01/13/2024, 10.17
ASIA TODAY
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Riyadh (re)entrusts Assad with control of Syrian pilgrimages to Mecca

Today's news: despite pro-life propaganda  record number of women resorting to sterilisation in Russia; Vietnamese court sentences two former ministers to prison for corruption; At least two dead and 12 injured in an explosion in Kabul, the third in a few days; In Thailand the Israeli embassy launches campaign to remember hostages in the hands of Hamas in Gaza.

SYRIA - SAUDI ARABIA
Riyadh has returned control of pilgrimages (Hajj and Umrah) to the holy places of Islam in Saudi Arabia to Bashar Al-Assad. For over a decade the organization was entrusted to the Syrian opposition, in the context of the war that has bloodied the country for years and led to the closure of the Saudi embassy in Damascus. The decision came at the end of a meeting in Jeddah between the Syrian Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) and the Minister of Hajj and Umrah.

RUSSIA
Despite the great fertility propaganda and abortion bans, since 2022 in Russia the numbers of women between 15 and 49 years old who resort to sterilization with tubal closure and other surgical or medicinal systems have grown significantly, according to Rosstat data. Last year there were almost 10 thousand operations, an absolute record in the last thirty years.

VIETNAM
A Vietnamese court has jailed two former ministers and convicted dozens of officials of corruption and malfeasance in the Covid-19 testing scandal. Former Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long will serve 18 years in prison for bribes worth .25 million, while Chu Ngoc Anh, former Minister of Science and Technology, three years.

AFGHANISTAN
Two people were killed and 12 injured in an explosion (a grenade) outside a shopping center in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, in western Kabul. The deadly attack occurred on January 11 and is the third explosion (also targeting a mosque) in the capital in less than a week. The area is considered an enclave of the Hazara community, a predominantly Shiite ethnic group.

THAILAND - ISRAEL
The Israeli embassy in Bangkok yesterday launched a banner campaign on tuk-tuks to demand the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and to remember the 100th day of captivity, which falls tomorrow. The faces, names and ages of the various people are shown along with a message in Thai and English that reads "Bring them home". Some 121 hostages were freed in November, including 23 Thai citizens; 39 others have lost their lives in the ongoing war.

KOREA
Pyongyang has halted operations of a radio station used to send coded messages to its agents in South Korea, in the latest sign of a change of direction in relations. The North's regime has recently stepped up pressure on Seoul, declaring it the "principal enemy," never reuniting with the South, and vowing to improve its ability to launch a nuclear attack.

ARMENIA - IRAN
The representative of Tehran's Foreign Ministry, Ahmad Sobhani, visited Yerevan, declaring that Iran - Azerbaijan's historic adversary - "cannot accept any solution that causes violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia". He then declared himself available to intervene in peace negotiations with Baku.

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