Palestinian workers put on display vegetables at a large Israeli settler-owned supermarket located at the Gush Etzion junction in the Palestinian West Bank on July 4, 2010
Palestinian workers in Israel are being urged by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to return to the occupied West Bank. The order comes in the wake of social media footage of a Palestinian labourer suffering from coronavirus symptoms being dumped by Israeli police officers at the Beit Sira checkpoint.
“In light of the dangerous, successive developments in Israel and expected measures banning movement, we call on all Palestinian labourers to return to their homes,” Shtayyeh wrote on Facebook. He added that doing so would “protect them and preserve their well-being.”
Shtayyeh also called on every Palestinian who returns to the occupied West Bank to follow his government’s directives aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. Anyone who violates them, he insisted, will be held accountable. All Palestinians, the Prime Minister pointed out, are required to stay in their homes unless they are going out for urgently needed food supplies or for medical purposes.
Last week, Israel said that Palestinian workers and merchants from the occupied West Bank would be allowed into the country if they stay for one to two months with the employer providing lodging. However, workers have been complaining about bad living conditions and mistreatment by their employers which prompted the PA to call on them to return home.
PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem blasted the poor living conditions that some Israeli employers have provided for their Palestinian employees. “The sleeping arrangements are not appropriate for human beings,” he told Wafa news agency.
The Palestinian authorities have said that so far 60 people in the West Bank have tested positive for the virus, including 16 who have recovered.
Palestinians gather for a demonstration to demand coronavirus (COVID-19) protection for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, in Gaza City, Gaza on 19 March 2020
A Palestinian political prisoner has set fire to his cell in Nafha Prison in protest against the Israeli authorities’ failure to protect prisoners’ health during the coronavirus crisis, Wafa news agency has reported. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society had warned earlier that matters will escalate in Ofer, Negev and Nafha Prisons where hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are “languishing” due to alleged medical negligence.
The head of the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, Qadri Abu Bakr, said that Ayman Sharabati, who is serving a life sentence, set the room on fire when the prisoners were taking their daily walk. It was his response to the way that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has been dealing with the health situation in prisons and not introducing enough measures to prevent the spread of the virus among the prisoners. Sharabati was immediately placed in solitary confinement.
Protest action started last week, with prisoners refusing some meals following restrictions imposed by the prison authorities in Israel which have made conditions even worse for Palestinian detainees. Cleaning products, for example, have been withheld, even though they are essential due to the virus outbreak, particularly in crowded cells that already fail to meet basic health standards.
Rights groups say that dozens of Palestinian prisoners are in need of urgent medical care, with many suffering from serious or chronic illnesses. Furthermore, many Palestinians claim that they have been subject to torture and violence while in Israeli custody. There have been many protests against poor conditions in recent years, including several hunger strikes. According to Al-Jazeera, prisoners must pay for their own medical treatment, and are not provided with adequate healthcare.
Abu Bakr added that the IPS removed doctors and nurses from the prisons, leaving only one nurse in every establishment. He warned that if such policies continue, it could result in more serious responses from the prisoners.
A Gaza doctor handles a coronavirus test, 21 March 2020
United Nations agency OCHA has launched regular updates on the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the first report published Tuesday.
According to the initial ‘Emergency Situation Report’, which covers the period 4-24 March, a total of 59 coronavirus cases have been detected in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), 57 in the West Bank and two in the Gaza Strip. 70 percent of West Bank cases are in the Bethlehem urban area.
UN OCHA noted that “although the current number of detected cases remains relatively low, the capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in COVID-19 cases is severely impaired by longstanding challenges and critical shortages”.
The UN agency noted that “the situation is particularly severe in the Gaza Strip, where the health system has been undermined by the longstanding Israeli blockade, the internal Palestinian divide, a chronic power deficit and shortages in specialized staff, drugs and equipment”.
In addition, in both parts of the oPt, “people living in overcrowded conditions, particularly in refugee camps and densely-populated, poor areas…face a higher risk of contagion due to the precarious sanitation systems, including substandard and irregular water supply and shared latrines”.
UN OCHA raised concerns about the economic impact of the crisis on Palestinian communities, with “the volume of people affected by the loss of income…expected to increase soon, following the tightening of restrictions and its impact on all sectors of economic activity”.
In Gaza specifically, any economic impact would come on top of an already dire situation, with unemployment at almost 43 percent in the last quarter of 2019, youth unemployment at 64 percent, and 53 percent of the population living below the US$4.6 poverty line, UN OCHA added.
