Hamas calls on PA to lift Gaza sanctions to prevent spread of coronavirus

Citizens in Gaza start wearing masks and gloves, after declaring coronavrius cases on 22 March 2020 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Citizens in Gaza start wearing masks and gloves, after declaring coronavrius cases on 22 March 2020

The Hamas government has urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to lift economic sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2017.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Hamas said in a statement it “invited Palestinian factions and the Ministry of Health to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.”

This comes after the Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed its first two cases in the enclave, in returnees who had travelled to Pakistan and are currently being treated at a field hospital in Rafah.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, who called on Abbas to lift the sanctions in order to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission, said on Monday that “confronting the challenge of the spread of the coronavirus requires Palestinian unity at the national level.”

The Gaza Strip has already seen public markets, schools, and event halls closed over the past two weeks to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, reports Reuters.

Israeli media: coronavirus crisis will cause PA to collapse

Authorities in Gaza have also decided to shut down the enclave’s restaurants, cafes and reception halls. Friday prayers at mosques have also been suspended until further notice.

The PA, Qassem added, “should end the policy of punishing the Gaza Strip, particularly during these times when our people need to strengthen our internal front.”

In April 2017, Abbas slashed the salaries of thousands of government workers in Gaza by 30 per cent, increasing hardship in the impoverished coastal enclave that suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment among its population of about two million Palestinians.

Due to economic hardship caused by such internal rivalries and years of blockades and conflict that have brought Gaza near to breaking point, the World Health Organisation has warned its healthcare system would not be able to deal with an outbreak of the deadly disease.

Inquiry: Where did Israel’s Mossad get 100,000 coronavirus testing kits from?

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Hamas allocates $500,000 to support Palestinians in Lebanon during coronavirus outbreak

Students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as a precaution in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 February 2020 [Hussam Chbaro/Anadolu Agency]

Students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as a precaution in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 February 2020

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced on Tuesday that the organisation will allocate $500,000 to support Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon during the coronavirus pandemic.

Haniyeh said the move comes “as a result of the emergency conditions that the Palestinian people are going through in Lebanon,” adding that “in difficult circumstances, [he] took a decision to urgently relieve [Palestinian] people in the camps.”

The statement called for solidarity and expressed a wish for Lebanon to overcome the coronavirus outbreak with “solidity, will and determination.”

The move comes after the Lebanese government announced a nationwide lockdown on 15 March in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The measures have shuttered the country’s land, air and seaports to traffic, closed all non-essential public and private institutions and forced people to stay inside.

Lebanon hosts 475,075 Palestinian refugees across 12 camps, according to an URNWA report from 1 January 2019.

Palestinians in Lebanon, who are banned from working in several industries apart from construction and cleaning, are unable to work, and have been left with no money to buy food until the lockdown ends.

Read: Palestinian shoemaker behind West Bank’s only mask factory

Olfat Mahmoud, a Palestinian refugee and cofounder of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (PWHO), told Arab News that “neighbours now share food,” but that the major “problem is that the camps are overcrowded… until now we have no cases, but if one person gets infected it means that 50,000 will get infected.”

Executive Chairman of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea called on the government to impose “measures regarding Palestinian refugee camps… namely, closing all camps and preventing everyone from entering or leaving them” adding that “the state has to provide them with whatever they need.”

Lebanon’s Minister of Health Hamad Hasan, however, said that health care for refugees is a responsibility shared by the state and United Nations agencies but blamed the international community for being slow to react to the crisis.

“The international community with its UN agencies is a bit late in putting plans, thinking about establishing a field hospital or supporting the health ministry so that it can carry out its obligations towards its people,” Hasan said.

UNRWA said that attempts to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus started early on with awareness campaigns, including the distribution of hygiene materials and leaflets.

However, the cash-strapped agency has been forced to launch an appeal to raise $14 million to “prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.” The organisation has faced budgetary issues since 2018 when the US halted its $360 million annual aid package.

Read: Hamas calls on PA to lift Gaza sanctions to prevent spread of coronavirus

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Israeli media: Coronavirus crisis will cause PA to collapse

Security forces set up a checkpoint in the streets to warn citizens not to go out after a curfew was announced by authorities as a measure against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ramallah, West Bank on 23 March 2020. [İssam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

Security forces set up a checkpoint in the streets to warn citizens not to go out after a curfew was announced by authorities as a measure against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ramallah, West Bank on 23 March 2020

Reports in the Israeli media have expressed concern that the coronavirus crisis will cause the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Right-wing daily Israel Hayom, citing an unnamed “senior PA official”, reported that the Palestinian economy “is almost entirely incapable of enduring such a crisis”.

