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Coronavirus: Trump may block US citizens coming home if COVID-19 infection feared

The administration of US President Donald Trump is considering a measure to block US citizens and permanent residents from returning home if they are suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, a senior US official confirmed to Reuters.

The official said a draft regulation, which has not been finalized and could change, would give the government authorization to block individuals who could “reasonably” be believed to have contracted COVID-19 or other diseases.

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Trump has instituted a series of sweeping immigration restrictions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, suspending some legal immigration and allowing US border authorities to rapidly deport migrants caught at the border without standard legal processes.

Reuters reported in May that US government officials were concerned that dual US-Mexico citizens might flee to the United States if the coronavirus outbreak in Mexico worsened, putting more stress on US hospitals.

The draft regulation, which was first reported by The New York Times on Monday, would be issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has played a lead role in the pandemic response, the senior official told Reuters.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

A Trump pandemic task force was not expected to act on the proposal this week, although that timeline could change, the official said.

The United States leads the world in both confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, with more than 5 million cases recorded and over 162,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrants’ rights project, said in a written statement that barring US citizens from entering the country would be unconstitutional and “another grave error in a year that has already seen far too many.”

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Saudi Arabia appoints Khulood al-Khamis as first female head of regional council

Saudi Arabia has appointed Dr. Khulood Mohammed al-Khamis to become the head of Tabuk’s regional council, effectively making her the first woman to hold the role across the region.

Her appointment became official after approval from Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister which made al-Khamis the Secretary-General of Tabuk’s regional council.

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Al-Khamis formally met with the Governor of Tabuk Region Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz on Monday.

“His Highness congratulated Dr. Khulood al-Khamis on this confidence as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary-General of the regional council at the level of the Kingdom, wishing her continued success in her new work,” read a statement of their meeting published on the Saudi Press Agency.

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“I’m happy to be the first Saudi woman to hold this position and to be a daughter of Tabuk, and this is not surprising from the leader on the matter, and from (His Highness) Prince Fahd bin Sultan, Governor of Tabuk region, and the keenness to empower Saudi women to assume leadership positions in the Kingdom,” al-Khamis told Al Arabiya.

Al-Khamis holds a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Howard University in the United States in 2018, and worked as a teaching assistant, a lecturer, then an associate professor at the Faculty of Science at the University of Tabuk. She also presented many research studies during her career and participated in many specialized activities in the fields of science.

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Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority opens 218 criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s Control and Anti-Corruption Authority has initiated 218 criminal cases during the previous period, according to a statement from an official source.

The cases targeted several officials, businessmen and judicial employees across the Kingdom involved in crimes liked to corruption, bribery and mismanagement.

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The official statement posted on the authority’s website included 10 specific cases in details.

The first case involved the arrest of a businessman in the Eastern Province and 10 other citizens, including a current member of the Shura Council, a former judge, a current notary, a former bank employee, a former district police chief, a former customs director for an airport, and a number of retired officers.

The 11 individuals in the first case were arrested for their involvement with businessman bribing them during their work period amounting to more than 20 million riyals, as well as his involvement in money laundering and fraud cases represented by raising the value of his real estate in the Kingdom to more than 1 billion riyals in order to inflate his wealth by conducting fake sales operations for them with huge cash sums. The businessman used a member of the Shura Council (before his official joining of the Shura Council), and a number of his company employees and obtaining facilities and loans from banks inside and outside the Kingdom in an irregular manner in the names of his companies and entities belonging to his employees with huge sums of money.

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The second case involved the arrest of a director of a port and a number of employees, including the director of public relations and the director of the projects department, and two in the maintenance department, for violating their job duties and exploiting their influence to achieve personal interests, illicit financial gain, and money laundering by obtaining projects in the port using commercial entities whose owners have been suspended.

“The Authority affirms on the continuation to pursue anyone who exploits the public office to achieve personal gain or harm the public interest in any way possible, and that it is continuing to hold the negligent parties accountable and apply what the law rules against them,” the authority said in a statement.

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US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan completely legal: State Department IG

US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan in May 2019 were in complete accordance with the law, a senior State Department official said Monday.

The official, who held a phone briefing with reporters on background, said a report from the State Department Inspector General’s office proved that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 2019 arms sale was was “completely consistent with all statutory requirements.”