UN agencies and NGOs have “developed and begun implementing a range of interventions to support the Palestinian authorities’ efforts” the report noted, and “at the heart of these interventions is the Health Cluster COVID-19 Interagency Response Plan”.
In its current form, the plan “seeks to mobilise for US$ 6.5 million to support these efforts”, of which, less than $1.5 million has been raised so far.
Lawyer Khalid Zabarqeh, member of the defence team, said that the appeal was filed to the Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, stating that it included an appeal against the court’s ruling, issued on 10 February, to send Sheikh Salah to prison for 28 months.
He also stated that the appeal included a request to freeze the implementation of the prison sentence due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus.
The lawyer said that the next procedure would be a hearing session at the Central Court at the beginning of May to look into the request included in the appeal.
Voluntary campaign to disinfect houses in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip to as a precautionary step against the coronavirus o 16 March 2020 in Gaza
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has urged intervention “before it is too late” to prevent a healthcare system “collapse” in the Gaza Strip in the case of a coronavirus outbreak.
According to PCHR, there is the real risk of “a catastrophic deterioration that would strike the health care sector in the case of a Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” in the crowded territory.
“The healthcare facilities in Gaza are already on the verge of collapse due to the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip for the last 13 years, exacerbated by the repercussions of the Palestinian internal division and political bickering”, the rights NGO stated.
“All of this has caused a fragile healthcare system in the Gaza Strip, a perpetual shortage of essential drugs and medical devices and insufficient number of specialized health professionals”, rendering the system “unable to meet the basic medical needs of the Gaza Strip population in normal times”.
Israeli restrictions have prevented authorities “from importing new medical devices or spare parts for malfunctioning ones”, creating a shortage that constitutes “a major obstacle for the development and sustainability” of healthcare facilities.
As noted by PCHR, on 19 March, Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said in a statement that he is worried about the potential impact of the virus on the Gaza Strip population.
“A potential large-scale outbreak will also constitute another enormous strain on Gaza’s beleaguered health workers who have had to respond, with inadequate resources, to three large-scale military offensives in just over a decade and have had to treat thousands of casualties from the ‘Great March of Return’ protests”, Lynk stated.
PCHR reaffirmed that “the primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the Gaza Strip population lies with Israel and it must take all necessary preventive measures available to combat the spread of infectious diseases in accordance with Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949”.
PCHR also urged the international community and World Health Organisation “to put pressure on Israel and compel it to comply with its obligations, and to allow the entry of medical supplies and equipment necessary for Coronavirus medical examination”.
Israeli authorities banned, on Wednesday, installation of Palestinian-owned solar panels and a green house in the northern occupied West Bank area of Al-Aghwar.
Local Palestinian media sources said that an Israeli troop obstructed installation works in the Kherbet Aldeir village, within the Tubas governorate.
Palestinian chief for the Al-Aghwar rural area, Mo’taz Bsharat, told local media outlets that Israeli authorities, escorted by the military, invaded the Kherbet Aldeir village, earlier on Wednesday morning, and handed warrants to local farmers, who were attempting to install solar panels and a green house on their farm land.
Bsharat added that the warrant states that the farmers are not allowed to embark on such works, by orders of the concerned Israeli authorities.
The Al-Aghwar area is considered to be the largest Palestinian rural area that provides the West Bank population with much of its agricultural produce.
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, signalled his government’s plan to annex the Al-Aghwar area to Israel. Such a plan is in contravention to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions which state the West Bank is Palestinian territory, occupied by Israel in June, 1967.
An Israeli settler, on Monday, exploited the lockdown imposed in the occupied territories to raze Palestinian land between Rafat and Qalandia towns, northwest of Jerusalem, said a municipal source.
Mayor of Qalandia, Ra’fat Awad told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that the illegal colonist razed a tract of Palestinian-owned land between the aforementioned towns, planted it with saplings and erected a fence around it, before being spotted and repelled by staff from the Jerusalem Governor’s Office.
Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, condemned Israel for its accelerated annexation of Palestinian land.
Dr. Ashrawi tweeted “As we are in lockdown in Palestine and the settlers are on the rampage, Israel should take back its settlers and keep them there. It should release our vulnerable prisoners.”
Meanwhile, Director of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Commission, Hassan Breijah said that settlers constructed and paved a settler-only road and set up several mobile homes on Palestinian-owned land in Khallet An-Nahleh, south of Bethlehem.
Israeli soldiers, on Tuesday, opened fire and injured a Palestinian youth near the village of Deir Nitham, west of Ramallah, and closed its entrance, according to local sources.
