1900 personnel of emergency services have contracted coronavirus | Iran International

1900 personnel of emergency services have contracted coronavirus

The director of Iran’s emergency services announced that 1900 personnel of the emergency services have contracted coronavirus and four of them have died.

He did not offer any details about the provinces where the victims were located.

Explosion Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold In Southern Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, sending thick grey smoke billowing over the village, but the cause was not clear.

The blast occurred in the southern village of Ain Qana, above the port city of Sidon. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The explosion occurred in an arms depot for Hezbollah in the village, one Lebanese security official in south Lebanon said, without elaborating on the cause. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

An official with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah confirmed there was an explosion but declined to give further details. Another local Hezbollah official could not confirm any casualties and said the nature of the blast was not yet clear. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements.

Members of the group imposed a security cordon, barring journalists from reaching the area. Footage broadcast by the local Al Jadeed station showed damage to buildings and debris scattered across a large area.

There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese government. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV channel returned to normal programming after reporting the explosion.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006. Since then, the militant group is believed to have expanded its arsenal, amassing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that can hit virtually anywhere in Israel.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the blast.

The mysterious explosion comes seven weeks after the massive explosion at Beirut port, caused by the detonation of nearly 3,000 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate. The explosion killed nearly 200 people, injured 6,500 and damaged tens of thousands of buildings in the capital, Beirut.

It is still not clear what caused the initial fire that ignited the chemicals, and so far no one has been held accountable.

Iran Records Its Highest Coronavirus Infection Number In A Single Day

Iran on Tuesday, September 22, announced the highest number of cases of the coronavirus in a single day, with 3,712 people infected in 24 hours. In the same period 178 were announced dead from the virus.

"We are seeing an increase in confirmed cases, and daily hospitalisations in most of our provinces," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in televised remarks.

"The rate of compliance with health protocols and wearing masks is declining," she warned, although critics warned about a worsening of the outbreak after the government allowed crowded religious ceremonies earlier this month and reopened schools.

The highest case number recorded before was on June 4, when 3,574 cases were detected, according to official figures.

Iran has been battling the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of Covid-19, with the death toll standing at 24,656 people out of a total of 429,193 people infected.

The parliament's research center, doctors and local officials have said that these official numbers are greatly reduced and the real rate of infection and deaths is much higher.

On Monday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged people to respect government health regulations, implying that Iranians are taking the threat of the virus lightly.

Iran took various restrictive measures to stem the virus but without ever imposing a full lockdown, with its economy already hit after the United States reimposed sanctions in 2018.

While regions have been coded with a traffic light style system of risk -- white, yellow and red -- the health ministry has said the whole country should now be considered "red".

With reporting by AFP

Badly Beaten Protester Reported Dead In Iran Detention Center

Nader Mokhtari, a 37-year-old protester who spent several months in a coma after being beaten by baton sticks during Iran’s November unrest, has died at the Kahrizak Detention Center, Tehran Province, the Kaleme news website reported on Monday.

The website reported that Mokhtari went missing in his hometown of Karaj during November’s nationwide protests sparked by the overnight tripling of fuel prices. A month later he was discovered by his family in a coma at a hospital in Shahr-e Ray, near Tehran.

Based on the information from an unnamed source, Kaleme reported that Mokhtari, who came out of coma shortly before the Iranian New Year on March 21, had been taken by security forces to the health clinic of the Kahrizak Detention Center against the advice of doctors.

The source told Kaleme that the authorities had not only refused to hand over Mokhtari’s body to his family but had also threatened them, presumably to prevent any publicity.

Kahrizak, originally built around 20 years ago as a detention facility for drug users and gang members, became notorious after Mohsen Rouh ol-Amini, a computer-science student and son of a well-known political figure close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was allegedly beaten to death there during the unrest following the disputed 2009 disputed presidential elections.

The insistence of Rouh ol-Amini’s father, including a complaint lodged with Khamenei, led to the temporary closure of the facility on the leader’s order. Although the detention center was renamed Soroush 111 Detention Center and re-opened a year later, the name Kahrizak is still used by the media and public.

The Kaleme website is run by supporters of reformist leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2011.

Nader Mokhtari, detained protester who died in custody. September 2020


EU Urges Iran To Comply With Terms Of The 2015 Nuclear Deal

A German minister speaking on behalf of the European Union September 21 has said the block is seriously concerned about Iran’s uranium enrichment and urged Tehran to “immediately” return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

German State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Andreas Feicht speaking during the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, at the same time reiterated that the EU is sticking to its commitment to the agreement and the lifting of punitive international sanctions.

The United States announced September 19 that it is unilaterally reimposing those sanctions which were suspended when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA was agreed between Iran and World Powers. The US pulled out of the agreement in May 2018.