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The official said Pompeo executed the arms sales in response to Iranian threats, “not just from Iran but from its proxies” as well.

The official also said the report looking into the sale of $8 billion in critical defense systems to Middle East partners would soon be made available.

Diana Shaw, the deputy Inspector General, signed off on the report after President Donald Trump fired then Inspector General Steve Linick in May, and his successor Stephen Akard, recused himself from the investigation.

Democrats alleged that Pompeo abused the law; the report rejected this.

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Trump returns to White House briefing, says ‘shooting’ outside White House

President Donald Trump was abruptly escorted by a US Secret Service agent out of the White House briefing room as he was beginning a coronavirus briefing Monday afternoon. He returned minutes later, saying there was a “shooting” outside the White House that was “under control.”

“There was an actual shooting and somebody’s been taken to the hospital,” Trump said. The president said the shots were fired by law enforcement, saying he believed the individual who was shot was armed. “It was the suspect who was shot,” Trump said.

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Trump said he was escorted to the Oval Office by the agent. The White House was placed on lockdown following the incident.

Trump praised the work of Secret Service personnel for their work in keeping him safe.

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Coronavirus: Republicans, Democrats signal readiness to sit down again over aid bill

US Republicans and Democrats both said Monday that they were ready to resume negotiations to agree on a new coronavirus relief bill for Americans.

President Donald Trump said that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “want to meet to make a deal.”

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Later in the day, Schumer said on the Senate floor that Democrats “remain ready to return to the table.” But the Democrat called for Republicans to “meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the US economy has been battered, and many companies were forced to lay off employees. The jobless benefits in the last relief bill expired on July 31.

But on Sunday, Trump signed executive orders aimed at extending the benefits without the approval of Congress.

Read more: Coronavirus: President Trump signs orders extending economic relief for Americans

One order aims to get $400 a week added to unemployment benefits, while two others offer some protection from evictions and relief for student loans.

A fourth measure – opposed by many Republicans as well as Democrats – orders a freeze in payroll taxes.

Republicans have argued that federal benefits should be trimmed because the combination of state and federal unemployment assistance left many people better off financially than they were before the pandemic and, therefore, disinclined to return to their jobs.

Read more: US Republicans, Democrats at loggerheads over new coronavirus relief package

Many Democrats contend that some people don’t feel safe going back to work when the coronavirus is surging again around the country.

Last week, Schumer told White House negotiators to agree to a legislative package at least $1 trillion larger than the $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans had already proposed.

The White House rejected the offer, ending nearly two weeks of almost daily negotiations.

On Monday, Trump repeated claims that the Democrats were only wanted bailout money for “Democrat-run states and cities that are failing badly.”

Referring to the momentum for renewed talks, Trump said: “They know my phone number!”

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Explosion hits near Iraq-Kuwait border crossing: Iraqi security source

An explosion has been reported near the Jraischan crossing on the Iraq-Kuwait border, according to an Iraqi security source.


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Coronavirus: UAE extends deadline for holders of expired entry permits, visas

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates announced its decision to extend the deadline for holders of expired entry permits and visas by one month from August 11, according to a statement.

The statement from the UAE’ Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, ICA, said the decision will enable them to leave the country and exempt them from all resulting fines.

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“The authority’s decision is part of the national initiatives launched by the UAE and is in implementation of the UAE Cabinet’s related decisions and regulations of entry and residency of foreigners,” according to a statement published on the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“The ICA urged those eligible to leave the country within the set deadline, which will help facilitate their return to the UAE,” the statement added.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The United Arab Emirates detected on Monday 179 new cases of coronavirus, raising the total number of COVID-19 62,704, and zero deaths in the past 24 hours.

The total number of active cases currently receiving treatment in the UAE is 5,581, according to UAE government spokesperson Dr. Omar al-Hammadi.

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Israel draws down number of soldiers along borders with Lebanon and Syria

Israel’s military on Monday announced a reduction of forces on its northern border with Syria and Lebanon, after deploying reinforcements in recent weeks in response to a spike in tensions.

“Troop reinforcements in the area are being reduced,” an army statement said.

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Israel remains technically at war with its northern neighbors Lebanon and Syria and maintains a military presence along the frontier.