“Without basic income and economic prospects, self-employed Palestinians and the majority of households in the PA appear closer than ever to collapse”, the report added.

According to “concerned senior PA officials”, such a collapse could occur “in the span of a few days”.

Palestinian officials further “believe the devastation of the healthcare and economic systems” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip “increases the odds of security incidents”.

READ: It will be a catastrophe if the coronavirus spreads within Israeli prisons 

There is also “the extreme scenario whereby hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from PA areas and Gaza will look to escape into Israel in an attempt to save their lives and their loved ones”.

While cooperation and coordination between Israeli occupation authorities and the PA is being maintained at present, “senior PA officials say the outcome is inevitable”.

Israel Hayom added that the question isn’t “if the healthcare and economic systems will collapse but when”.

The newspaper noted that Palestinian households have grown “accustomed to living with monthly bank debt, generous credit frameworks and overdraft at low-interest rates in the assumption that the economic prosperity, higher wages, and low unemployment wouldn’t disappear in an instant”.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has shut down and minimised “economic activity and markets in the PA, whose economy and financial system are highly dependent on the Israeli economy and market situation”.

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Palestinian shoemaker behind West Bank’s only mask factory

Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus [Mosab Shawer / ApaImages]

Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus

A Palestinian shoemaker has responded to the coronavirus crisis by transforming his Hebron factory into the only manufacturer of face masks in the occupied West Bank, reported +972 Magazine.

Amjad Zaghir made the shift “overnight”, and now oversees the production of “thousands of masks a day”, making him “a national hero for helping Palestinians protect themselves from the virus”.

According to +972 Magazine, “Zaghir got to work as soon as news broke of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Bethlehem”, buying a mask to study how it is made – and if he could recreate it.

“I approached my friend, a pharmacist, and asked him what materials are used to make masks,” said Zaghir. “He explained that what we use in shoemaking is unsuitable, and pointed me in the right direction”.

Finding the right fabric from a local vendor, Zaghir began experimenting with the methods of making the masks.

“At first, I tried sewing the masks using the same machine we use to sew shoes. But that attempt was unsuccessful because the fabric for the masks was too thin and easily ripped apart,” said Zaghir. “I tried to iron the fabric to create the folds, but I ended up burning it.”

The 30-year-old business-owner told +972 Magazine that it wasn’t simply profit that motivated him.

This is about helping my people, and a way of providing work opportunities…There’s a crisis in Hebron, and many are unemployed.

Article continues below images

Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus [Mosab Shawer / ApaImages]
Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus [Mosab Shawer / ApaImages]
Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus [Mosab Shawer / ApaImages]
Palestinian workers produce face masks at a shoe factory in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 14, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus. The factory, under the supervision of the Palestinian Standards and Measurements Institute, is set to produce between 10 to 15 thousand facial masks on daily basis to provide the local market with the highly-demanded mask considered vital in fighting the spread of coronavirus [Mosab Shawer / ApaImages]

After consulting with various sewing workshops and pharmacists, Zaghir “discovered there was a machine in the city that can fold the masks while ironing them”, while “to moderate the heat levels at 400 degrees Celsius, he sandwiched the masks between layers of paper”.

On the first day, the factory managed to create 500 masks, and the following day 1,000 more. Having boosted staff numbers, the factory now makes 7-9,000 masks daily.

Zaghir has sold masks to “government employees, hospitals” and “Palestinian police”, with official institutions buying the masks at a symbolic cost of NIS 1.50 per unit.

Zaghir hopes to be producing 100,000 masks a day in the next week based on a new technique.

“My mask is unique, it is unlike any other in the world. Whoever comes across this mask will immediately know it’s made in al-Khalil (Hebron),” he added.

Read: Hamas calls on PA to lift Gaza sanctions to prevent spread of coronavirus

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Palestinian dumped by Israelis at checkpoint for exhibiting coronavirus symptoms

A general view show Al-Jalama checkpoint closed as a preventive measure amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, in the West Bank on 14 March 2020 [Oday Daibes/ApaImages]

A general view of a checkpoint closed as a preventive measure amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, in the West Bank on 14 March 2020 

A Palestinian labourer suffering from coronavirus symptoms was found dumped by Israeli authorities at the Beit Sira checkpoint that connects Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Footage recorded by 25-year-old Ibrahim Abu Safiya who found him “dumped like trash,” has gone viral on social media. It shows the Palestinian labourer who works in Israel lying near the checkpoint, causing people to express their outrage over the treatment of the worker.

PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy@PalestinePDP  

Widespread condemnation of inhumane Israeli treatment of this Palestinian worker. He was dumped on the side of the road by an Israeli military checkpoint near Ramallah after his Israeli employer suspected he could have #coronavirus. Malek is now receiving proper care.@ilo

Embedded video

410:25 – 24 Mar 2020Twitter Ads information and privacy

Tanya Hashwa تان@TanyaShami  

Palestinian worker was thrown by Israel into West Bank because he was ill & were afraid he had coronavirus. Where is the the simple humanity take him to Palestinian hospital vs. throwing him on the street like he’s garbage https://twitter.com/palmissionuk/status/1242184455005114376 …Palestine in the UK @PalMissionUK 

Zero respect for human life and dignity: Israeli occupation forces expel an ill Palestinian worker from #Israel after suspecting he might have #covid19 and leave him lying on the side of a road in west #Ramallah for three hours! #coronavirus

Embedded video

401:38 – 24 Mar 2020Twitter Ads information and privacy

Mohammad Alqadi @ALQadiPAL  

Zero respect for human life and dignity: Israeli occupation forces expel an ill Palestinian worker from #Israel after suspecting he might have #covid19 and leave him lying on the side of a road in west #Ramallah for three hours! #coronavirus

Embedded video

1122:55 – 23 Mar 2020Twitter Ads information and privacy

According to the Middle East Eye (MEE), Abu Safiya recounted the man was “thrown on the ground and left,” over suspicion of him being infected with coronavirus.

“How could they do this to someone?” he asked, adding:

It shouldn’t matter if he’s Palestinian, Israeli, or whatever. He’s a human being.

The worker was later picked up by Palestinian health workers and rushed to the National Hospital of Nablus where his COVID-19 test was negative, reported Wafa News Agency.

Despite his shock at seeing a sick man being “left to die” at a checkpoint, Abu Safiya said he wasn’t surprised by the incident.

“This is the true face of the Israeli occupation,” he told MEE, adding:

They kill us on a daily basis, so this isn’t any different for them.

Read: Palestinian shoemaker behind West Bank’s only mask factory

In response, Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem today in his daily briefing condemned the “the racist and inhumane” treatment of the Israeli authorities and employers when dealing with its Palestinian workers.

He said, “If you have to work for a living, then let it be with dignity, and not in this demeaning way.”

“We are doing everything we can to get our workers not to accept work in Israel under these difficult circumstances, and not to throw themselves into these incubators of this pandemic in order to guarantee their safety and the safety of their families and community,” he added.

Read: Hamas calls on PA to lift Gaza sanctions to prevent spread of coronavirus

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Palestinian PM Presses for ICRC-applied Safety Standards for Prisoners

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, on Tuesday, called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to apply all necessary international standards of safety and protection on the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, held in Israeli jails.

Shtayyeh’s call came in response to the current Coronavirus crisis that has plagued many countries, including the Israeli occupation state and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The PM urged the ICRC to apply all those standards, during a meeting with head of the ICRC’s mission in Jerusalem, Daniela Dophelar, at his Ramallah-based office, on Tuesday.

“I call upon the ICRC to take on a greater role in the occupied city of East Jerusalem, which is neglected by the Israeli occupation authorities, preventing the Palestinian Authority (PA) from providing all necessary services, including medical care, for our Palestinian population there. They detain our crews of volunteers, who provide humanitarian assistance for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem,” Shtayyeh said.

The Premier made clear that in light of such an emergency situation, all the necessary preventive measures should be taken to fight the spread of the Coronavirus. The ICRC must take on greater responsibility, especially in areas beyond the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction, such as East Jerusalem and Israeli cities and towns, where there are tens of thousands of Palestinian workers.

Remarks by the Palestinian PM comes amidst reports of four Palestinian prisoners who tested positive for Coronavirus in Megiddo prison of, one of Israel’s largest detention facilities for Palestinians.

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Soldiers Abduct Four Palestinians For Disinfecting Public Facilities In Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Monday evening, five Palestinians for disinfecting public facilities near the Lion’s Gate, leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the occupied Palestinian capital, Jerusalem.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers abducted the Palestinians in the al-Ghazali Square, in Bab Al-Asbat (Lion’s Gate), while they were disinfecting public facilities as a precaution amidst the spread of Coronavirus.

They added that the soldiers took the four Palestinians to a Police station in the Hebron Gate area, in Jerusalem’s Old City.

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Israeli Colonists Attack A Young Man In Northern Plains, Homes In Nablus

Several fanatic illegal Israeli colonists attacked, on Monday evening, a Palestinian shepherd in Ein al-Hilwa area, in the West Bank’s Northern Plains, and attacked many homes in Madama village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinian human rights activist, Aref Daraghma, said several colonists assaulted a young shepherd while herding his cows in Ein al-Hilwa.