Feicht however urged Iran to stick to the agreement despite the US announcement. Iran has been accelerating uranium enrichment since mid-2019, after the US imposed full sanctions on its oil exports. Currently, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is ten times more than allowed by JCPOA.

The three leading EU powers, Germany, France and the United Kingdom along with Russia and China have opposed the US move and have been criticized by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not supporting Washington’s move.

American sanctions imposed since 2018 have badly hurt Iran's economy and have plunged the country into a deep recession. Iran refuses US demands to renegotiate the nuclear agreement and insists Washington must first return as a participant.

Fatemeh Sepehri, Dissident Iranian Woman, Shames Zarif As A Liar

Fatemeh Sepehri has called Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif a “shameless liar who will tell any lies to justify and cover up the Islamic Republic’s crimes.”

Sepehri was responding on Monday to Zarif's talk to the prestigious United States Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which earlier the same day hosted a webinar, ‘A Conversation with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran.’

Sepehri, who lives in Mashhad and who lost her husband in the 1980-88 war with Iraq, made her remarks virtually to a forum of the US-based National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI).

Zarif had discussed Iran’s nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with world powers and its human rights record. In response to a question by the host, Fareed Zakaria, about the execution of the 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari on September 21, Zarif claimed Iran’s judiciary is independent and that the government is not involved in its decisions.

“He [Afkari] was not executed for participating in a demonstration,” Zarif said. “Many people participate in demonstrations, and none of them are executed. Those who commit crimes, including arson, including others, are punished, but not for participating in demonstrations.”

Sepehri, 56, was a signatory of the August 2019 open letter, Statement of 14 Female Political Activists, which described the Islamic Republic  as “gender apartheid” and called for a new constitution in which “women’s equal rights and identity and dignity are respected.” The letter supported “civil and non-violent measures” to “completely transition from the Islamic Republic regime.”

The women’s letter endorsed a statement published weeks earlier of 14 political activists who had called for  transition from the Islamic Republic and for the resignation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.

The signatories of both statements were living in Iran and many, including Sepehri, were called in by security bodies or were arrested. Others reported being threatened or beaten by unidentified persons. Sepehri was arrested a week after signing the statement at a rally outside the Justice Department in Mashhad and subsequently jailed for nine months.  

Iran Guards Offer 'To Move The Capital' From Tehran Free Of Charge

A member of Iran’s parliament has disclosed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has offered to build a new capital or seat for government and state institution “without receiving any payment”.

Abolfazl Abutorabi told the parliament news website on September 20 that finding a location and other factors in moving the capital “have been determined”.

With the rapid expansion of Tehran in the last three decades, causing traffic jams and air pollution, moving the government seat to a new location has been discussed many times. But some suspect the main reason of the proposal is to shield government institutions from popular protests that have periodically rocked Tehran for the past two decades.

Abutorabi said that that IRGC’s construction conglomerate, Khatam al-Anbia has sent a letter to President Hasan Rouhani’s administration expressing its readiness to build a new political and administrative capital “without receiving any payment from the government”. But just a day later on September 21 it was announced that the government has agreed to pay around $400 million it owed to Khatam al-Anbia for projects it has done in the past.

Khatam al-Anbia is one of the biggest business conglomerates in the country, which is the target of criticism by dissidents and even President Rouhani for excessive interference in the economy. The IRGC, being the undisputed military and internal intelligence force in the country receives public-sector contracts without due procedures and is accountable to no one except the country’s ruler Ali Khamenei.

According to Abutorabi, Rouhani in turn has sent a letter to the Minister of Roads and Urban Development who heads the taskforce for the relocation of the capital. He added that military barracks, universities and car manufacturers are among the institutions that will be moved along with government offices.

FILE - A general view of the northern part of Tehran

Tehran In Coronavirus Crisis: Hospital Doors Closed To Patients

With the rising number of coronavirus patients in Iran, reports from Tehran indicate that most hospitals are now refusing to accept non-coronavirus patients, including patients with heart, kidney, and blood pressure problems.

Data from Tehran’s University of Medical Science shows that only two medical centers in Tehran that have been allocated to coronavirus patients, only two still barely have the capacity to accept more patients.

Some hospitals in Tehran have declared emergency situations and refuse to accept patients with blood pressure, kidney stone, and chest pains due to the threat of coronavirus.

The official reports indicate that the number of daily new COVID-19 cases has reached over 3,000, with over 500 patients being hospitalized in Tehran every day.

Previously, Iran International had received a Ministry of Health document that showed 103,000 hospital beds were allocated for coronavirus patients, which at the time was less than a third of the number of cases in Iran.

