Palestinians protest in support of prisoner on hunger strike

Karemah Zahran holds photograph of her husband Ahmed Zahran, who has been on a partial hunger strike for nearly three months, outside Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Palestinians protest in support of prisoner on hunger strike

  • 5,000 Palestinians are serving time in Israeli prisons, including those convicted by military courts of taking part in attacks against Israelis.

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Dozens of Palestinians protested outside an Israeli military court in the occupied West Bank on Thursday calling for the release of a prisoner who has been on a partial hunger strike for nearly three months.

The protesters carried portraits of Ahmed Zahran, 42, who was arrested in February and is being held without charge in what is known as administrative detention. He is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist group that Israel blames for a bombing in a settlement in August that killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl and wounded her brother and father.

Zahran has been arrested several times and previously spent 15 years in Israeli prison.

His family says he went on a hunger strike to protest administrative detention, under which Israeli authorities can hold detainees for months or years without charge or trial. Rights groups have criticized the practice, which Israel says is necessary to prevent attacks and to protect classified information.

Nearly 5,000 Palestinians are serving time in Israeli prisons, including those convicted by military courts of taking part in deadly attacks against Israelis. An estimated 450 are being held in administrative detention.

Zahran's brother, Adel, says he is taken to a clinic and given nutritional supplements when he faints.

Israeli troops dispersed Thursday's protest with sound grenades and tear gas. There were no reports of any injuries.

In a separate development, Israeli police said 18 vehicles were vandalized in an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said forensic teams were investigating at the scene in the neighborhood of Halaila, where anti-Arab graffiti was found on walls nearby.

Hard-line Israeli settlers have been known to carry out “price tag” attacks against Arab property in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion. It was unclear what might have sparked the latest apparent attack.

The incident comes ten days after vandals slashed the tires of over 160 vehicles and sprayed anti-Arab slogans in a different neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion condemned that incident as a "hate crime" and called on police “to find the criminals as fast as possible and bring them to justice.”

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.


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

Updated 21 January 2021

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.