After an airstrike blamed on Israel killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria last month, there were widespread reports that the Lebanese group was planning to retaliate.

In response, Israel sent more troops and military equipment north.

Over the past three weeks, Israel has twice struck Syrian military targets in response to border unrest.

Israel also said that it had repelled an attempt by Hezbollah fighters to penetrate the border, but the Shiite group denied any involvement in the incident.

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Sudan says Ethiopia’s controversial dam talks delayed for ‘consultations’

Sudan on Monday said that negotiations over Ethiopia’s massive and controversial dam construction on the Blue Nile have been postponed for a week.

Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were suspended last week after Addis Ababa insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

“A meeting at the level of ministers of the three countries took place on Monday, during which Sudan asked to postpone the next meeting for one week for internal consultations,” Sudan’s water ministry said in a statement.

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Egypt and Sudan view the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dam as a threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it crucial for its electrification and development.

South Africa, which holds the presidency of the African Union and is mediating negotiations, has urged the countries to “remain involved” in the talks.

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Belarus elections deemed unfair by US, Germany and others; candidate missing

Several countries, including the United States, on Monday criticized the presidential elections in Belarus, saying they were unfair.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the conduct of the August 9 presidential election in Belarus, which was not free and fair,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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Pompeo cited restrictions on ballot access for candidates, the prohibition of local independent observers and detention of peaceful protesters and journalists.

Belarusian police fired tear gas at protesters in Minsk on Monday after the opposition accused President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election victory, a Reuters witness said.

Police also fired stun grenades as thousands of people took to the streets of the capital.

There was also concern over the whereabouts of Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity to become Lukashenko’s main electoral opponent a few weeks ago.

Lithuania’s foreign minister tweeted that he had not heard from Tikhanouskaya for several hours.

Events are being closely watched by Russia, whose oil exports run through Belarus to the West and which has long regarded the country as a buffer zone against NATO, and by the West, which has tried to lure Minsk from Moscow’s orbit.

Germany called for the European Union to discuss sanctions on Belarus that were lifted in 2016 to foster better relations.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin used a congratulatory telegram to nudge Lukashenko to accept deeper ties between the two nations, which the Belarusian leader has previously rejected as an assault on his country’s independence.

Tikhanouskaya, whose campaign rallies drew some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, told reporters she considered herself the election winner.

The opposition said they were ready to hold talks with the authorities.

– With Reuters

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Tunisia’s prime minister-designate to form technocratic govt without parties

Tunisia’s prime minister-designate said on Monday he would form a purely technocratic government following wrangling among political parties over the formation of the country’s next administration.

The decision by Hichem Mechichi will likely put him in confrontation with the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, the largest political group in parliament, which announced it would oppose the formation of a non-political government.

However, the proposal for a government of independent technocrats without political parties will win support from the powerful UGTT trade union and some other parties, including Tahya Tounes and Dustoury el Hor.

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Mechichi said that the government’s focus would mainly be on social hardship and the weak economy, explaining that “while the political dispute continues, some Tunisians have not found drinking water.”

Protests have erupted in the country’s interior this year over widespread unemployment, lack of development and poor public services in health, electricity and water.

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Mechichi, who was proposed by President Kais Saied last month to succeed Elyes Fakhfakh, said his priority would also be to rescue the struggling public finances. Fakhfakh resigned over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Tunisia is struggling to revive its collapsed economy since a 2011 revolution that ended the rule of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring.

The government said last month it had asked four creditor countries to delay debt repayments, as it announced more pessimistic economic and budget forecasts for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The request on debt repayments underscores the dire condition of the public finances, already a source of concern before the coronavirus crisis pummeled the global economy.

Mechichi, 46, an independent, needs this month to form a government capable of winning a confidence vote in parliament by a simple majority, or the president will dissolve parliament and call for another election.

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France calls for ‘rapid formation’ of new Lebanon govt after PM steps down

France on Monday urged the “rapid formation” of a new government in Lebanon shortly after premier Hassan Diab stepped down over the deadly Beirut port blast.

“The aspirations expressed by the Lebanese in terms of reforms and governance must be heard,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, adding that a new government would have to “prove itself” to the people.

