Israel soldiers raid and demolish Jordan Valley village

Bedouin Palestinians inspect their belongings after the Israeli troops demolished their tents in the Jordan valley, 12 June 2019 [Shadi Jarar'ah/ApaImage]

Palestinians inspect their belongings after Israeli troops demolished their tents in the Jordan valley, 12 June 2019

Israeli forces today demolished a residential building and seized tents and other equipment in the Jordan Valley village of Ibziq, north of the occupied West Bank city of Tubas, according to Wafa news agency.

The Jordan Valley, which accounts for almost a third of the occupied West Bank, is home to 65,000 Palestinians in 28 villages.

Since 1967, when the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, Israel has transferred at least 11,000 of its Jewish citizens to the Jordan Valley. Some of the settlements in which they live were built almost entirely on private Palestinian land.

In addition to damaging farms and homes, Abdul Majeed Khdeirat, head of Ibziq village council, said Israeli forces raided the village and destroyed a 70-square-metre shack and two water and electricity pumps.

READ: PLO senior official says Israel seized 95% of the Jordan Valley

He added that the forces also seized eight tents that were not yet set up, solar panels, spraying equipment, and building blocks for use by the village’s mosque, clinic and council, under the pretext that the construction was taking place in a military zone.

Yesterday, Israeli military authorities ordered residents of the Jordan Valley to stop installing solar panels in their village.

Mutaz Bisharat, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley/Tubas district, said soldiers raided Khirbet Al-Dir in the northern Jordan Valley and handed residents an order to stop work on installing solar panels donated by the Italian humanitarian aid and development group GVC Italia.

He added that the soldiers banned a resident from installing a caravan for farming purposes on his land in the same village.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority warned that Israel may use the state of emergency brought on by COVID-19 to carry out its “colonial” plans in the occupied West Bank based on what was announced in the US ‘deal of the century.’

READ: Likud proposes bills to annex Jordan Valley and execute Palestinian prisoners

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

Gaza: Healthcare system could collapse, warns health ministry

A pharmacy in Gaza stock up on face masks due to the coronavirus outbreak, 7 March 2020 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

A pharmacy in Gaza stock up on face masks due to the coronavirus outbreak, 7 March 2020

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza warned on Wednesday of the collapse of the healthcare system due to the strict 14-year Israeli siege, Al-Mujtama Magazine reported.

In an exclusive interview with the magazine, the Spokesman of the Ministry of Health Ashraf Al-Qidra warned that the coastal enclave is on the edge of an eminent disaster due to the lack of necessary equipment and facilities amidst the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“The Gaza Strip is a very fragile area as it is the most densely populated place on earth,” Al-Qidra said, noting that there are 5,500 people per square kilometre.

READ: Palestine reports first death from coronavirus

“This makes it a ticking bomb,” Al-Qidra said. “If only one Gaza resident is infected with coronavirus, there would be a disaster as this infected person would easily and quickly mix with hundreds of people,” he explained.

Al-Qidra blamed the Israeli occupation for the dilapidation of the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip which means disease spreads easily due to the severe shortage of respiratory systems, intensive care units and medicine.

In light of serious fears over the arrival of coronavirus to the Gaza Strip, Al-Qidra called for the whole world to bear responsibility in protecting its 2 million residents.

Coronavirus is affecting the world's economy - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

‘Officials believe PA collapse is only a matter of time’

Empty streets and closed shops are seen after a curfew was announced by authorities as a measure against coronavirus (COVID-19), in Ramallah, West Bank on 23 March 2020 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Empty streets and closed shops are seen after a curfew was announced by authorities as a measure against coronavirus (COVID-19), in Ramallah, West Bank on 23 March 2020

Officials in the Palestinian Authority believe that its collapse is only a matter of time in the light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Today’s Opinion has reported. The claim apparently originated with their counterparts in Israel.

According to an Israeli journalist writing for Israel Hayom, the comprehensive closure policy adopted by the PA in the occupied West Bank as part of the battle against the virus will have severe economic consequences that might lead to the authority’s collapse. The reported expectations of security and political officials in Israel is that this will push thousands of Palestinians to leave the West Bank and possibly even the Gaza Strip and head for Israel to save themselves.

READ: Palestine reports first death from coronavirus

Despite the full cooperation between the PA and Israel on security and health issues, the journalist feels that the ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the virus have curtailed the era of economic prosperity in the occupied territory. One PA official quoted by Israel Hayom said that the economy cannot survive without basic incomes and an economic horizon. The ensuing chaos might surface “very soon” and then spread to Gaza.