At the same time, images were released from some hospitals that showed extra beds were placed in corridors for these patients and some coronavirus patients were being treated at the parking lot of one hospital.

The spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Health most recently reported the number of coronavirus patients in the country at over 422 thousand.

Based on the documents that Iran International previously published, this means Iranian hospitals currently can only treat a fourth of coronavirus patients in Iran.


Israeli Defense Chief Heads To US To Discuss Military Edge, Iran

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz headed to Washington on Monday for talks with his U.S. counterpart on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East following its historic normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

Since the agreement was announced last month, the UAE has made no secret about its desire to acquire F-35 warplanes and other advanced U.S.-made weaponry. Israel is the only U.S. ally in the Middle East to possess the stealth fighter jet.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially said he opposed the sale of the planes to any other nation in the region, even an Arab country at peace with Israel. But since then, he has softened his line, signaling he will trust the U.S. to honor its commitment to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region, even if the UAE obtains F-35s.

Gantz’s office said he would meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top Pentagon officials. It said the trip would include “meetings to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge, international policy vis-a-vis Iran and strategy for stopping its expansion and entrenchment in the Middle East, as well as discussion on defense cooperation and procurement.”

Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israeli military, has had cool relations with Netanyahu since the two rivals formed their coalition government in May. Gantz was not informed about the deal with the UAE until after it was reached.

President Donald Trump has said he is fine with selling the aircraft to the UAE and that the request is under review.

Guards' General Says If Arms Embargo Is Lifted Iran Can Export Weapons

If the UN arms embargo is lifted Iran can begin exporting weapons, the commander of Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace forces told local reporters on Monday, September 21.

Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted by Fars news agency that Iran is self sufficient in weapons but with the lifting of the UN embargo it can become an arms exporter. He also emphasized that more important will be the defeat of the US in its effort to extend a UN arms embargo, which is set to expire October 18.

The United States has been demanding that the UN Security Council extend the arms embargo, arguing that by importing and exporting weapons Iran will pose a serious danger to regional security. But members of the Council, plus Germany who initially agreed to the sunset clause as signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal oppose the US demand.

Reporters also asked Hajizadeh for his reaction to a recent warning by President Donald Trump that if Iran harms any US personnel it will a face a retaliation one thousand times more severe.

The IRGC general dismissed the warning saying that Trump has already failed his test, and added, “They have expressed those meaningless words many times before, like when they announced plans to hit 52 targets in Iran,” and nothing happened. “As in the past, they cannot do a damn thing,” Hajizadeh said.

Last September when suspected Iranian drones severely damaged Saudi oil installations it was reported that Trump stopped a military retaliation operation minutes before it was launched. However, on January 3, US drones killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most important military figure, who controlled Tehran’s political and intelligence operations as well as its proxies in the Middle East.

Russia Says 'No Fear' Of US Sanctions Over Arms Deals With Iran

The Russian government has no fear of any US sanctions over potential arms deals with Iran, the Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Tass news agency as saying on Monday, September 21.

The United States announced on Saturday that it will unilaterally reimpose suspended international sanctions on Iran, presumably including arms trade. Since June Washington was trying to convince the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran set to expire on October 18.

Russia, China and other permanent members of the Council, plus Germany have dismissed the US demand. In response the Trump administration has unilaterally announced the reimpostion of UN sanctions.

“We are not afraid of US sanctions, we are used to them,” Ryabkov said in response to a Tass question. “It will not affect our policy in any way. Our cooperation with Iran is multifaceted, defense cooperation will progress depending on the two countries’ needs and mutual willingness,” he added.

The US is expected to sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional weapons programs on September 21.

America’s own sanctions since 2018 have targeted Iran’s economy based on what is dubbed as the “maximum pressure” policy. The US has also sanctioned hundreds of individuals and companies in the past three years.

Iran's Currency Shaky After US Announcement Of Reimposing UN Sanctions

The Central Bank of Iran is trying to prevent a further fall in the value of the battered rial after the United States announced September 19 that it will unilaterally reimpose UN’s suspended international sanctions on Iran.

Monday morning the US dollar again broke through the 270,000 rial threshold in Tehran, despite efforts of the Central bank a day earlier to keep the rate below that number. Despite President Hassan Rouhani's remarks dismissing the US move, the market is anticipating a further deterioration in the country's economic situation.

The Central Bank since last week has been forced to abandon the policy of offering cheaper, preferential rate dollars for businesses and particularly importers. Now, the government sells dollars close to the same rate as the so-called black market.

