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Vaccine vote, hunger warning, Israeli abduction: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Vaccine vote, hunger warning, Israeli abduction: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Shoppers crowd a supermarket Tuesday to stock up before Lebanon enters total lockdown on Thursday. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

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Parliament’s health committee votes today on a bill authorizing the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The pharma giant had reportedly said that it would not sign a deal to deliver the vaccines unless Lebanon waives liability, a requirement under current law. After the committee hashes out the legislation, it will head to the full Parliament, which must be convened “with no room for delays,” committee chair Assem Araji told L’Orient Today.

Save the Children’s Lebanon director warned that half of Lebanese could face hunger during the total lockdown, which starts tomorrow. Jennifer Moorehead said almost half the population “can’t afford to buy sufficient food to last them through the supermarket closures,” questioning delivery capacity as supermarkets are ordered to close for in-person shopping. With Lebanese reeling under the burden of a financial crisis exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank announced yesterday that it had approved a $246 million loan agreement with the Finance Ministry for the Lebanon Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project, which aims to aid vulnerable populations and provide emergency relief. The loan must be approved by Parliament before funds are disbursed.

The Association of Lebanese Industrialists urged officials to amend lockdown measures to allow the manufacturing of items integral to the production of medical and food supplies. Despite exempting producers of medical and food supplies, the lockdown decision bars factories that are “vital in the production cycle” such as printing and packaging, the association said in a statement. It blasted the decision as “illogical,” warning that it would lead to the paralysis of crucial sectors and cause shortages of essential products.

Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri renewed their feud over government formation. On Monday, the president was caught by TV cameras accusing the premier-designate of lying about presenting him with a cabinet lineup, a day after his son-in-law, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, launched a scathing attack on Hariri, labeling him untrustworthy and a culprit in Lebanon’s financial demise. In response, Hariri took to Twitter, quoting a Bible verse touching on “cheating and cunning.” Aoun and Hariri had returned to the halls of power in 2016 through partnering with each other.

An Israeli patrol abducted a Lebanese shepherd yesterday near the border between Lebanon and occupied Palestine. The Lebanese army announced that at 3:40 p.m., an Israeli patrol kidnapped Hassan Qassem Zahra, who was attending to his flock outside Kfar Shuba, and forcibly moved him across the border. The incident prompted the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to intervene and initiate contact with Israel to ensure Zahra’s safe return. Israel, for its part, said the “suspicious shepherd” had been transferred for questioning, claiming he had crossed the Blue Line demarcation with Lebanon.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Parliament’s health committee votes today on a bill authorizing the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The pharma giant had reportedly said that it would not sign a deal to deliver the vaccines unless Lebanon waives liability, a requirement under current law. After the committee hashes out the legislation, it will head to the...