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TOP STORIES TODAY

Israel sets vaccine roll out, as Palestinian cases climb with no relief in sight (Mondoweiss) 
  • "135,356 Palestinians tested positive for COVID-19; 108,631 recoveries; 1,207 deaths
  • Of those who tested positive 87,454 live in the West Bank; 15,744 live in East Jerusalem; 32,158 live in Gaza
  • 370,152 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19; 344,372 recoveries; 3,057 deaths"
"We’ve covered the race to secure a vaccine in this newsletter in the past. Israel acquired 6 million doses from Moderna and 8 million doses from Pfizer (both requires two doses)."

"It should have enough to cover its 9 million citizens, however, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are seemingly still months away from a vaccine. What’s more at the moment there are only procurement plans to cover 20% of the Palestinian population, with an emphasis on those over 65, healthcare workers, and those with chronic conditions."
Cabinet to vote on banning all international flights amid new virus strain fears (Times of Israel)

"Ministers were set to vote Monday on a proposal to shut down all air travel to and from Israel in an attempt to prevent the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, as senior health officials said it was possible the variant was already present in the country."

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the cabinet meeting that he was in favor of shutting down all inbound and outbound international flights."

“I intend to close the skies as quickly as possible, like in the the first wave [of the pandemic],” Netanyahu said. “Foreign nationals will not enter the country. The mutation is spreading all over the world and we are testing its significance.”
'Intentional lethal force': UN experts slam Israel for killing Palestinian child (Middle East Eye) 

"United Nations experts condemned the Israeli military for killing a Palestinian child during a protest in the occupied West Bank earlier this month, calling the shooting of 15-year-old Ali Abu Aliya a 'grave violation of international law.'"

In a statement released on Thursday by the UN Human Rights Office, the experts called on the Israeli government to conduct an 'independent, impartial, prompt and transparent civilian investigation' into the boy's death. 

"'The killing of Ali Ayman Abu Aliya by the Israeli Defense Forces - in circumstances where there was no threat of death or serious injury to the Israeli Security Forces - is a grave violation of international law,' they said. 'Intentional lethal force is justified only when the security personnel are facing an immediate threat of deadly force or serious harm.'"
Plenty of room at empty Bethlehem inns ahead of Covid-hit Christmas (The Guardian) 

Oliver Holmes and Sufian Taha writes: "Normally the city’s busiest time of year, Christmas in Bethlehem is set to be a sober affair with no international tourists".

"Without its suited staff and jet-lagged guests, the true vastness of the 240-room hotel lobby is clear. Dozens of sofas have been stored away, and the carpets are covered in plastic sheeting to protect them from dust. Chandeliers hang lonely and lustreless in the dim light. Timezone clocks tick behind an empty reception desk."

“We can’t go on like this,” says the duty manager, Khader Hihi, who walks along the shiny tiled floors. “The whole of Bethlehem depends on tourism.”

"Since March, the Manger Square Hotel, which provides four-star accommodation popular with Christian pilgrims, has been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most other large hotels nearby are empty."

Israeli woman found dead near settlement in West Bank (Middle East Eye)

"Israeli police opened an investigation on Monday into the death of an Israeli woman whose body was found on Sunday near a settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank."

"Esther Horgen, a 52-year-old mother of six from Tal Menashe settlement, was announced dead at the scene after Israeli police searched a forest near Tel Menashe and found her body, which showed evidence of violence."

"Horgen's family had earlier in the day told police she had not returned from a run."

Benny Gantz, Israel's defence minister, said: "Security forces are already working to catch the heinous killer. We will never accept a reality in which human life is rendered worthless.”
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