Israeli soldier who killed wounded Palestinian loses appeal

Elor Azaria, center, is embraced by his parents during a hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 30 July 2017

Israeli soldier who killed wounded Palestinian loses appeal

JERUSALEM: Israeli media are reporting that a military court has upheld the 18-month sentence of a soldier convicted of fatally shooting a Palestinian attacker who lay wounded on the ground.
Media report that the court Sunday found no reason to accept Elor Azaria’s appeal and overturn the sentencing handed down after his conviction on a manslaughter charge.
Azaria’s trial deeply divided Israel. The verdict marked a victory for military commanders seeking to preserve its vaunted code of ethics, while prominent hard-line politicians called him a hero who was being persecuted.
Azaria, an army medic, was caught on video last year as he fatally shot the wounded Palestinian, just after the man stabbed a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestinian was lying wounded on the ground and already unarmed.
Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his decision to remove metal detectors from the entrance to a Jerusalem holy site after deadly unrest, saying it was in the best interest of security.
Israel installed metal detectors and security cameras after a July 14 attack near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in which gunmen killed two policemen.
Israeli police said the metal detectors were needed because guns were smuggled into the site and the assailants emerged from it to carry out the attack.
The move sparked Muslim protests and deadly unrest, and the government removed the detectors on Tuesday as well as the cameras.
That, however, brought fierce criticism from the far-right flank of Netanyahu’s own conservative coalition.
A poll of Israeli Jews found 77 percent thought the move constituted “capitulation,” while even the normally pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom attacked his handling of the crisis.
Palestinians saw the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the holy site, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
It is located in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
Muslims refused to enter the shrine and prayed in the streets outside for more than a week.
Protests and deadly unrest erupted in the days after the measures were installed, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
Holy site showdown a rare victory for Palestinians
While Palestinians’ joy at the removal of the Israeli security measures was somewhat tarnished by clashes inside the mosque compound later Thursday, Palestinians that night chanted and hugged each other, as car horns sounded incessantly.
A huge Palestinian flag was carried by young men onto one of the Old City’s walls — an extremely rare act in a city that Israel considers its undivided capital.
“We feel joyous. I live quite far away but I walked here for Al-Aqsa,” said Nisreen, a young woman in the crowd.
“The Israelis think this is it. God willing this is just the beginning.”
The Waqf, the Islamic endowments authority that runs Al-Aqsa, refused to enter until the measures were removed.
Days of street protests followed, with thousands praying outside the compound as part of a boycott.
The situation came to the boil around the main weekly prayers on July 21.
Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians erupted in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Warnings grew that the unrest could spiral out of control.
A top aide to US President Donald Trump flew in for crisis talks, while King Abdallah of Jordan, the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, urged Netanyahu to remove the security measures.
Early on Tuesday, the metal detectors were removed but barriers and other new structures remained in place. The boycott continued.
Two days later, police returned to remove the rest, sparking the joyous scenes.
Experts say the Palestinian political leadership of all factions, including the internationally recognized leadership of the Palestinian Authority, had been mostly irrelevant, with the movement led largely by protesters.
“Al-Aqsa is a rare unifying symbol for all Palestinians,” a source said.


World Bank approves $34 million to back Lebanon’s coronavirus vaccination drive

Updated 53 min 20 sec ago

World Bank approves $34 million to back Lebanon’s coronavirus vaccination drive

  • Lebanon has seen daily infection rates soar to the highest levels in the region

WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Thursday said it had approved a re-allocation of $34 million in funds to support Lebanon’s vaccination efforts as it races to contain the coronavirus pandemic, marking the first such outlay of funds by the Bank.
Lebanon has seen daily infection rates soar to the highest levels in the region, with over 6,000 cases reported on Friday, adding to economic and political pressures caused by a financial collapse and a huge port blast in August.
Thursday’s re-allocation of funds from Lebanon’s existing Health Resilience Project, is the first World Bank-financed operation to fund the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
It will provide vaccines for over 2 million individuals, with doses set to arrive in Lebanon by early February, and earmarked for priority groups such as high-risk health workers, those over 65, epidemiological and surveillance staff, and people aged 55 to 64 with co-morbidities.
“Fair, broad, and fast access to COVID-19 vaccines is critical to protecting lives and supporting economic recovery,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.
The World Bank said the decision to free the funds followed efforts by Lebanese authorities to conduct a vaccine readiness assessment, establish a national vaccine committee, and prepare a draft National Vaccine Deployment Plan (NVDP) in line with World Health Organization recommendations.
The Bank is working closely with over 100 countries to pave the way for them to receive low-interest loans and funding to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as part of a new $12 billion initiative approved in October.