$120 million needed to face coronavirus crisis as Palestinians warn of its economic impact

Palestinian artists paint a mural to promote protection measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 28, 2020 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian artists paint a mural to promote protection measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 28, 2020

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has said that $120 million will be needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories.

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah yesterday the former Chairman of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction provided an update on the spread of the pandemic and his government’s effort to deal with the crisis.

The number of cases in the Palestinian territories on Sunday rose to 108 after two new cases were recorded in the city of Hebron. Among the infected cases were nine in the Gaza Strip.

Sketching details of the foreign assistance in dealing with the pandemic Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian Authority is awaiting the arrival of medical aid from China to fill the shortfall in testing kits and respiratory devices.

Read: A Terrifying Scenario: Coronavirus in ‘Quarantined’ Gaza

He explained that Palestinian health authorities are currently able to conduct 1,000 tests daily.

Ahmed Al-Deek, advisor to the Palestinian foreign minister, provided further details on the foreign assistance in an interview with Reuters: “A Chinese plane will carry medical aid to Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel,” said Al-Deek.

The Palestinian share of the aid, according to Deek, is “100,000 strips of coronavirus testing, in addition to a good number of respirators.”

Al-Deek said that the additional testing kits and respirators will be required within days explaining that “large numbers of Palestinian workers who work in Israel will return to their areas of residence and will need to conduct tests in order to ensure that they do not carry this virus.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs is expected to take over the delivery of medical aid to the Ministry of Health following its arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

Read: Arab MK warns of humanitarian disaster in West Bank and Gaza

Describing the economic and humanitarian impact Shtayyeh said that his government is working to “support the poor and help them overcome this difficult period.”

He noted that 106,000 families are receiving aid from the government, including more than 70,000 families in the Gaza Strip. The besieged Strip is expected to see the collapse of its health system.

The PA’s revenues are expected to see a dramatic fall in this time of crisis, by more than 50 per cent.

“International aid will decline because the whole world is in crisis, so we will work with an austerity emergency budget by cutting costs as much as possible,” Shtayyeh said.

Despite the shortfall the Palestinian Prime Minister pledged to pay the salaries of public sector employees for this month, in full. He warned that the “the budget deficit will double and the losses to the national economy will be great.”

The PA is working with the World Bank to study the impact and means to revive the economy.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

UNRWA: ‘The worst scenario is the spread of coronavirus in besieged Gaza’

A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection works at a refugee camp as part of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic precautions, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 29, 2020 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection works at a refugee camp as part of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic precautions, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 29, 2020 

The Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, said on Sunday that the worst scenario is the spread of coronavirus in a fully besieged Gaza.

“We are very worried about the outbreak of the coronavirus because managing the crisis then would be very difficult,” Schmale told Sky News Arabic. He stressed the importance and necessity of lifting the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza since 2007. “We need equipment such as respirators, personal protection kit and more staff.”

The UNRWA official condemned as “illogical” the thinking that Gaza is somehow separate to the rest of the world. Everyone, he pointed out, has to take measures to lift the siege.

“For many of the people here, Gaza has not been liveable for a long time,” explained Schmale. “People do not have jobs, medicines or anything. They depend on UNRWA’s food packages.”

He concluded by pointing out that Gaza only has 60 hospital beds equipped with respirators; the estimated population in 2018 was just under 2 million. “I was told that 20 per cent of patients with coronavirus need hospital care and 5 per cent need to be in an ICU. Even if only 1,000 people in Gaza contracted coronavirus, we would still have a real problem.”

Read: $120 million needed to face coronavirus crisis as Palestinians warn of its economic impact

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

Measures to fight COVID-19 in Gaza paralyse the economy

A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection works at a refugee camp as part of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic precautions, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 29, 2020 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection works at a refugee camp as part of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic precautions, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 29, 2020

The pre-emptive measures taken to fight the possible outbreak of coronavirus in Gaza have paralysed the economic situation in the occupied Gaza Strip.

While the coastal enclave has endured a strict Israeli siege since mid-2007, about 80 per cent of the residents already live under the poverty line and the besieged government is barely able to provide them with essential food.

This has pushed many people to ignore the restrictions on movement as they were obliged to leave their homes in order to find any kind of work so they could afford something for their children to eat.