Efforts to alleviate the expected economic crash, it is said, include 150 million New Israeli Shekels to be transferred from Tel Aviv to the PA. This is the tax revenue that has been withheld from the Palestinian Authority by Israel.

Coronavirus is affecting the world's economy - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

Coronavirus test kits and masks delivered to PA by the WHO

COVID-19 tests are being carried out at a laboratory on 16 March 2020 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

COVID-19 tests are being carried out at a laboratory on 16 March 2020

More than 3,000 coronavirus test kits and 50,000 surgical masks have been delivered to the Palestinian Authority today by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Jerusalem Post has reported. The WHO donated the equipment to help in the fight against the virus in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit in the Ministry of Defence, arranged the entry of the kits and equipment from Jordan across the King Hussein Bridge, which connects the occupied West Bank with the Hashemite Kingdom.

“Once more COGAT is cooperating closely with the WHO to make assistance possible in the Palestinian Authority’s struggle against the coronavirus outbreak,” said COGAT’s Major General Kamil Abu Rukun. “I commend the teamwork of the international organisations in this important shared endeavour. I wish steady good health to all the residents of the region, and I hope that we will continue to work together in the fight to halt the spread of this dangerous virus.”

READ: PA orders Palestinians to return to West Bank due to mistreatment in Israel

The WHO has also assisted the PA’s Ministry of Health in the form of protective clothing for health workers to treat people infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The PA has confirmed 64 cases of infection and experienced its first virus-related death yesterday when a woman in her 60s from the village of Biddo in the occupied West Bank died. “The woman had experienced symptoms and was later hospitalised,” explained PA Spokesman Ibrahim Melhem.

Following this news, the Israeli occupation forces are preparing to close their checkpoints, a move that will effectively lock down many Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank.

READ: ‘Officials believe PA collapse is only a matter of time’

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

The PA’s response to the coronavirus shows that Palestine is ready for statehood

Palestinian police officers wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as they stand guard in Bethlehem, West Bank on 5 March 2020 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian police officers wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as they stand guard in Bethlehem, West Bank on 5 March 2020

By Professor Kamel Hawwash 

The US and Israel, as well as its supporters, seek to deny the Palestinians their rights to freedom, justice and equality by claiming that the people are not ready for statehood; that they have not as yet built their institutions that would allow them to govern themselves. However, in the face of the current coronavirus pandemic, the Palestinian institutions have proven themselves to be capable of dealing with a crisis that many developed countries have failed to face up to.

At the time of writing, there had been no deaths in the Palestinian areas and the number of people infected with the virus stood at 59, with 17 having recovered. Most of the patients are in Bethlehem, where the first case was discovered. Since the first seven cases were announced on 5 March, the number of confirmed patients rose to 20, all of whom are Palestinian residents of the city in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority moved quickly to place the city under lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus.

Of those 20 cases, 16 were quarantined in the Angel Hotel, along with 15 American tourists who, according to the PA, are believed to have come into contact with those carrying the virus. The Palestinians gave generously to those in quarantine, prompting much gratitude from the Americans isolated with them. “Thank you to all of the Palestinian community of Beit Jala for the love and kindness that you have shown we Americans during our stay at the Angel Hotel!” wrote one alongside a photo of a fried chicken meal from a popular local restaurant.

Gaza had thus far escaped the pandemic while fears were raised that should the virus cross into the enclave, either from Israel or Egypt, then the health sector would not be able to cope. Two Palestinians were tested recently, though, and found to have the virus. They had returned from a trip to Pakistan and were immediately placed in quarantine upon entry at the Rafah Crossing, reducing fears that they could spread the virus to others in the overcrowded, besieged Strip.

Across the nominal border, Israel had 1,238 cases and one death. In his most recent move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a one-week lockdown in the country. The exceptions were pharmacies, grocery stores and petrol stations.

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

There has been no clear announcement of any cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians to control the spread of the virus, although the Jerusalem Post reported that a joint committee had been established. The PA then announced that Palestinian labourers working in Israel would have to spend one month on the Israeli side before returning rather than make the journey twice daily. This would require their employers to provide them with accommodation and food.

However, images of a Palestinian worker with a high temperature who the Israeli authorities literally dumped at a checkpoint near Nablus have highlighted the value that Israel places on Palestinian lives.

