Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
Lockdown: Bad news keeps spirits low in Italy's red zone
After almost two weeks shut off from the outside world, the mood is as overcast as the weather and the strain is starting to be felt, says Marzio Toniolo, a primary school teacher in quarantine in northern Italy because of the coronavirus outbreak. "I feel a little melancholy because the news coming from neighboring towns is not comforting," says Toniolo, who sends Reuters daily videos from his home in the Lombardy red zone -- one of a cluster of 10 towns in lockdown.
New coronavirus infections may drop to zero by end-March in Wuhan: Chinese government expert
Wuhan, the epicenter of China's coronavirus epidemic, will likely see new infections drop to zero by the end of this month, an expert with the country's top panel on battling the illness said on Thursday, even as the city reported a quicker rise in new confirmed cases. Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409. Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that.
Palestinians declare state of emergency over coronavirus: prime minister
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a 30-day state of emergency on Thursday after coronavirus cases were reported in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. The decree was announced by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh hours after officials closed Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplaces of Jesus, and banned foreign tourists from West Bank hotels.
UK's Raab hopeful for Yemen war de-escalation this year
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, criticized by some at home for British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, said on Thursday he was hopeful for a de-escalation this year in Yemen's five-year-old civil war, in which London backs the Saudi-led coalition. The United Nations has been trying to re-launch political negotiations and Saudi Arabia began informal talks with the Iran-backed Houthi movement last September. Riyadh had significantly reduced its air strikes while the Houthis halted missile and drone attacks on the kingdom, but a spike in violence since January shattered the calm.
Dubai's ruler abducted daughters and threatened former wife, UK judge rules
Dubai's ruler ordered the abduction of two daughters and orchestrated a campaign of intimidation against his former wife, a British judge has ruled, in what is likely to be a major blow to his reputation as a Middle East reformer. Judge Andrew McFarlane said he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's former wife, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, during a custody battle over their two children at London's High Court.
ICC clears way for probe of alleged Afghanistan war crimes
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will investigate whether war crimes were committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan military and U.S. forces after an appeals panel said on Thursday the "truth-seeking" inquiry should go ahead. The ICC decision, which came days after the United States agreed to pull its troops from the long-running conflict, opens the way for prosecutors to launch a full investigation, despite U.S. government opposition.
Guyana opposition leader accuses government of fraud in presidential vote
Guyana opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday accused the nation's elections commission of fraud in tallying the results of Monday's presidential vote, saying the group inflated the vote count to favor the incumbent, President David Granger. The South American nation this week held an election to choose who will oversee an oil boom set to transform the former British colony, which faces a test of whether it can sustainably manage a sudden influx of natural resource wealth.
Brazil's Bolsonaro to meet Trump on Saturday: sources
Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is preparing to meet U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four people familiar with the Brazilian leader's travel plans told Reuters. Representatives for both sides were expected to finalize the plans in a meeting at the presidential palace in Brasilia on Thursday, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the talks have not been made public.
Brazil pulls diplomats from Venezuela Embassy
Brazil's right-wing government has begun to pull its diplomats out of the embassy and consulate in Caracas as it moves to downgrade relations with Venezuela's leftist government. Instructions published on Thursday in the official gazette removed five diplomats and 11 members of consular staff in Caracas, including Consul General Elza de Castro and two minister counselors at the embassy.
Russia, Turkey agree ceasefire deal for Syria's Idlib
Turkey and Russia agreed a ceasefire deal on Thursday in Syria's Idlib region, their two leaders said after talks in Moscow to contain a conflict which has displaced nearly a million people in three months. Russian President Vladimir Putin, standing next to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, said he hoped their agreement would lead to a halt of military action in Syria's last major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.