Speaking to local newspaper Al-Ayyam, Salam Habib, 40, said that he had been unable to afford the essentials for his family for two weeks. The father of eight children said that this pushed him to go out and find any kind of work, adding:

At the beginning, I respected the instructions and did not leave my home, but when everything [I had ran out] I was obliged to go out.

Read: Arab MK warns of humanitarian disaster in West Bank and Gaza

Ibrahim Abu Kolkhal, who worked for a construction firm, said his money ran out two days after staying at home. “I was obliged to go to the vegetable market and find any kind of work,” he said.

Hani Abu Halima, 35, said that he was not able to stay home because the government is unable to provide the necessary food and drink for his family.

All of the three men blamed the Israeli siege which paralysed Gaza’s economy so that the government in the besieged enclave is unable to provide basic essentials for them.

The government in Gaza said that it is doing its best to keep the healthcare system standing and offering basic services, including for the people in quarantine and those who contracted coronavirus.

At the same time, it said that it has started distributing food packages for the families of thousands of people in quarantine.

Opinion: Gaza faces coronavirus alone after a 14-year lockdown

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

PCHR Calls upon International Community to Assist Healthcare System in Gaza Strip to Fight Coronavirus

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is closely monitoring the health conditions in the Gaza Strip, and the healthcare system’s preparedness to combat the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and its possible outbreak. PCHR confirms that the healthcare system will not be able to deal with patients infected with the coronavirus if the number reaches a few dozen due to its compromised capacities necessary to treat these patients, especially since their treatment requires medical and laboratory equipment and special supplies and medications that are not available in hospitals and health centers in the Gaza Strip. This is in addition to the already fragile healthcare system in Gaza due to the Israeli closure policy and Palestinian internal division.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gaza Strip preparedness and capacity to face the Coronavirus at the present time is only sufficient for cases up to 100 or 150; however, if the cases increase, the fragile healthcare system would be incapable of responding to large numbers of patients. The situation requires the intervention of UN bodies, international and local organizations to exert all efforts and provide the necessary equipment, devices, supplies, medicine and medical crews.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza announced in its daily report on 28 March 2020, that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip is 9 while dozens of samples are so far under laboratory testing and their results will be published as soon as they are ready. According to the report, MOH follows up the health status of 1,719 of the people who had returned from abroad at quarantine centers across the Gaza Strip, including 983 patients who require direct healthcare in hotels, health centers and hospitals. MOH added that the quarantine will be extended from two weeks to three according to the recommendations of experts due to international reports showing the emergence of the disease after the 2-week quarantine period ends. MOH confirmed that it suffers from critical shortage of drugs, medical consumables, laboratory and blood banks supplies, and limited coronavirus testing materials, putting MOH before complicated and unpredictable challenges.

MOH officials in Gaza said to PCHR’s fieldworker that there is acute shortage in MOH’s needs to combat the coronavirus. Hani al-Weheidi, Director of Information System Unit at the Ministry said that the healthcare sector in Gaza has only 110 intensive care beds for adults, including 78 at the MOH hospitals (Shifa 36, European Gaza 17, al-Aqsa 10, Indonesian 9, Naser 6) while the NGOs has 12 beds (al-Quds 7, Public Services 5, and Military Medical Services 7 at Kamal Owdan Hospital). Moreover, the Private Sector has 13 beds: al-Hayah hospital (8) and al-Helo Hospital (5). According to the hospitals’ report, 72% of the intensive care beds are occupied at the MOH hospitals, i.e. if the coronavirus breaks out, only 22 out of 78 intensive care beds will be available in the MOH hospitals.

Ninety-three ventilators are available at intensive care units beds in the Gaza Strip, including 63 at MOH hospitals (al-Shifa 23; European 15; al-Aqsa 9; Indonesian 10; and Nasser 6) 9 at private hospitals (al-Quds 5; Public Aid 4). Additionally, blood gas analyzers are only available at 7 hospitals: al-Shifa, Nasser, al-Quds, Kamal Odwan, Public Aid, al-Helou and al-Hayat; and it is unavailable at 3 hospitals: Indonesian, European and al-Aqsa.