The source told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that soldiers shot the youth near the village, alleging he was throwing rocks at settlers’ vehicles nearby. Unconfirmed reports said the youth was shot in the leg. The identity or condition of the youth was not known at the tie of reporting.
Israeli forces also blocked off a number of entrances of villages and towns south of the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, according to a Palestinian security source, who told WAFA that soldiers closed the metal gates at the access roads to Dora town and Fawwar refugee camp, as well placing a new metal gate leading to Yatta town.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza is following with great concern the health conditions in the Gaza Strip and seriously warns of a catastrophic deterioration that may afflict the Strip in the event of an outbreak of the new Coronavirus Covid-19.
The center is concerned that the health system in the Gaza Strip will not be able to deal with patients in the event of an epidemic.
According to PCHR’s research, health facilities in the Gaza Strip are already suffering from a serious deterioration as a result of the policy of the blockade imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the Gaza Strip 13 years ago, and also resulted from the repercussions of the internal Palestinian division and political conflicts.
This resulted in the fragility of the health system in the Gaza Strip, a permanent shortage of the list of essential drugs and medical devices, and the shortage of specialized medical staff, which made it, in normal times, unable to meet the basic medical needs of the population of the Strip.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, the Israeli blockade prevented the ministry from supplying a number of new medical devices or importing spare parts for malfunctioning medical devices. The medical devices crisis presented a major obstacle to the development or continuation of work in the sector’s hospitals and medical centers, in a manner appropriate to the health needs of the population.
In a statement issued on 21/3/2020, the Ministry confirmed its urgent need for respiratory equipment and the provision of intensive care rooms, medicines, medical consumables, and preventive supplies to counter the Coronavirus.
This confirmation came after the Israeli authorities allowed the entry of limited quantities of medical supplies into the Gaza Strip on 3/18/2020, where special equipment was introduced to diagnose those infected with the Coronavirus, in addition to hundreds of protective kits intended to protect medical personnel and protective glasses, after a request Submitted by the World Health Organization.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that the number of cases of Coronavirus infection in the Gaza Strip reached two cases, after examining 118 samples, the results of which were 116 negative (free from the virus), and two positive cases. The number of cases entered into private quarantine centers reached 1399, distributed among 22 centers in all governorates of the Gaza Strip, and the number of cases subject to home quarantine reached 1969 cases .
Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 1967, in a statement dated 19/19/2020, expressed his deep concern about the potential impact of the emerging Coronavirus on the people of the Gaza Strip. He added that the health care system in Gaza is falling apart even before the outbreak of the pandemic due to a lack of stocks of essential medicines, pollution of drinking water to a large extent, high levels of malnutrition, poor living conditions and population density. Link warned that a possible widespread outbreak in Gaza would exacerbate pressures on trapped health workers .
Jaimie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, also considered, in a statement on 21/2020, that the arrival of the Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip may be frightening due to the overpopulation and limited capacity of the health system.
He added: “We are currently concerned with regard to Gaza, it is a complex region, due to the long-term blockade and the restrictions that make matters difficult.” He believed that the arrival of the virus in the Gaza Strip would turn it into “something like an incubator when people get stuck in a densely populated area, and the health system in it suffers from a lack of funding and scarcity of resources and devices” .
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and in light of the fear of the collapse of health conditions in the Gaza Strip, and the inability of the health system in the Gaza Strip to deal with patients in the event of the spread of the Coronavirus, it:
Emphasizes that the primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the population of the Gaza Strip lies with Israel, and must take all necessary preventive measures available to combat the spread of infectious diseases and epidemics, in accordance with Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
– Calls on the international community and the World Health Organization to put pressure on Israel to compel it to comply with its obligations, and to allow the entry of all medical needs into the Gaza Strip, especially medical devices and equipment necessary for the medical examination of the Corna virus.
– Calls on the international community and humanitarian organizations to provide aid and assistance to the health system in the Gaza Strip, and to work to provide the medical supplies needed by hospitals, to help cope with the spread of the Coronavirus.
– Calls on the two departments of the Ministry of Health in Ramallah and Gaza to the necessity of coordination between them and uniting efforts to confront the spread of the Corona \virus.
– Calls on the Palestinian National Authority to establish a unified higher emergency committee that includes all Palestinian governorates, follows the measures taken to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, and works to spread information about infections, and how to access health services first hand.
