The Week in Review: July 24th – July 31st

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new sanctions on materials Washington believed were used by the Iranian government in its nuclear and military programs.

Pompeo said the sanctions targeted 22 separate materials, and represented a “major expansion” on the penalties, calling Iran’s military programs “a grave threat to international security.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah was accused of trying to mount an attack on the Israeli army at the Lebanese border. Sources speaking to Reuters said the operation was a response to an Israeli attack in Syria which killed a member of Hezbollah. Hezbollah denied the claim.

Two fires were reported in Iran, following a spate of blasts and explosions near sensitive military sites and residential complexes. A brush fire was put out near a military housing complex in Tehran after a short circuit on a power line. The police and the fire department denied there had been an explosion.

The second fire took place in Kermanshah, western Iran, when an explosion set a fuel tank alight. The tank was located in Dolat Abad industrial parking area. No casualties were reported for either incident.

A video released by families of the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, called on the Iranian government to release demonstrators who had been protesting against the downing of the plane. The commercial flight was shot down by Iranian security forces in January, who said they had mistaken the plane for a military jet.

The families also called for an “exhaustive, independent investigation” into the tragedy, and accused the Iranian government of using the incident to leverage diplomatic negotiations.

And a record-breaking spike in COVID-19 deaths was reported by the Iranian government. Official health ministry figures cited 235 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours, with the number of cases rising to 296,273, while deaths were registered at 16,147 in total. The figures have been consistently contested by analysts and medical experts in Iran and around the world, who say the figures are likely to be much higher.