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Concerns grow as condition of Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike turns ‘critical’

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A Palestinian prisoner languishing in hospital after an extensive hunger strike teetered close to death on Sunday, sparking international concern and Palestinian demands that Israel release him from detention without charges.

Hisham Abu Hawash, a 40-year-old member of the Islamic Jihad militant movement, began refusing food in August to protest Israel holding him without charges or trial.

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The married father of five from Dura in the south of the Israeli-occupied West Bank was being held under administrative detention, a practice of arresting suspects for renewable six-month terms without allowing them to view the charges or evidence against them.
“His condition is difficult and complex,” Liad Aviel, spokesman of the Shamir Medical Centre in central Israel where Abu Hawash is being held, told AFP.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said medical teams that visited Abu Hawash had found him “in critical condition requiring expert clinical monitoring.”

According to the ICRC, Abu Hawash has been refusing food for around 140 days.

It issued a statement warning of “potentially irreversible health consequences and possible tragic loss of life.”

His wife, Aisha Hrebat, told AFP on Sunday he was in a “very dangerous” situation, adding that “since yesterday he can’t talk at all and doesn’t know what’s going on around him.”

“Even after he ends his strike, he will have difficult problems,” she said, adding their lawyer was submitting an urgent appeal against his detention to Israel’s supreme court.

An Israeli security source described Abu Hawash as “an Islamic Jihad operative, who was arrested due to involvement in terror activity.”

Israel says the protocol prevents crimes while authorities continue to gather evidence, though Palestinians say it denies them of their rights.

“The way Israel has used administrative detention is arbitrary,” said Shawan Jabarin, head of the Al-Haq rights group based in Ramallah on the West Bank.

He said Abu Hawash was one of about 550 Palestinians held by Israel in administrative detention.

Abu Hawash’s plight has ignited Palestinian support.

Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh called on Israel via Twitter to “release Abu Hawash immediately,” with his appeal echoed by protesters who gathered over the weekend in Ramallah.

At a rally in Gaza, Ismail Radwan, an official with the Hamas group that rules the enclave, said Israel must understand that prisoners constitute a “red line” for the Palestinians.
The Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza, said it holds “the Israeli occupation fully responsible for the deteriorating health” of Abu Hawash, threatening revenge if he dies.

Read more: Rockets fired from Hamas-ruled Gaza land off central Israel’s coast

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Stampede at Liberian church gathering kills 29

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A stampede has killed at least 29 people at a religious event in the suburbs of the Liberian capital Monrovia, police said on Thursday.

Those who died from the incident include 11 children and a pregnant woman.

The bodies have been taken to the morgue of Redemption Hospital, close to where the incident occurred in a beach area called New Kru Town.

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The stampede erupted when a gang of thugs armed with knives attacked some of the hundreds attending the ceremony at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, police spokesman Moses Carter told The Associated Press.

One person has been arrested, he said.

Local media said it was a Christian prayer gathering, known in Liberia as a “crusade,” held in a football field.

Witness Emmanuel Gray, 26, told AFP he heard “heavy noise” towards the end and saw several dead bodies.

Street gangs have become an increasing problem in Monrovia and other Liberian cities in recent years, according to residents.

President George Weah was expected to visit the scene Thursday, according to Liberian media reports.

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is an impoverished country that is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, as well as the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic.

Read more:

UN chief cites ‘demonstrable effort’ at peace in Ethiopia

Britain steps up Kenya investments with railway hub, eyes $1 bln deals

US sanctions Liberia’s ex-warlord and senator Prince Johnson

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US approves ballistic requests to ship US weapons to Ukraine

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The US has approved requests by Baltic nations to ship US-made weapons to Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion, officials said Thursday.

A State Department official in Berlin, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding talks on Ukraine, said the US was “expediting authorized transfers of US-origin equipment from other allies.”

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“European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance (to) Ukraine in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.

A source familiar with the authorisations said the approval was for urgent requests by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to assist Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic.

The exact amounts and types of weapons were not specified, but the Baltic nations’ arsenals include Javelins, portable missiles capable of destroying tanks.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops, along with tanks and artillery, have been deployed near the Ukrainian border since late last year, rattling the three Baltic nations, which are members of NATO.

President Joe Biden’s administration since last year has approved $650 million in weapons to Ukraine, $200 million of it last month amid fears of war.

While the Biden administration boasts that the shipments are the most ever by the US, Ukraine has voiced hope for military supplies as quickly as possible, with shipments from nearby countries especially valuable.

Britain has also rushed to support Ukraine, announcing on Monday that it was sending anti-tank weapons.

Read more:

Explainer: What are US military options to help Ukraine if Russia invades

US senators work on bipartisan bill to aid Ukraine

Ukrainian president thanks US for help during ‘difficult time’

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Bomb blast in Pakistan’s Lahore kills two, injures 16

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At least two people were killed and 16 injured Thursday by a bomb blast in a busy shopping district of the Pakistani city of Lahore, police said.

“Initial investigations show that it was a time-controlled device on a motorbike which was the cause of the blast,” Rana Arif, spokesman for Lahore police, told AFP.

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