Iran and Syria signed an agreement on Wednesday to expand their "comprehensive" military and security cooperation.
It was signed between Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Baqeri and Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub in Damascus, reports Xinhua quoting a semi-official Fars news agency.
As part of the agreement, Iran "will strengthen Syria's air defense system," Baqeri said, adding that "the agreement will increase our determination for joint cooperation to confront the US pressures".
The people do not welcome the US presence in the region, he noted.
The Iranian commander also urged Turkey to settle problems with Syria through dialogue.
For his part, Ayyoub said that the US has been "unable to bring Iran, Syria and the resistance front to their knees."
Iran has been a major ally of the Syrian government in its fight against the armed rebels since 2011.
To curb the spread of coronavirus, the Palestine government declared an extension of the state of emergency by 30 days in the Palestinian territories.
President Mahmoud Abbas came up with the announcement on Sunday, reports Xinhua.
In a presidential decree, Abbas urged the authorities concerned "to continue to take all necessary measures to face the dangers resulting from the coronavirus, protect public health and achieve security and stability."
So far, Abbas has issued a presidential decree for the fourth time to extend the state of emergency to fight the pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 19 people in the country.
On Sunday afternoon, Palestine announced 208 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Palestinian territories up to 4,458.
The majority of the cases were found in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, the largest district in West Bank, which has become the new epicentre of the pandemic in Palestine.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that out of the total coronavirus infections in the country, 50 are medical staff who contracted the disease during treatment of patients at hospitals.
It said three of the total cases are currently connected to a respirator, adding that the total number of respirators available in Palestine is 350, and most of which are occupied.
According to the ministry, 150 new respirators are expected to arrive in Palestine soon.
US President Donald Trump and a number of officials were sued by Iran for their involvement in the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.
General Ali Qasi Mehr, prosecutor of Tehran, said his country filed the case with the Interpol accusing 36 US individuals, including the president, reports Xinhua.
He said they have been accused of murder and terrorist acts against the Iranian senior commander near an airport of Iraq.
Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with an Iraqi militia commander, were killed in a US airstrike on January 3 near Baghdad International Airport.
The Chinese ambassador to Israel was found dead in his home north of Tel Aviv on Sunday, Israel's Foreign Ministry said.
Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the ambassador's death was believed to be from natural causes.
Du Wei, 58, was appointed envoy in February in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. He previously served as China's envoy to Ukraine. He was found dead at the ambassador's official residence in Herzliya.
He is survived by a wife and son, both of whom were not in Israel.
Israel enjoys good relations with China. Bilateral trade has grown in recent years, as have American concerns over Chinese investment, and concerns over spying on one of its key regional allies.
The ambassador's death came just two days after he condemned comments by visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who denounced Chinese investments in Israel and accused China of hiding information about the coronavirus outbreak.
Pompeo told Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom that the U.S. and Israel have an opportunity to "build upon our relationship rather than give the Chinese Community Party the opportunity to undermine it."
The Chinese Embassy published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post on Thursday rebuffing Pompeo's claims that China was responsible for the outbreak and American concerns about Chinese investment in Israel.
"We trust that the Jewish friends are not only able to defeat the coronavirus but also the 'political virus,' and choose the course of action that best serves its interests," the embassy said.
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday said it launched a military satellite into the orbit amid wider tensions with the United States, describing it as a successful launch after months of failures.
There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which the Guard called "Noor," or light. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, which contend that such launches advance Iran's ballistic missile program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On its official website, the Guard said the satellite successfully reached an orbit of 425 kilometers (264 miles) above the Earth's surface. The Guard called it the first military satellite ever launched by Tehran.
The two-stage satellite launch took off from Iran's Central Desert, the Guard said, without elaborating or saying when exactly the launch took place. The paramilitary force said it used a Ghased, or "Messenger," satellite carrier to put the device into space, a previously unheard-of system.
The launch comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.
Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The latest came in February, when Iran failed to put its Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit.
That failure came after two failed launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites last year, as well as a launchpad rocket explosion in August. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in February 2019 also killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
The rocket explosion in August drew even the attention of President Donald Trump, who later tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure. The successive failures raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran's program, something Trump himself hinted at by tweeting at the time that the U.S. "was not involved in the catastrophic accident."
The U.S. alleges such satellite launches defy a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. American officials, as well as European nations, worry that these launches could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. The Guard launching its own satellite now calls that into question.
Tehran also says it hasn't violated a U.N. resolution on its ballistic missile program as it only "called upon" Iran not to conduct such tests. Western missile experts have also questioned the U.S. contention that Iran's program could have a dual use for nuclear weapons.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
The launch comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. Iran since has broken all the deal's limitations while still allowing U.N. inspectors to its sites.
On Sunday, the Guard acknowledged it had a tense encounter with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf last week, but alleged without offering evidence that American forces sparked the incident.
A U.S. Navy release video of the incident last Wednesday shows small Iranian fast boats coming close to American warships as they operated in the northern Persian Gulf near Kuwait, with U.S. Army Apache helicopters.
In the Guard's telling, for which it released no evidence to support its allegations, its forces were conducting a drill and faced "the unprofessional and provocative actions of the United States and their indifference to warnings." It said the Americans later withdrew.
Then on Monday, the Guard said it has significantly upgraded the range of its anti-warship missiles and that it now possesses surface-to-surface and subsurface anti-warship missiles with a range as high as 700 kilometers (430 miles).
Iran periodically announces major advances in its weapons capabilities that cannot be verified independently. Its armed forces are believed to have surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers, or 1,250 miles, that can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Mideast.
Even as both face the same invisible enemy in the coronavirus pandemic, Iran and the United States remain locked in retaliatory pressure campaigns that now view the outbreak as just the latest battleground.
Initially overwhelmed, Tehran now seeks to sway international opinion on U.S. sanctions — imposed by the Trump administration after the U.S. president pulled America out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers — by highlighting its struggles with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. In Iran, the regional epicenter of the outbreak, the virus has killed more than 5,290 people, from among over 84,800 reported cases.