections registered. Meanwhile, Iran set a new record in daily cases in two months amidst a resurgence of the pandemic.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 786 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, to 165,555.

At the same time, 22 more people died from the respiratory virus, taking the death toll in Turkey to 4,585, Koca tweeted.

Koca urged Turkish citizens to continue taking precaution against COVID-19 pandemic, despite the downward trend as shown in the continuing decline in daily new cases.

“The lifting of the curfew does not mean that everything is back to normal,” Koca said.

With 3,117 new COVID-19 cases, Iran registered the highest daily rise since March 30, when 3,186 new cases were recorded.

Iran’s tally of COVID-19 cases soared to 157,562, while the death toll rose by 64 cases to 7,942, the highest in the Middle East.

This signals a deteriorating situation in Iran amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, following the recent relaxing of anti-coronavirus measures in Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 cases rose to 89,011, after 1,869 new infections were registered.

The kingdom recorded 24 more fatalities, bringing the death toll to 549, while the total recoveries increased to 65,790 after 1,484 new recoveries were added.

In Qatar, the Health Ministry announced 1,826 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the tally of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 60,259.

A total of 2,599 more people recovered from the disease, bringing the total recoveries to 36,036, while three patients died, raising the death toll to 43.

Kuwait reported 887 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 28,649 and the death toll to 226, the health ministry said.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 1,382 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 14,281.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 596 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 35,788.

The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said 388 more patients made full recovery from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE‘s recoveries to 18,726. The death toll in the UAE rose to 269, after three more fatalities were added on Tuesday.

Oman’ Ministry of Health announced 576 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total cases to 12,799. Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 59.

Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq urged people in the country to co-exist with the new circumstances resulting from the spread of COVID-19 disease.

Iraq’s Health Ministry reported a new record in the daily increase with 519 cases, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases to 7,387.

It also said that 20 people died from the virus, in the highest single-day rise, bringing the death toll in the country to 235.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Minister of Health Hassan al-Tamimi reiterated his call on the citizens to cooperate with the health authorities through abiding by the measures of the full curfew to avoid catastrophic consequences.

The Israeli Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 116 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily rise since May 1 when 155 infections were confirmed.

This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Israel to 17,285. The ministry also reported five new deaths from the respiratory disease, the highest daily fatalities since May 11.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel would expand the number of coronavirus tests, including tests for asymptomatic people.

Egypt on Tuesday set a new record with 47 single-day fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the death toll in country to 1,052.

A total of 1,152 new cases were recorded, raising the total infections with the coronavirus in Egypt since mid-February to 27,536. It is the sixth consecutive day for Egypt’s COVID-19 daily infections to surpass 1,000.

In Morocco, the COVID-19 pandemic continued its downward trend for the fifth day in a row, with 33 new cases recorded.

The total COVID-19 cases in Morocco rose to 7,866, while the death toll from the coronavirus rose to 206, with one new fatality registered in the last 24 hours.

Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections increased on Tuesday by nine cases to 1,242, while the death toll remained unchanged at 27.

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Iran urges Europe to stand against United States sanctions

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday urged the European Union to stand against U.S. “illegal” sanctions against the Islamic republic, Press TV reported.

The United States has threatened the lives of 83 million Iranians by imposing “cruel sanctions and preventing the transfer of medicine and essentials to Iran” at the time of novel coronavirus pandemic, Rouhani said in a phone conversation with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday.

Washington has violated international regulations by increasing sanctions against Iran, he said.

“Under the ongoing circumstances, the European Union, particularly Finland, should carry out its duty by condemning the illegal measures of the United States,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.

Since its unilateral exit from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, Washington has been mounting pressure on Tehran through a series of sanctions. Iran has maintained a tough stance and scaled back its nuclear commitments in response.

(XINHUA)

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Iran-Russia ties essential to regional stability: Iranian adviser

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Cooperation between Iran and Russia is essential to stability and security in the region, a senior adviser to the Iranian Parliament speaker was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

The multidimensional cooperation between Iran and Russia contributes to positive developments in the region, particularly in the fight against terrorism, Iranian Parliament speaker’s adviser for international affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said in a meeting with the Russian ambassador in Tehran.

Russia’s Ambassador Levan Jagarian also said enhancing ties with Tehran in diverse areas is among Moscow’s strategic objectives.

The two officials also discussed the latest regional and international developments, including the situation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Iran and Russia have formed an alliance in recent years to support the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s government against armed rebels.

(XINHUA)

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Iran says scientist flying home after release from United States jail

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist released from the U.S. prison, is flying back home, state TV reported.

“Good news, a plane carrying Dr. Sirous Asgari has taken off from America. Congratulations to his wife and family,” Zarif said in an Instagram post.

The FBI claimed that Asgari shared information about a project he had conducted when he was on a sabbatical in the United States, according to the report.

It is worth noting that Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied that Asgari was released as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.

The Iranian scientist was released after being acquitted of charges, the spokesman noted.

(XINHUA)

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Iran close to containing forest wildfire in southwestern region

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The Iranian authorities have largely contained the forest wildfire in the southwestern mountainous region, Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported Tuesday.

Mohammad Javad Ashrafi, the managing director of Environmental Protection of Khuzestan Province, said the rescuers are working to bring the stretch of fire under full control.

The damage caused by the wildfire over the past days is huge in the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, he said, adding no final estimate is available about the losses.