Concerns have grown about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The PA has no access to them and cannot check on their well-being in the current crisis. Last week, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society NGO said that prison canteens have stopped supplying detainees with 140 items, including hygiene and cleaning products, a necessity with the coronavirus spreading around the world and personal cleanliness being paramount. The prison authorities have also cancelled medical check-ups for prisoners, except for those with a fever.

According to Qadri Abu Bakr, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, “The prison service still refuses to offer any protection or disinfection supplies to protect prisoners from coronavirus.”

The PA is also somewhat helpless to deal with the virus in occupied East Jerusalem, where Palestinians hold Jerusalem ID cards and pay taxes for services that should be provided by Israel. The occupying power has continued to raid Al-Esawiyya neighbourhood despite the virus outbreak but has also tried to isolate areas of East Jerusalem that have been placed outside the city by the Apartheid Wall. Their most recent attempt was carried out via the closure of the checkpoint into and out of Shufa’at refugee camp. The other areas of East Jerusalem within Jerusalem’s municipal boundary but on the “wrong” side of the wall are the areas of Kufr Akkab and Qalandia. Israel is again trying to restrict entry from these areas despite the residents carrying Jerusalem ID cards. Moreover, the PA has not been able to make its own decisions about exit and entry points from Egypt and Jordan as Israel has the last say in these matters.

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

When it comes to communication, both with the Palestinian public and beyond, the PA holds daily press briefings that are normally delivered by the government’s official spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem. The briefings have been statesmanlike, providing a daily update on statistics related to the coronavirus outbreak and allowing journalists to question the PA’s approach. This has been a marked improvement in delivering the authority’s message at a crucial time.

Around the world, PLO missions have tried to keep in touch with Palestinians living abroad so as, at the very least, provide an address that Palestinians in difficulty can turn to. The PLO’s Head of Mission in London issued statements clarifying the situation when Palestinians in the Diaspora have contracted the virus and reporting on their condition.

Building Palestinian institutions for future statehood was a major objective of the Middle East Quartet when it was established and driven by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He worked particularly effectively to build these when PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was in post.

While the PA’s recent dealing with the coronavirus has been impressive, it has been hampered by the Israeli occupation as it has not been able to make decisions that affect the lives of Palestinians under Israel’s control, including those in East Jerusalem and in prison. It has demonstrated that the Palestinian institutions are more than capable of functioning independently, as they would in an independent state. The simple truth of the matter is that the US and Israel, as well as its supporters, just want the PA to absolve Israel of responsibility for the occupation by acting as its public face when it comes to security and dealing with crises, but never to be sufficiently ready for statehood because that would embolden those who want to give official recognition to the State of Palestine.

Israeli media: Coronavirus crisis will cause PA to collapse

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

Human Rights Council Appeals to Red Cross: Protect Palestinian Prisoners

On 24 March 2020, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to the Palestinian diplomatic community, Palestine News Network reported.

The letters were urgent appeals with regards to the deteriorating conditions of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails, in light of the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Palestinian human rights organizations urgently requested that the health and safety of Palestinian prisoners be particularly minors, the chronically ill, and those held under administrative detention, in contravention of international law.

Addameer association was informed last week that a Palestinian detainee under interrogation may have been exposed to COVID-19, transmitted by contact with an Israeli Security Agency interrogator who tested positive for the coronavirus. The detainee and several others have now been placed in quarantine, yet their conditions are unknown to us.

Our growing concern for Palestinian prisoners during the ongoing pandemic grows out of the systematic and routine medical negligence inside Israeli detention and interrogation centers.

Furthermore, the bleak conditions of Israeli prisons, including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and poor nutrition, turn them into dangerous breeding grounds for COVID-19.

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

PCHR Calls upon Palestinian Government to Find Mechanisms to Protect and Support the Poor and Low-Income Families in light of the State of Emergency in the Gaza Strip

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in light of the state of emergency announced to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

PCHR warns of catastrophic deterioration in the living conditions of the Gaza Strip population if the state of emergency is maintained for a lengthy period. PCHR hereby calls upon the Palestinian Government to uphold its legal responsibilities and find mechanisms to protect the poor, unemployed and day laborers and to support low-income households, who have lost their incomes due to the state of emergency.

Even before the state of emergency, the people of the Gaza Strip have suffered from harsh living conditions with high rates of unemployment and poverty due to the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip for the last 13 years, with restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, the ban on exports, targeted attacks on the industrial and production sectors and destroying 70% of it during Israeli offensives against the Gaza Strip.