Accordingly, MOH – Gaza needs to urgently equip additional ICUs, ventilators, and testing kits; as well as, protective gear to protect personnel, medications and medical disposables to combat coronavirus. MOH – Gaza has announced its immediate need for:

  • 28 types of medical disposables (emergency list A).[1]
  • 9 types of medications specific for treating coronavirus (emergency list A)[2]
  • 6 types of COVID-19 testing kits, and laboratory equipment (Immediate need list A)[3]
  • Real Time PCR Systems Spectral Calibration Kit (Immediate need list B)[4]
  • 6 laboratory testing devices to enhance laboratory capacity (Immediate need list C)[5]

In light of the extreme danger threatening the Gaza Strip’s health sector due to its limited capacities, especially in terms of diagnostic laboratory equipment, medications and medical disposables, PCHR:

  • Reiterates that the primary responsibility for providing the Gaza Strip with medical supplies lies with Israel, and it should take all necessary and available preventive measures to combat the spread of infectious diseases and this pandemic, according to Articles 55 and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949.
  • Calls upon the international community and the World Health Organization to pressure Israel to force it to abide by its duties and to allow the entry of the Gaza Strip’s medical needs, especially medical equipment and devices necessary for COVID-19 medical examination.
  • Calls upon the international community and humanitarian organizations to provide aid and assistance to the Gaza Strip’s health sector and to endeavor to supply the needed medical equipment to Gaza hospitals to combat the spread of coronavirus.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

‘Israel’ uses coronavirus to renew administrative detention orders

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- The Israeli Walla website revealed that the Israeli Ministry of Justice is planning to allow judges to renew the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners even if they were not interrogated.

It also revealed that the judges will be allowed to renew an order of preventing Palestinian prisoners from meeting their lawyers for 14 more days.

The website added that Israeli law allows renewing administrative detention orders in order to continue interrogation, the new decision, however, allows renewing the detention of any Palestinian prisoner even if he was not interrogated for fears related to the coronavirus crisis.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

‘Israel’ demolished 170,000 houses, confiscated 21 dunums since Land Day

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- The Israeli occupation has demolished over 170,000 houses, confiscated over 21 million dunums, and uprooted over 3 million trees since the Land Day in 1976.

A report by the land search center at the Arabic Studies Association to mark the 44th anniversary of the Land Day stated that the occupation state has built a 700 km long apartheid wall, set nearly 900 military checkpoints and gates, and constructed over 1400 km of settlement roads.

The report added that the Israeli authorities have been expanding illegal settlement as well as issuing demolition and evacuation orders for Palestinians.

The occupation state built nearly 528 settlement outposts, suffocating and surrounding Palestinian villages throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem and increasing Jewish settlers in the West Bank to 850,000.

The report stressed that the occupation state unleashes illegal settlers to attack Palestinians and vandalize their properties. The settlers chopped off trees, attacked native Palestinians and shepherds, and committed vandalism.

in 1976, the Israeli police shot six Palestinians in the occupation state dead as they were protesting against the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of dunums of Palestinian land in the Galilee. Since then, March 30 has been known as Land Day and is an important date in the Palestinian political calendar.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

Commemorating Land Day amid lockdown in Palestine

Israel is taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to take more Palestinian land, but the Palestinians will resist

by Yara Hawari

Forty-four years ago today, the Israeli police shot six Palestinian citizens of Israel dead as they were protesting against the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of acres of Palestinian land in the Galilee. Since then, March 30 has been known as Land Day and is an important date in the Palestinian political calendar.

This year, Palestinians will be marking Land Day at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left much of the world’s populations under lockdown and curfew. Being confined to their homes or their villages and towns is not a new experience for Palestinians which is perhaps why so many have taken it in their stride.

Indeed, Palestinians in the West Bank are confined to what amounts to bantustans connected to each other only by roads controlled by the Israeli regime, while their brothers and sisters in Gaza live in an open-air prison deemed “unliveable” by the United Nations. Most Palestinians living across the “Green Line” have Israeli citizenship, they nevertheless live in urban and rural ghettos.

Palestinians are also disconnected from their Arab brothers and sisters with many of them prevented from travelling around the Arab world, either because their documents do not permit them to do so (in the case of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) or because they are under travel bans.