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Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned on Monday after the Beirut explosions killed over 150 people and wounded more than 6,000. Dozens are still missing.

Diab alleged that “some” sides did not let his government work and placed the blame on unnamed parties for the failure to implement badly needed ecomomic reforms.

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Israel’s top court blocks home demolition of accused Palestinian attacker

Israel’s top court on Monday blocked the military’s plans to demolish the home of a Palestinian accused of killing a soldier, in a ruling condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision marked a rare judicial rebuke of Israel’s controversial practice of destroying the homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks that critics say amounts to illegal collective punishment.

Israeli soldier Amit Ben Ygal was killed by a stone-thrower on May 12 while his unit was patrolling in the village of Yaabad, near Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

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Israel arrested several people that day and later identified Nizmi Abu Bakr as Ygal’s suspected killer.

Trials of Palestinians suspects in the West Bank are conducted by Israeli military tribunals.

Abu Bakr has not yet been convicted but his home demolition had already been scheduled.

His family successfully appealed the demolition order, arguing that innocent people with no role in the attack would suffer.

In a 2-1 decision seen by AFP, Israel’s high court ruled that “the (suspect’s) wife and children have no connection to the criminal acts of the father, neither by helping him, nor by knowing his intentions, nor by aiding him after the fact.”

“Destroying their home will leave them homeless,” and would amount to “a violation of respect for human rights,” the judgement said.

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Netanyahu called it a “miserable decision” on Twitter and demanded a new high court hearing, with a larger panel of judges.

“My policy as prime minister is to destroy the homes of terrorists and I intend to continue it,” he said.

The father of the slain soldier, Baruch Ben Ygal, quoted by Israeli media, condemned the court ruling as “a gift for terrorism.”

Hamoked, an Israeli rights group that assists Palestinians living in occupied territory and filed the appeal on behalf of Abu Bakr’s family, praised the decision.

But it voiced regret that the court had not gone a step further by “completely prohibiting this policy of destroying houses which amounts to collective punishment.”

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Trump calls for National Guard to be deployed to Portland amid violent protests

Protesters outside a Portland police union building set fires and used a mortar to launch commercial-grade fireworks at police and officials said Monday that two officers were injured and 16 demonstrators were arrested.

US President Donald Trump Monday called on the National Guard to intervene. “The Mayor and Governor are putting people’s lives at risk,” he tweeted.
Trump said that the “Guard is ready to act immediately.”

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A day after demonstrators managed to get inside the union building and set a fire, the protesters on Sunday night blocked a road and set dumpster fires outside it, police said in a statement.

The fireworks were launched at police as they tried to clear out the demonstrators and one of the two officers treated at the scene suffered a burn on her neck.

The demonstrators who were arrested face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct or interfering with a peace officer. Their detentions came after nine protesters were arrested Saturday night and 24 Friday night.

Sunday night’s demonstration came after demonstrators marched to the building from a nearby park. As police moved to break up the gathering, the commercial-grade fireworks were thrown at officers.

The department released photos of the officers’ injuries, including a picture of a face covering that the statement described as being “partially melted” from the fireworks.

The protests in Portland have happened nightly for 70 days since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

The violence reached an apex when protesters targeted a federal courthouse last month that was defended by federal agents who lobbed tear gas at the attacking demonstrators in two straight weeks of nightly confrontations.

The federal agents withdrew more than a week ago amid hopes for calm, but the violent protests have resurfaced miles from the courthouse.

Three officers were injured in a protest Saturday night, including two who were treated at a hospital and released. And on Friday night, demonstrators defied orders to disperse and hurled rocks, frozen or hard-boiled eggs and commercial-grade fireworks at officers.
Some filled pool noodles with nails and put them on the road, causing extensive damage to a patrol vehicle, police said.

While violent, the gatherings over the last week have been much smaller than the events in front of the federal courthouse that drew thousands who turned out nightly to protest the presence of the US agents, who were sent by the Trump administration to protect the federal courthouse downtown.

The police union building for the Portland Police Association is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the federal courthouse.

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Algerian court sentences journalist to three years in jail

An Algerian court on Monday sentenced a journalist and activist to three years in prison on charges of harming national unity, a rights group that defends detainees said.

