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Arabic press review: Egypt helping Kurdish-led troops in Syria fighting Turkish forces

Meanwhile, in efforts to avoid the spread of coronavirus, rights groups call for the release of political prisoners in Egypt, Saudi Arabia 'isolates' banknotes and Qatar suspends public transport
Egypt and its Gulf allies have provided 'significant military support' to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria, says Al-Araby Al-Jadeed (AFP)

Egypt support for SDF in Syria

Egypt has opened a communication channel between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main Kurdish opposition militant group in a bid to confront the Turkish role in northern Syria, a report by the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper said on Friday.

According to unnamed Egyptian sources, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have provided “major military assistance” to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to aide them in their battle against Turkish troops in northeastern Syria.

The sources added that the SDF received significant financial support from both the UAE and Saudi Arabia with Egyptian coordination.

The paper earlier revealed that the Egyptian government had been providing political support to the SDF, such as opening a diplomatic office and a TV channel for them in Cairo.

As part of the coordination between Egypt, its Gulf allies and the Syrian government, nearly 3,000 Syrian fighters are due to join the battles in Libya, the newspaper said, without specifying whether they belonged to the Syrian army. 

The transfer of Syrian troops will take place “after an expanded agreement between the Syrian regime and militia commander in eastern Libya, retired Major General Khalifa Haftar and Cairo”, according to the paper.

“They will be airlifted to Egypt, and then will enter Libya via the Egyptian-Libyan land borders,” the report said.

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Four human rights organisations called on the Egyptian government to“take the necessary measures towards avoiding the infection of detainees with the coronavirus”, according to Arabi21 online newspaper.

The rights groups said in a joint statement that authorities should immediately release prisoners and detainees, and take the legal measures stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Among the alternative measures authorised by Egyptian laws and suggested by the groups are house arrests and travel bans.

“Prisoners have a right to a healthy environment and permanent medical care, which is difficult to find in Egyptian jails as a result of overcrowding and lack of necessary conditions appropriate for community protection from this virus,” a statement added.

Egypt has reported 80 cases of coronavirus infections and two deaths, while 27 cases have recovered.

The human rights organisations noted that Egyptian authorities should pay attention to "the high level of overcrowding in prison cells, headquarters and places of detention, as well as poor ventilation and sanitation, as there are many cases suffering from various chronic diseases". Adding that "all these issues can lead to a humanitarian disaster that can be difficult to remedy".

Saudi banknotes on quarantine

The Saudi Arabian monetary authority (Central Bank) has isolated all Saudi currencies coming to the branches of the institution from outside the kingdom through banks and money transfer companies, as a precautionary measure against coronavirus infections, according to the Saudi newspaper Alsharq Alawsat.

'Banknotes, coins and other payment methods are not different from the daily elements that we deal with … that can transmit viruses'

- Saudi monetary authority

Saudi Arabia reported 17 new coronavirus cases, also known as COVID-19, bringing the total number in the kingdom to 62.

The monetary authority explained that “banknotes, coins and other payment methods are not different from the daily elements that we deal with, such as door and wagon handles, or purchased items on the market, or at airports or other public surfaces that can transmit viruses”.

The authority pointed out that it was following up and coordinating with the relevant authorities inside and outside the kingdom, to take all preventive and precautionary measures followed by the central banks to deal with the currency or other means of payment at the time of a pandemic, according to Alsharq Alawsat.

Qatar suspends transport

Qatar’s ministry of transportation has announced a temporary three-day suspension of the Doha subway service and public transport bus service as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, according to the New Khalij website.

The ministry stated that metro and public transport bus services would be suspended from Thursday evening until Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the ministry of religious endowments mandated mosques to clean and disinfect them regularly to contain the spread of the virus.

The ministry also added that "worshipers who show symptoms of cold or influenza should retire from mosques during the period of illness".

* Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.