Since the United States imposed its own sanctions in 2018, the Iranian currency has depreciated nine-fold. Beginning in April 2018, the government offered fixed-rate cheap dollars to those who applied to import essential goods. This was aimed to prevent inflation and keep prices of food and other necessities low for the population. However, soon reports and accusations emerged that many well-connected individuals were using the mechanism to get cheaper dollars and move their capital abroad.

Lack of oil exports, however, have drained the government coffers and local media, such as ISNA and Khabaronline news agencies report that the Central Bank is not offering cheap dollars any longer. Instead, it is using its resources to manage one rate and essentially make the split between the official and the black-market rates disappear.

Prices of basic foods are rising daily, to the extent that last week top government officials held meetings just to find ways to keep the rising price of eggs low. Some local media have dubbed eggs a “luxury item”.

Pompeo Accuses European Allies Of Inaction Over Iran Arms

Washington, United States | AFP | Sunday 9/20/2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said European leaders "haven't lifted a finger" to halt arms sales to Iran after they rejected a unilateral US declaration that UN sanctions on Tehran were back in force.

The administration of President Donald Trump said the sanctions had been re-activated under the "snapback" mechanism in a landmark 2015 nuclear treaty -- despite Washington having withdrawn from the deal.

On Sunday, France, Germany and Britain issued a joint statement saying Washington's "purported notification" was "incapable of having any legal effect."

Pompeo told Fox News that "arms sales, tanks, air defense systems, all of those, in a couple of weeks, would have been permitted to have been sold. And the Europeans have not joined us in this.

"They tell us privately we don't want the arms sales to come back... but they haven't lifted a finger."

Pompeo added that "weapons that Iran will sell will end up in the hands of Hezbollah and make life tragically worse for the people of Lebanon," which was rocked last month by a massive port explosion in Beirut.

The sanctions on Iran were lifted when it joined the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) and Germany in signing the 2015 treaty to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

Pompeo on Sunday also called for fundamental changes to Iran's government in remarks at a conservative megachurch in suburban Dallas, Texas.

"We pray for the Iranian people that they will get a government that they deserve," he said.

Bahrain Says It Stopped Militants Planning Attacks Earlier This Year

Bahrain says it broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran earlier this year who intended to launch attacks in the island nation home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, just days after normalizing relations with Israel, its interior ministry told local media.

Earlier, the Saudi state TV aired footage of what appeared to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage showed assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid. A Saudi state TV reporter said those planning the attacks wanted to carry them out in revenge for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani this January in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Nine militants have been arrested, while another nine are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report said, but the report did not put a time frame on the arrests. Later it became apparent that the plot was uncovered months before the normalization of relations with Israel.

Earlier local media reports said the interior ministry found that a new group cllaed the "Qassem Soleiman Brigade" had planned to attack several public and security structures in Bahrain.

Iranian state media acknowledged the reports of the Bahraini arrests, but no official commented on them. Iranian officials including commanders of the Revoltionary Guard have threatened both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for normalizing relations with Israel.

Authorities uncovered the plot after finding an explosive on the street, the pro-government Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej reported, citing the Interior Ministry. The ministry accused Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard of supporting the militants, who also had surveilled oil sites and military bases, the newspaper said. The militants also planned on assassinating bodyguards of Bahraini officials, the newspaper said.

Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declined to comment and referred questions to the Bahraini government.

Reporting by AP and Reuters

Canada's Trudeau Urges Iran To Release Hunger-Striking Rights Advocate In Intensive Care

The Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau has condemned the imprisonment of Iranian human rights lawyer and women's rights leader Nasrin Sotoudeh who was transferred to the intensive care unit of a Tehran hospital, due to heart problems.

"Canada strongly condemns the imprisonment of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer and women’s rights leader. Her sentence and treatment are unacceptable, and we call on Iran to release her immediately - defending human rights is not a crime," Trudeau tweeted on Saturday, September 19.

On Saturday morning Sotoudeh's husband Reza Khandan in a tweet said that Ms. Sotoudeh had been taken to Tehran's Taleghani Hospital from Evin Prison. In a later tweet on Saturday evening Mr. Khandan said that his wife who was suffering from a heart problem, very low blood pressure, shortness of breath and extreme weakness was receiving treatment at the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Ms. Sotoudeh, 57, has been on a hunger strike to demand the release of Iran's political detainees during the coronavirus pandemic since August 11.

Sotoudeh, who has represented a variety of clients including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Sherin Ebadi, is serving a 33-year sentence for security-related offenses. These include her defense of women protesting compulsory hijab and other prisoners of conscience. Sotoudeh has won several international awards including the German Judges Association (DBR) Award in 2020, the European Union’s Human Rights Award (CCBE) in 2019, the Sakharov Prize in 2012, and the Freedom to Write Award in 2011.