The measures taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the internal division have intensified the Gaza Strip crises. Since April 2017, the PA adopted a series of measures against its Gaza Strip employees, cutting salaries of hundreds of them on political grounds, including families of martyrs, prisoners and wounded persons; enforcing general salary deductions on all public servants; and forcing many into early retirement. These measures are in violation of the 2003 amended Palestinian Basic Law, Civil Service Law, and the Law of Service in the Palestinian Security Forces of 2005.

All of the above was a main contributing factor to the increased unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip to 45% (i.e. 217,100 are unemployed) and resulted in the outbreak of poverty among its people as the poverty rate reached around 53% according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, more than 67% of the Gaza Population suffer from food insecurity according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), depicting a full-scale disaster.

The state of emergency enforce in the Gaza Strip since Mid-March has perpetuated the humanitarian and living crises for the people. In addition to the poor and low-income families, thousands of day laborers at the institutions that have been closed due to the emergency state (schools, universities, kindergartens, NGOs, civil society organizations, border crossings, wedding halls, cafes and weekly public markets), have lost their source of income that sustained their most basic needs and day-to-day necessities of their families.

In addition, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Sunday, 22 March 2020, that the food aid provided to at least 1,170,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip will be temporarily suspended until a safer delivery method is decided upon. UNRWA clarified in a statement that the suspension is a precautionary measure to maintain the safety of UNRWA’s staff and beneficiaries.

The state of emergency declared in the Gaza Strip, especially quarantine measures, is a public safety imperative and a national responsibility that must be adhered to in this delicate situation. Similarly, the Palestinian government has an obligation to guarantee the adequate living and humanitarian conditions for citizens who have lost their sources of income and the minimum standards for a dignified life due to the state of emergency.

In light of the fear of deteriorating living conditions of the Gaza Strip population, especially the poor and low-income people and per-day workers, in the case of a Coronavirus spread, PCHR:

  • Reminds Israel of its obligations, as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip, to its population, in accordance with Article 55 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which states: “The occupying Power shall, to the fullest extent of its means, provide the population with food and supplies and must take into account the needs of the civilian population”.
  • Calls upon the Palestinian government to urgently intervene to ensure the protection of the poor and low-income people in light of the exceptional circumstance by allocating budgets to support them and increasing the number of beneficiaries from Ministry of Social Affairs’ programs in the Gaza Strip. Thus, we can ensure the provision of a decent life to Palestinians and enable them to combat Coronavirus and its repercussions.
  • Calls upon service providers to postpone collection on due bills, particularly basic services such as water, electricity, communications, education, etc., until the current crisis and emergency measures end.
  • Calls upon authorities in the Gaza Strip to provide the necessary healthcare to citizens while they are in quarantine centers, home quarantine or when imposing compulsory quarantine, and that the official authorities provide the necessary basic services (food, water and shelter) to them.
  • Calls upon authorities in the Gaza Strip to combat monopoly and price manipulation.

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

PHOTOS: As Coronavirus Reaches Gaza, the Besieged Strip on High Alert

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza announced on Sunday the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Deputy Health Minister, Youssef Abulreesh said that the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza’s Rafah border with neighboring Egypt, the previous Thursday.

The two, who exhibited symptoms of the illness, were placed in quarantine and not allowed into the community.

While fears are growing that besieged and crowded Gaza is an ideal environment for the spread of the coronavirus, preparations continue throughout the Strip to protect the particularly vulnerable population from the deadly disease.

The Palestine Chronicle continues to cover the coronavirus story in the besieged Gaza, as we were the first to shed light on that dreadful possibility in the war-torn region. Click here to read our editorial from March 4.

(Source / 26.03.2020)

Coronavirus reveals yet again Gaza’s endless and normalised suffering

By David Hearst

Hospitals all over the western world are bracing for a tsunami of intensely ill patients suffering from breathing difficulties due to the Coronavirus.

In Britain, car companies are scrambling to produce ventilators. Plans are being laid for the army to build hospitals in conference centres. In Ontario, Canada ,wards are being cleared, plans are being laid, models of infection are being scrutinised. If 70 percent of the population does not cut its social engagement by 70 per cent, locking down will not work. Nerves are jangling.

Breaking point

So what do you think it is like in Gaza? This is not a question heard often these days, when Palestinians have been dropped off the international agenda, either as refugees or as people.

What do you think the prospect is for a besieged enclave that has 56 ventilators and 40 intensive care beds for a population of two million?

By comparison, according to figures from the OECD, Germany has 29.2 ICU beds per 100,000; Belgium 22; Italy 12.5; France 11.6, and the UK six and a half. Gaza has two.