The fire outbreaks in the west, southwest and south of Iran over the past weeks have completely burnt more than 300 hectares of forests and grasslands in Gachsaran County of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province as well as 200 hectares of forests in other parts of the province, according to the latest reports.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and Army on Sunday deployed helicopters to the forests of the Zagros Mountains in the west and southwest of Iran to fight the fire.

(XINHUA)

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Iran’s confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 157,562 with 3,117 new cases recorded

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Iran reported 3,117 new cases over the past 24 hours, taking the total confirmed novel coronavirus cases to 157,562 on Tuesday, according to official IRNA news agency.

Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said during his daily update on Tuesday that 64 people died overnight, taking the total fatalities over the virus to 7,942.

So far, 123,077 have recovered and 2,565 remain in critical condition, said Jahanpur.

According to the health spokesman, 975,936 lab tests for COVID-19 have been carried out in Iran as of Tuesday.

Iran announced its first cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 19.

Iran and China have offered mutual help in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-February, at the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Iran lit up the Tehran Azadi (Liberty) Tower to show its solidarity with China, and donated medical supplies to China.

China on Feb. 29 sent a five-member medical team to Iran for a month-long mission to help the country fight the pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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Iran ready to send more fuel to Venezuela: spokesman

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Iran is ready to send more fuel shipments to Venezuela if there is a request, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.

Mousavi slammed United States attempts to block Iran’s trade with other countries, saying that “if Venezuela makes a new request for (fuel) delivery, more shipments will be sent.”

“It is Iran’s natural right to defend its (economic) interests even in faraway places,” Mousavi said in his weekly press conference.

Last months, five Iranian oil fuel tankers arrived at Venezuela shores.

Washington has threatened to take action against the Venezuela-bound fuel tankers, including blacklisting the crew and the tankers.

(XINHUA)

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Iran reports 2,979 new COVID-19 cases, 154,445 in total

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Iran’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases rose to 154,445 on Monday after an overnight registration of 2,979 new infections, according to official IRNA news agency.

During his daily briefing, Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said, “Out of the new cases in the past 24 hours, 652 were hospitalized.”

The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 7,878 Iranians, up by 81 in the past 24 hours.

So far, 121,004 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals and 2,578 remain in critical condition.

According to Jahanpur, 955,865 lab tests for COVID-19 have been carried out in Iran as of Monday.

Iran’s health officials have urged the public to wear facemasks in crowded places, particularly while using public transports.

All employees have returned to work since Saturday and high-risk places such as gyms and beauty salons have opened for business.

Mosques, malls and holy sites have opened while observing social distancing rules. Wedding ceremonies remain banned.

Iran announced its first cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 19.

Iran and China have offered mutual help in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-February, at the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Iran lit up the Tehran Azadi (Liberty) Tower to show its solidarity with China, and donated three million masks to China.

Besides delivering medical supplies to Iran, China on Feb. 29 sent a five-member Chinese medical team to Iran for a month-long mission to help fight the pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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News Analysis: Israel, Iran reportedly trade cyber-blows as part of ongoing tensions

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Media outlets reported on Monday that in a recent thwarted Iranian cyber-attack on Israeli water systems, there was an attempt to change the chlorine levels in the water, putting hundreds of Israelis at risk.

The latest reports come after weeks of suggestions that Israel and Iran have traded several blows in cyberspace. While the Iranian officials have denied the allegations, Yigal Unna, director general of the National Cyber Directorate in Israel was quoted as saying that May was the “turning point in the history of modern cyber warfare.”

An alleged Israeli retaliation to the attack also came a few weeks ago. Reports said that computers in a key Iranian port were paralyzed by a major cyber offensive, causing major disruption to naval traffic.

“This is already hard-core cyber warfare, where you create actual physical damage as a result of disrupting computer systems which control physical systems of our lives,” said Tal Pavel, head of Cyber Security Studies at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.

While the supposed Iranian attack did not cause any damage in Israel, reports from Iran suggested that the Shahid Rajaee port terminal in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas took days to resume normal activity.

“The Israeli response is really out of the ordinary,” Pavel told Xinhua about Unna’s public comments. “This is really crossing a line. But Israel apparently wanted it to be known that it was behind the attack.”

Israel and Iran are arch-rivals that have been engaged in various levels of war-fare for decades. There is always concern that the tit-for-tat attacks will spill over into a wider conflict that will engulf the entire region.

Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria in recent years. Increasingly, cyberspace has also become a battlefield. In a widely reported incident years ago, Israel, together with the United States, is believed to be behind a computer worm that was unleashed on the Iranian nuclear program computer system. The Iranian uranium enrichment facility’s activity was reportedly severely hampered by the mysterious computer virus.

The worm attack was a wake-up call for Iranian officials.

“In recent years Iran has invested a major effort in developing its cyber abilities after understanding the potential,” said Yossi Mansharof, a researcher in the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and the Ezri center for Iran.

Israel is considered a leading cyber security power. With a thriving hi-tech eco-system, the cybersecurity sector is a leading one in the country. While Iran has made great advances in its cyber capabilities, many experts in the field believe there is still a major gap in favor of Israel.

Yet, Israel is not immune to attacks.

“Being a cyber-power doesn’t only mean you have offensive capabilities, but also are capable of defending yourself from serious attacks on infrastructure,” Pavel added.

According to Mansharof, the conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria could well be transferred to cyberspace after years of armed conflict.

“Iran is well aware of its military inferiority vis-a-vis Israel and they prefer not to engage in a war but continue in attrition or use of proxies,” Mansharof said. “Israel is also largely alone against Iran and is not looking for a war.”

(XINHUA)

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