Daraghma added that the young man, identified as Moheeb Fathi Daraghma, suffered several minor cuts and bruises.

Also on Monday evening, a group of colonists attacked homes in the southern area of Madama village, south of Nablus.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the assailants came from Yitzhar colony, which was built on Palestinian lands south of Nablus, and added that the locals intercepted them, and forced them away.

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

Israeli Bulldozers Raze Palestinian Farm Lands Near Nablus

Israeli army bulldozers, on Tuesday morning, began razing Palestinian-owned farm lands in the occupied West Bank village of Jaloud, south of Nablus city, local Palestinian sources reported.

Chief of Israeli colonial settlements file in northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told local media outlets that the new bulldozing started in area 13, known as the ‘Pats’ site. Daghlas noted that the Jaloud village is already surrounded by a number of illegal colonial settlements, mainly on the eastern and western sides of the village.

“The bulldozing by the Israeli army, earlier today, comes following remarks by Israeli defense minister, Naftali Bennet, in which he announced his government’s plans to expand the Shevout Rachile colonial settlement, to five times it’s current size, as well as connecting the Shilo and Shevout Rachile colonies with other colonies,” Daghlas said.

Daghlas added that large areas of the village itself has been illegally seized by the Shevout Rachile and Shilo, Aadi Aad, Kodish, Keda and Ahya colonial settlements, stating that all such colonial settlements pose a real danger to the Arab-Palestinian landscape, and more importantly threatening the very existence of the Palestinian people.

“Israeli occupation government has taken over around 2,500 acres of Palestinian-owned farm lands from the Jaloud village and then declared that 85% of the village’s lands are closed military zones, designated for the protection of illegal settlers in the aforementioned settlements. The 85% constitutes about 1,500 acres of farm lands.” Daghlas maintained.

Israel’s colonial settlement activities began in late 1970’s in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.In 2005, Israel disengaged unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and dismantled 17 illegal settlements, then subsequently imposed the still ongoing blockade of the tiny coastal territory, in 2007.

According to the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) resolutions 242 and 338, clearly demand that Israel immediately withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israeli illegally occupied in June of 1967.

(Source / 24.03.2020) 

PHRI calls on the Israeli authorities to provide Gaza with missing equipment and assist patients needing treatment

Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) has called on the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide Gaza with the equipment it urgently needs to combat COVID-19, including basic antiseptics, intensive care beds, and ventilators.

PHRI’s further urged COGAT and the MoH to find alternatives for patients in Gaza who need critical surgery or treatment that is currently unavailable in the Strip and who, as a result of restrictions placed to limit the spread of COVID-19, are unable to leave to access this treatment elsewhere.

There are around 2,700 Gazans in quarantine, including 1,271 in 20 isolation units which were converted from schools, hotels and hospitals. As of today, 99 people have been tested and 2 have been tested as positive.

Yet even prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Gazan healthcare system has been unable to meet the needs of the local population. The fragmentation between Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem has been coupled with continuous obstacles that Israel imposes on freedom of movement of patients, medical equipment, medications, and healthcare personnel. As a result, many treatments are unavailable while local healthcare staff lacks up-to-date medical knowledge.

Meanwhile, the equipment required by coronavirus patients are drastically lacking, with only roughly 70 Intensive care beds, while healthcare staff is missing masks and protective suits. Although a field hospital is being established, with 40-50 beds, it will only be able to intake up to 100 patients.

This is compounded by poor public health conditions: a water and electricity crisis, high poverty rates and high population density, which foretell inabilities to both maintain sanitary conditions and practice isolation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already issued a call for donor assistance to secure basic needs and PHRI is working alongside the WHO and the Gazan MoH to try and meet these needs.

Aside from the challenges facing Gaza in a potential outbreak are the needs of current patients. Gaza’s healthcare needs are so great that, in 2018, according to the World Health Organization, over 9,000 patients had to leave the Strip for treatment, as local hospitals were not able to provide them with appropriate treatment.

Roughly one-quarter of these patients were cancer patients. These patients are now unable to exit Gaza following restrictions placed by Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Israel, as an effective occupier in Gaza, must ensure that it takes “prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”. Moreover, it must ensure that, should medical equipment and supplies be lacking, that the population receives the needed treatments.

PHRI requests that the international community call on the Israeli MoH and the Ministry of Defense to:

  • Ensure that the Gaza MoH receives the basic equipment it needs to combat the spread of the disease
  • Dialogue with the MoH in Gaza for patients in Gaza who require non-elective surgery and treatments that are unavailable in Gaza.

For further information, please contact:

Dana Moss
International Advocacy Coordinator
dana@phr.org.il
Cell: 054 575 3426
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

(Source / 24.03.2020)