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Xinhua Middle East news summary at 2200 GMT, May 15

Xinhua
16 May 2021, 08:05 GMT+10

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held on Saturday a phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden over the current situation in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that the prime minister thanked the United States for the "unreserved support" for "Israel's right to defend ourselves."

Netanyahu assured Biden that Israel "is doing everything" to avoid harm to civilians.

Meanwhile, U.S. media outlets reported that Biden raised his concerns with the Israeli leader about civilian fatalities and the protection of journalists. (Israel-U.S.-Gaza)

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CAIRO -- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Saudi Arabian counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Saturday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as well as efforts to prevent further escalation of the situation.

The two sides held a phone conversation, during which they exchanged views on the current conflict in Gaza, said a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The ministers agreed that the prospect of a full-scale confrontation in the Palestinian enclave will have severe repercussions in the region, adding that they will maintain coordination in order to end the military escalation. (Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Gaza)

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BAGHDAD -- Iraq's authorities have lifted the planned 10-day full lockdown put into effect to curb the rising COVID-19 infections, replacing it with a partial curfew.

The Iraqi authorities earlier decided to tighten COVID-19-related restrictive measures, including a full curfew from May 12 to 22. Malls, restaurants, cafes, and other public facilities were required to be closed.

One day after the full curfew came into effect on Wednesday, a statement by the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety said that the committee decided to ease the restriction and replace the full curfew with a partial one to facilitate the vaccination campaign. (Iraq-Coronavirus-Lockdown)

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CAIRO -- Egypt started dredging works for expanding the Suez Canal's southern section to allow two-way traffic in the international man-made waterway, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced Saturday.

The dredging is part of a project to develop the southern entrance of the Suez Canal, the SCA said in a statement.

SCA's chairman Osama Rabie said in the statement that the project is a continuation of developing the waterway that began with the opening of the new Suez Canal in 2015, adding that dredging works will take place in several stages. (Suez-Expanding-Egypt)

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