Iran signs agreement to bolster Syria’s air defense systems

Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, met with Syria President Bashar Assad during his second visit to Syria since 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Iran signs agreement to bolster Syria’s air defense systems

  • Assad said the agreement is the result of “years of cooperation for confronting terrorism” in Syria
  • Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri met with Syria President Assad during his second visit to Syria since 2019

TEHRAN: Iran’s military chief has signed an agreement with Syria’s president to reinforce Syria’s air defense systems as part of a military cooperation agreement, Iranian state TV reported Friday.
Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, met with Syria President Bashar Assad during his second visit to Syria since 2019.
Assad said the agreement signed by both sides is the result of “years of cooperation for confronting terrorism” in Syria.
Bagheri said it “will improve the determination of the two nations to confront US pressures.” He didn’t elaborate.
US ally Israel has occasionally attacked Iranian forces in Syria that Iran says are there to support Syria’s fight against rebel groups as part of the country’s 9-year civil war.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a brief video aired on Iranian state TV, Assad is seen receiving Bagheri and his delegation.
In November, Israeli fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force in Syria following rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Iran, which rarely comments on Israeli strikes, is the No. 1 regional supporter of Assad while also supporting anti-Israel militant groups like Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah.


Algeria reopens mosques, beaches after 5-month lockdown

Updated 15 August 2020

Algeria reopens mosques, beaches after 5-month lockdown

  • Restaurants were also allowed to reopen, and mosques that can hold more than 1,000 people and ensure social distancing measures
  • Crowds packed beaches Saturday in the capital Algiers, celebrating the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean Sea

ALGIERS: Algeria started reopening its mosques, cafes, beaches and parks Saturday for the first time in five months, gradually relaxing one of the world’s longer virus confinement periods.
Curfews remain in place in more than half the country, and masks are required outdoors as Algeria tries to keep virus infections down. But authorities decided to start reopening public places starting Saturday, saying the virus infection rate is believed to have stabilized.
Crowds packed beaches Saturday in the capital Algiers, celebrating the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean Sea amid the August heat.
Restaurants were also allowed to reopen, and mosques that can hold more than 1,000 people and ensure social distancing measures.
However, mosques remain closed to all women, children and the elderly until further notice, and the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday will remain banned to limit crowds. Mosque-goers must wear masks and bring their own prayer mats.
“This reopening will depend entirely on the discipline of each person to respect protection measures,” said the minister for religious affairs, Mohamed Belmahdi, who was among those attending the first services Saturday at Khaled Ibn El Walid Mosque in the resort town of Heuraoua east of Algiers.
He warned that authorities would close mosques again if Algerians show even a “slight indifference” toward preventive measures. “The health of citizens comes before faith.”
Algeria has reported more than 37,000 virus infections and 1,350 deaths as of Friday, the third-highest death rate reported in Africa after South Africa and Egypt.