The court in the capital, Algiers, also handed a four-month jail sentence to two other activists for the same charges, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees. Justice Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.

The sentences against jounalist Khaled Drareni and activists Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche are linked to protests that toppled President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last year.

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The protests broke out in February 2019 to reject Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in power, and demand the departure of the ruling elite.

The authorities banned the demonstrations earlier this year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Drareni has been in detention since late March, while Benlarbi and Hamitouche were released in July after being detained for more than two months.

The authorities, as part of appeasement measures, have released several protesters since the election of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune last December.

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Coronavirus: UAE announces 179 new COVID-19 cases, zero deaths

The United Arab Emirates has detected 179 new cases of coronavirus, raising the total number of COVID-19 62,704, and zero deaths in the past 24 hours.

The total number of active cases currently receiving treatment in the UAE is 5,581, according to UAE government spokesperson Dr. Omar al-Hammadi.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Authorities also announced that 198 patients have recovered on Monday, raising the number of recoveries in the country to 56,766.

The spokesman answered a series of questions during the weekly briefing on Monday, where he revealed that the increase in cases of 30 percent during the last period is due to “social visits and not following the preventive measures.”

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Al-Hammadi stressed that the authorities are monitoring all the variables related to the numbers of cases across various nationalities in the country on a daily basis, stressing that the increase in the number of infections among citizens has been announced after “this worrying indicator has been monitored, in order to preserve the health and safety of everyone.”

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Beirut firefighters were not given keys, location of burning hanger: The Independent

Firefighters who responded to the fire at the port in Beirut last Tuesday were not given the location or the keys to the burning warehouse holding 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, according to sources from the Lebanese capital’s fire department who spoke to The Independent.

Beirut’s fire department officials told the Independent’s Bel Trew that the 10 fire crew members, including one female firefighter, who arrived on the scene were not given much information, delaying their response to contain the initial fire prior to the stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploding in a second larger blast.

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“If they had the hangar door open already, if they knew where they were going, they might have had moments to control the fire. So you would not have had the first initial explosion that triggered the larger blast,” Fadi Mazboudi, a fire department chief, told the Independent.

Over 150 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured in the capital last Tuesday when a warehouse storing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after catching on fire.

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Lebanese PM resigns less than a week after deadly Beirut explosion

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation Monday after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Beirut in the days after the deadly explosion.

Since the explosion, 300,000 people in Beirut have been left homeless after the shockwave from the larger second blast destroyed and damaged homes in the capital.

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Shortest political stint ever? Charbel Wehbe’s timeline as Lebanon’s foreign minister

Newly appointed Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe may be considered the shortest-lived minister of his country’s political history after spending only a week in his role.

Wehbe, a diplomatic adviser to President Michel Aoun, was appointed on August 3 following the resignation of his predecessor Nassif Hitti who quit on the same day over differences with Prime Minister Hassan Diab and frustrations of being sidelined.

A day later, at least 158 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured in the capital when a warehouse storing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after catching on fire.

The explosion had destroyed entire buildings and shattered windows, including the foreign ministry, leaving around 300,000 people in Beirut homeless.

Four days later, Dozens of protesters stormed the foreign ministry building on August 8, amid anti-government demonstrations after the massive explosion.

Wehbe attended his first and last cabinet meeting on Monday, August 10, during which the prime minister announced the government’s resignation responding to the demand of the people.

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Chinese Communist Party’s sanctions on US officials ‘won’t work’: Senator Ted Cruz

US senators Monday reprimanded China’s decision to apply sanctions against senators and several other officials, calling it an attempt to distract from Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong.

“The Chinese Communist Party thinks that it can distract from its crackdown on Hong Kong, including the arrest of freedom fighter Jimmy Lai, by re-announcing sanctions against Senator Cruz that were already not credible to begin with. It won’t work.” Lauren Blair Aronson, a spokesperson for Senator Ted Cruz, told Al Arabiya English.

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The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it would apply sanctions against US officials, including Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio and others starting Monday, in response to Washington’s move to impose sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials whom it accused of curtailing political freedoms in the city.

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Rubio and Cruz, along with Congressman Chris Smith and Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback were targeted last July, as was the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The four had been critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward minority groups and people of faith.

– Wire agencies