 – For the full report issued on 23/3/2020, see the website of the Ministry of Health – Gaza, on the link:
 – For the full statement issued on 19/3/2020, see the United Nations News website, at the electronic link:
 – For the full interview published on March 21, 2020, see the United Nations News website, at the following link:
The Israeli attitude toward the besieged coastal strip will remain intact – with or without the virus outbreak, Gazans should die silently
By Dr Ahmet Alioglu
Gazans, who are uniquely shielded by the ongoing compulsory isolation and quarantine, better understand the existing challenge of the world in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.
Humans never thinks of the blessings they have unless they’re lost or about to vanish. Freedom to move is an unequivocal human right that is taken for granted everywhere except in conflict zones or besieged areas like the Gaza Strip. People living there have been tirelessly calling on the international community to help them obtain their universal rights or at least alleviate their suffering, yet all calls were in vain.
In the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, people from all walks of life have started digging on means and mechanisms of coping with a lockdown. For several years the Gaza Strip, the tiny enclave that has been besieged by Israel and neighbouring Egypt, has been languishing in an utter isolation and lockdown. Unlike today’s coronavirus lockdown, Gazans have suffered unbearable power cuts, denial of medical care, shortage of basic needs in addition to three devastating wars that claimed thousands of lives.
Today, uniquely shielded by the ongoing compulsory isolation and quarantine, Gazans better understand the existing challenge of the world in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. Until last week, Gaza was virus-free. Prayers were held all around the Gaza Strip and Dua and supplications of forgiveness and recovery included all humans with no exceptions. Last Sunday, the first two cases of COVID-19 in Gaza were confirmed.
Much of Gaza’s population live in congested refugee camps in extended families living in the same property. With movement in and out of the territory strictly constrained as they are already cut off from the world, an outbreak of the virus in Gaza might be delayed but not for long. Doctors and experts warn that the suffocating siege, along with densely-packed refugee camps and extremely fragile health care system, have created impeccable conditions for an outbreak.
The crippling blockade has collectively punished and impoverished all of Gaza’s residents. In 2018, Donald Trump’s administration eliminated funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency. UNRWA provides vital life-saving services, health care and education to refugees in the Middle East including the Gaza Strip. These funds used to go to education for 500,000 boys and girls, vaccinations and health clinics that provide services to over three million refugees and a basic level of dignity for millions who would otherwise lead lives of despair.
Due to political rivalry, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank hasn’t only relinquished the beleaguered enclave, it imposed sanctions and denied employees their salaries. This multi-dimensional dilemma is exacerbated by the Egyptian regime that has closed the only border crossing for the past decade. It has been partly reopened in the past two years. Gaza has had no airport since it was bombarded by Israel in the early 2000s at the outset of a second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Therefore, the Israeli blockage, Trump’s elimination of funds, the Palestinian Authority’s sanctions and Egypt’s ongoing isolation of the tiny coastal area turned Gaza into an ultravulnerable entity to the virus outbreak. Palestinians are closely following the pandemic through unremitting media coverage and preparing for the worst.
The Israeli embargo and the PA’s immature political stances have inflicted tremendous damage to Gaza’s health facilities that has immensely deteriorated over the past decade. One could imagine how difficult it will be for the Gaza Strip to face the pending threat of the disease with only 60 ICU beds for its two million people and not all are operational due to staff shortages.
It was Turkey, a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause, which pledged to back the Palestinians in their fight against coronavirus. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly phoned the Palestinian leadership and stressed Turkey’s support for Palestine in combating the virus.
On Sunday, Qatar announced $150 million in aid to the Gaza Strip over a period of six months, to support United Nations humanitarian programmes in the Palestinian territory and efforts to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.
With very limited resources, Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip have started to build 1,000 isolation cabins near the southern border with Egypt. Businessmen and hotel owners have voluntarily offered their hotels and premises to be used as quarantine centres.
Israel’s attitude has been ironically different in the West Bank. The coronavirus outbreak has done what local and international politicians and activists have been unable to do. It has sparked an extraordinarily high level of cooperation and coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis.
Israel so far has 1,442 documented cases of COVID-19 out of a population of 8.6 million (1.9 million are Arabs), with 59 cases in the Palestinian territories. On March 18, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to say that mutual cooperation is inevitable. However, while the world governments are taking urgent measures to face the unprecedented threat of the disease, Israeli authorities destroyed hundreds of hectares of agricultural land in two Bedouin communities in the Negev desert in the occupied territories.
Such an attitude indicates that Israeli authorities are willing to cooperate for one reason, its citizens’ own safety. The chances that the imminent danger of the disease change the Israeli standpoint towards the Palestinians is slim. The Israeli attitude toward the besieged coastal strip will remain intact – with or without the virus outbreak, Gazans should die silently.