Everywhere, medics are asking themselves whether they will be brought to their knees by Covid-19. They don’t ask themselves that question in Gaza. The health system there already is on its knees – by design. It passes for normality. It does not make the news. The international community scrambles with sticking plaster relief.

This has been the reality for the past 13 years. No conflict in that time was complete without a warning that the health system in Gaza was on the point of collapse.

In June 2018, at the start of a year when Israeli soldiers killed 195 Palestinians and injured nearly 29,000 people on the Great March of Return, UN experts said that healthcare in Gaza was “at breaking point”.

Acts of cruelty

During the war in 2014, hospitals such as Al-Aqsa in Deir al-Balah or al-Wafa in Shujaiyyeh were the target itself of Israeli shelling. Ambulances too were deliberately fired on by Israel. But this is what happens day in day out, acts of cruelty which never make the headlines that define who lives and who dies in Gaza.

Think about what happened to Muna Awad at the Erez Crossing in May last year. Muna had to hand over her gravely ill five-year old daughter Aisha to a woman she had never seen to get medical treatment in East Jerusalem. Aisha had been diagnosed with brain cancer, which could not be treated in the specialist hospital in Gaza.

Neither Muna nor her husband Wissam was allowed to travel with their daughter. Even Aisha’s grandmother, who was 75 (Israel refuses entrance to women under the age of 45 and men under 55), was refused entry.

Erez was the last time her mother saw Aisha conscious. The little girl had several operations in East Jerusalem but returned in a coma and never came out of it. She died in Gaza. Her case is not unique.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, in Gaza, documented 25,658 Palestinians who applied for permits to seek medical treatment outside the enclave in 2018. Of that number, Israeli authorities delayed processing or rejected outright 9,832 applications – some 38 percent of cases.

If you want to know what collective punishment feels like in Gaza, try getting sick.

To retrieve the body of one of its soldiers, Hadar Golden, who was killed in combat in 2014, Israel reduced the number of entry permits from Gaza. The campaign was led by Golden’s family. There was an op-ed article in the Washington Post. And the government acted on it.

Figures supplied to Haaretz by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories showed that in the first half of 2018, Israel refused permission to 769 Palestinians seeking to leave Gaza for Israel because they were “first-degree relatives of a Hamas activist.”

So who holds the key to a medical collapse in Gaza? Israel.

Medical collapse

This is why the ministry of health in Gaza called on the international community to compel Israel to remove the blockade amid an acute shortage in ventilators, ICU beds, medicine and protective equipment.

And this is why the international community should now listen. Majdi Duhair, Director of Preventive Medicine at the ministry of health in Gaza, told MEE that the biggest difficulty they faced was their ability to scale up ICU beds.

Given the shortage that exists, they only have 26 free ICU beds to deal with the spread of Covid-19.

“This is the biggest dilemma we face, all that is available is 65 beds of intensive care between children and adults, and this number is sufficient for normal and routine cases, and we need this number. There are six beds in the field hospital, and there are 18-20 beds in all places to deal with the spread of corona,” Duhair said.

He added: “We are doing crew training, but this number is not sufficient. No new staff has been hired, the problem is there are volunteers, but the employment potential is limited, and existing employees receive 40-50 percent of their salaries.”

Gaza has suffered enough. No-one can just sit on the sidelines and watch this happen. Israel has to be told to lift the siege or suffer the consequences of sanctions and isolation itself.

This is an obscenity – one of many in the Middle East – that no western government can afford to maintain.

(Source / 26.03.2020) 

13 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in West Bank village bringing total in Palestine to 86

Ramallah (QNN) – The Palestinian government announced today that thirteen new cases of coronavirus were confirmed this morning in the village of Biddu, northwest of Jerusalem, bringing total in Palestine to 86.

The government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem told official news agency WAFA that tests on several people who were in contact with a village woman, who died yesterday of coronavirus, confirmed 13 new infected cases, which brings the number of the infected in that village of 18, including the dead woman.

Milhem had also told Palestine TV this morning that one of Biddo infected people was first admitted to Ramallah hospital before he was tested positive and therefore all doctors and nurses at the hospital who came in contract with him, a total of 20, have been isolated and are being tested for the virus.

Of the 86 total in Palestine, nine are in the Gaza Strip, including seven who were confirmed positive early this morning, all for people who came in contact at the Gaza quarantine center with the two confirmed cases held there.

A total of 17 cases in Bethlehem have recovered and were sent to home quarantine for 14 days.

(Source / 26.03.2020)