As part of the COVID-19 response, the Israeli regime has imposed even more measures restricting Palestinian movement. The city of Bethlehem has been put under lockdown, while crossings into Gaza and the West Bank have been shut down. Palestinian labourers working in Israel have also been told to either stay for an unknown period of time in shoddy and unsanitary accommodation or give up work and stay in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has imposed a curfew and set up checkpoints between villages and towns to limit the movement of people. Businesses have been shut down, except for supermarkets and pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Israel is continuing its practices of removing Palestinians from their land, even exploiting the lockdown amid the pandemic to do so. In Jerusalem, where there is a concerted effort to Judaise neighbourhoods and reduce the number of Palestinian inhabitants, the demolitions of Palestinian homes continue, despite the outbreak. The Israeli regime claims these buildings are illegal in order to justify demolishing them, yet Palestinians are consistently denied building permits.

Demolitions are also used as a method of collective punishment of the families of Palestinian political prisoners particularly in the West Bank. In the midst of this pandemic, this continuing cruel practice renders calls by Israeli authorities to “stay at home” absurd.

Similarly the construction of illegal settlements across the West Bank has not halted and there are fears that de jure annexation of many areas will be expediated under these circumstances, particularly as Benjamin Netanyahu is once again set to lead the next government.

Already, last week there were three cases in which illegal Israeli settlements razed Palestinian land and there has been an overall rise in attacks against Palestinian properties.

Earlier this month, Palestinians from Beita village near Nablus held a sit-in to try and protect land from being stolen by settlers. The Israeli security forces came out in full force to give cover to the settlers and in the process shot 15-year-old Mohammed Hammayel in the head killing him instantly.

Many in historic Palestine are worried that Israel will use the COVID-19 outbreak as an excuse to leave in place new restrictive measures even after the pandemic is over and will also prevent Palestinians from resisting its land grabs. At a time when the world is focused solely on the pandemic and the Israeli regime has the full support of the US administration to do as it pleases, Israeli aggressive expansionism seems inevitable.

Yet over the decades, Palestinians have shown incredible strength, courage and sumud (steadfastness) in the face of great adversity. While Israeli settler colonial expansionism does not rest, neither does Palestinian perseverance. As the Palestinian poet Tawfiq Ziyad wrote:

In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,
we shall remain
like a wall upon your chest,
and in your throat
like a shard of glass,
a cactus thorn,
and in your eyes
a sandstorm.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

Hebron Governor Locks Down The City After Three New Cases Of Coronavirus

Photos File

With the confirmation of three cases of coronavirus in the southern West Bank city of Hebron yesterday, its governor has decided to lock down the city until further notice to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

“Based on the latest developments in the health situation and in order to combat this pandemic and reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it has been decided to take precautionary and preventive measures in Hebron as of Monday, March 30, 2020 and until further notice,” said governor Jibrin Bakri in a statement.

The measures include a total lockdown on the city in which no one will be allowed to enter or leave it and only groceries will be allowed to open from 10 in the morning until noon, and from 4 until 6 in the evening, excluding pharmacies, bakeries and gas stations, with no more than five people will be allowed in the grocery stores at one time and only in shops near their homes.

Bakri said that all permits given out during the emergency period declared in Palestine earlier this month have been cancelled, urging city residents to stay home as a precautionary measure.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

Six More Coronavirus Cases In West Bank Raise Number In Palestine To 115

Photos File

Six new cases of coronavirus were confirmed this morning in the West Bank, bringing the total in the West Bank to 106 and 115 overall in Palestine with the nine in the Gaza Strip, according to Ministry of Interior spokesman Ghassan Nimr.

He said in the daily briefing on the coronavirus in Palestine that the six were of people from the village of Qatanna, east of Jerusalem, where along with nearby Biddo village, has reported 39 positive corona cases, said the spokesman.

Nimr said 629 cases were tested in the last hours and all came out negative, except the confirmed six this morning and another one declared earlier in the same village.

He said 85 of the confirmed cases were between the age of 20 and 59 years, eight between 60 and 69 and three over 70, the rest are under 20 years of age, including four children under nine years.

Of the confirmed cases, 20 have recovered so far and one death.

(Source / 30.03.2020) 

Israeli Forces Order Palestinians To Remove Trees Planted Months Ago In West Bank Village

Photos File

The Israeli army informed Palestinians in the north of the West Bank to remove trees they planted several months ago in an area north of the city of Nablus, today said Ghassan Daghlas, a local official.

He said that trees were planted in the village of Burqa in an area considered a Palestinian tourism site with ancient and Ottoman relics and which Israeli settlers have been trying to take over.

Israel does not want the Palestinians to introduce any changes to the site, including planting it with trees, even though the area is a Palestinian archeological site.

(Source / 30.03.2020)