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COVID-19 cases, fatalities on rise in Arab countries

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Palestine, Libya and Qatar announced more infections and deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Friday as they continued efforts to contain the disease, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a statement, the Palestinian Health Ministry said 23 more people have died from the virus in the last 24 hours in territories under Israeli occupation and blockade and that 822 new cases have been identified.

In the Palestinian territories with a population of about five million (West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem), the total number of cases reached 164,395, including 1,707 deaths and 145,601 recoveries.

The National Center for Combating Diseases in Libya registered 10 new virus-related deaths, 487 cases, and 925 recoveries.

READ: Iran bans the import of US and UK Covid-19 vaccines

The total number of cases rose to 104,002, including 1,568 deaths and 79,193 recoveries.

The Qatari Health Ministry confirmed one more death, 195 new infections and 139 recoveries, bringing the caseload to 145,466, including 246 deaths and 142,453 recoveries.

The virus outbreak has claimed more than 1.9 million lives in 191 countries and regions since last December.

Over 88.38 million cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 49.25 million recoveries, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

READ: Egypt bans mobile phones in hospitals following ICU ward mass death

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Regeni case: Rome’s Public Prosecution requests initiation of Egypt officers’ trial

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The Public Prosecutor in Rome on Wednesday officially requested legal action against four Egyptian National Security Agency officers accused of the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.

Italian news agencies quoted the Public Prosecution office stating that the four officers, Major General Tariq Saber, Colonel Aser Kamel Muhammad Ibrahim, Colonel Husam Helmy and Major Ibrahim Abdel Al-Sharif, are accused of kidnapping, conspiring to commit murder and inflicting severe bodily harm.

Unidentified assailants kidnapped Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was 28-years-old at the time, in January 2016. A few days later, Regeni’s body was found mutilated and bearing signs of torture, in a suburb of Cairo.

Green Italy party to sue government over arms sale to Egypt

Regeni came to Egypt to research trade unions, which the local authorities regard as a politically sensitive subject.

The Italian investigators accused the Egyptian intelligence services of: “Torturing Regeni for days by burning parts of his body, and kicking and punching him, in addition to using a cold weapon and truncheons before killing him.” However, Cairo rejects these accusations.

The Italian authorities identified five suspects in 2018, who were working for the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.

The Italian Public Prosecution dismissed charges against one of the suspects, concluding that the victim died due to respiratory failure caused by blows inflicted on him.

If the pre-trial chamber judge agrees to initiate the trial, it will take place in absentia due to the Egyptian authorities’ refusal to extradite the suspects.

Egypt: interior ministry transfers suspect in Italian student’s murder

On 31 December, the Italian government asserted that the Egyptian Public Prosecution’s decision to drop the charges against the suspected National Security agents is “unacceptable”.

The case has caused tension between Cairo and Rome, as Italy accuses the Egyptian authorities of refusing to cooperate, and even misleading Italian investigators.

However, Egypt bought two frigates from Italy worth €1.2 billion last June, in a sign of the recovery of bilateral relations between the two countries.

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Algeria’s energy minister denies Lebanon adulterated fuel crisis

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Algerian Energy Minister Abdelmadjid Attar asserted on Thursday that there was no crisis with Lebanon regarding the shipment of so-called adulterated fuel by the state-owned oil company Sonatrach.

According to Anadolu Agency, this came in Attar’s response to a question asked in the National Assembly.

The minister pointed out that what was known as the Sonatrach case in Lebanon has nothing to do with the national oil company, but instead concerns internal political problems within the Lebanese state.

He added: “We have no problem with Lebanon. Sonatrach’s branch in London has undertaken all the responsibility for what happened and replaced the allegedly adulterated fuel with another shipment.”

READ: It is time for reconciliation between Morocco and Algeria

Attar continued: “The fuel was not adulterated, but it was mixed with sand, therefore the shipment was replaced.”

A few days ago, media in both countries reported news of threats issued by Sonatrach to the Lebanese state-owned electricity company about resorting to international arbitration to obtain its arrears for the fuel shipment.

Neither Sonatrach nor the Algerian Energy Ministry made any immediate comment on the validity of the news.

Since January 2006, Sonatrach has concluded an agreement with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy to supply it with diesel and fuel oil to benefit the state-owned Lebanese electricity company.

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Libya lost 92% of oil, gas revenues in 2020

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Official statistics have shown that Libya’s oil and gas revenues decreased by 92 per cent last year, as the blockade imposed for months on oil facilities caused the suspension of most export operations.

The Central Bank of Libya announced that the revenues of the year 2020 were estimated at 2.9 billion Libyan dinars ($652 million), compared to 31.4 billion Libyan dinars in 2019.

Libya has been divided for years between two rival administrations, the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, and one in the east, where the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar are stationed.

In the oil-rich country, crude oil production and exports are the responsibility of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), which disagrees with the central bank’s revenue estimations.

Chaos has prevailed in Libya since the outbreak of the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Thus, energy facilities, the main source of the country’s wealth, have been repeatedly attacked by fighting forces.

READ: Tunisia, Libya discuss strengthening oil sector cooperation

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