Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Tuesday described Israel’s deduction of Palestinian tax revenues as “illegal”, Anadolu Agency reported.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting in the West Bank city in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said Israel deducts monthly 100 million shekels ($31 million) of Palestinian tax revenues and demanded the Israeli authorities pay back all money.
The tax revenues — known in Palestine and Israel as maqasa — are collected by the Israeli government on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on Palestinian imports and exports. Israel in return earns a commission of 3% of collected revenues.
The tax revenues collected are estimated at around $30-33 million every month, for which tax revenues represent the main source of income to the Palestinian Authority.
“These monthly deductions leave us in a difficult financial situation and weaken our ability to address the financial needs of our people,” Shtayyeh said.
Israel deducted 628 million shekels ($193 million) from Palestinian tax revenues in the first half of 2021, according to an Anadolu Agency survey based on data of the Palestinian Finance Ministry.
Since 2020, Israel has deducted around $16 million monthly from the tax revenues on claims that this amount is being paid out by the Palestinian Authority each month to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel for staging attacks against Israeli targets.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh stressed yesterday that employees who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be put on unpaid leave until the pandemic subsides.
Shtayyeh said that this measure is being taken to protect the community against a new wave of coronavirus.
He said the government would impose tight measures and adopt strict plans to avoid a new lockdown, stressing that everyone should take the vaccine.
Shtayyeh said that Palestine is seeing a sharp decline in the number of people infected with COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, noting that the number of related deaths declined to zero in the occupied West Bank and one or two in besieged Gaza.
He reiterated that everyone should be vaccinated as soon as possible in order to avoid a new wave of coronavirus.
Palestine has suffered 318,181 cases of coronavirus with 3,615 deaths and 312,537 recoveries, according to Worldomet.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has welcomed the visit of CIA Chief William Burns to the region, an official has said, noting it aimed to repair US relations with the PA, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday.
“The visit shows that the Biden administration is serious about restoring Washington’s relations with the Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas,” the official, who was not named by the Israeli newspaper, said.
“The Biden administration’s policy toward the Palestinians is very good,” the official said, claiming that the Palestinians are “very satisfied” with the Biden administration’s policy of “strengthening” the PA.
“The Palestinian Authority is facing a sharp financial crisis and we need urgent aid,” he said. “Failure to support the Palestinian Authority means that Hamas will come to power in the West Bank.”
The paper highlighted a report by Arabi21 which revealed a “secret agreement” that allows the US to increase its intervention in the internal affairs of the PA. America, the deal says, is to help the PA “impose strict control over Palestinian media and educational curricula and reactivate the tripartite American-Israeli-Palestinian anti-incitement committee.”
Several news sources have reported that the US and Israel have been working to repair the PA in order to avoid its possible collapse as a result of ongoing popular protests, the deteriorating economic situation and political and administrative corruption.
Lacking in 60 per cent of appropriate medicine and treatment protocols as a result of the siege, Gaza’s already deficient cancer care is slipping further into chaos as restrictions grow harsher
By Maya Abuali
Beyond dealing with the Gaza Strip’s already uninhabitable living conditions, Palestinian cancer patients in the enclave are unable to receive proper treatment due to numerous obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupation state. With a population of two million in only approximately 365 square kilometres of land, the Gaza Strip has seen around 1,800 new cancer cases each year, while lacking 60 per cent of the appropriate medicine and treatment protocols. Patients living in Gaza are therefore forced to seek treatment in hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem or within Israel. However, due to the restrictions placed on their movement by the Israeli occupation, they often fail to do so in time.
Shortages in adequate care
Data provided to Middle East Monitor by the Al-Rantissi Specialised Hospital in Gaza indicates a major absence of sufficient tools to allow for standard and safe multidisciplinary cancer care. This includes a shortage of trained staff, medical equipment and adequate protocol such as screening for colorectal cancer. There is no main cancer services centre in Gaza, and capacity in cancer facilities such as the Al-Rantissi hospital have been exceeded and are projected to continue to do so in the coming years. Due to the restrictions imposed on imports by the occupation’s siege of the enclave, there is a significant lack in new medicine for breast and colon cancer and chemotherapy, as well as no radiation therapy machines at all. There is also a pressing want for cancer specialists and training programmes for cancer doctors and nurses in the region. These shortages have resulted in severe ramifications; for instance, breast cancer patients — which constitute 15 per cent of all cancer patients in Palestine — have a five-year survival rate of 40 per cent in Gaza, compared to other countries, where the rate stands at approximately 90 per cent.
Dr. Zeena Selman, a pediatric oncologist who has treated children with cancer at Al-Rantissi, explained the dire nature of these issues. “The [challenging] thing in Gaza is because all access [to medicine] is controlled through two checkpoints […] there’s frequent shortages in terms of chemotherapy, there’s no access to radiation therapy, there’s [often] no access to different surgical sub-specialists…,” Selman says in an interview with Middle East Monitor. “You have a strict treatment protocol in Gaza — all of our treatment protocols are very strict in terms of dosing, type of medication, the timing […] things have to happen in such a tight period of time and it’s such a complex process that requires so many different disciplines of medicine.”
Dr. Selman is currently working on several projects including building a cancer registry for children across Palestine so that doctors are able to track every single child struggling with cancer to record their outcomes, place of treatment, specific medicinal needs/shortages, and how they can improve their survival rates.
The pediatric adds: “We know for adults that screening leads to earlier detection, it makes cancer more manageable, easier to treat, so certainly having good screening programs in place is a huge asset to being able to care for cancer patients and makes their cancer more treatable as they’re detected earlier.”
“Also, when you have access to care that doesn’t require crossing checkpoints, having access to [treatment] that’s available locally, having that multidisciplinary care locally, increases cure rates significantly… and the lack of that we know impacts mortality significantly.”
The detrimental impact of the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has only crippled matters further, with cancer sections in hospitals forced to close to accommodate more beds for patients suffering from the virus. There has also been a serious diversion of already scanty resources.
“When resources have to be diverted for patients in respiratory distress because of COVID-19, that leaves no access to ICU beds, or emergency rooms,” Selman explains. “[It has caused] those resources [to be channeled] away from patients with chronic diseases like cancer. There has been a huge impact on both morbidity and mortality for cancer patients, adults and children.”
To add to the challenges doctors and patients face in Gaza, three months ago, Israel launched a new bombing campaign against Gaza, killing at least 254 Palestinians including 66 children and two senior doctors in the space of 11 days. It also caused significant damage to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and Gaza’s only COVID-19 lab and other medical facilities, forcing patients to be moved to other treatment centres which were already at full capacity. Dr. Ayman Abu Alouf, head of Gaza’s coronavirus response operation, was killed in an Israeli attack on his home.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that nearly 30 hospitals and health clinics in the Strip were either flattened or significantly damaged by the Israeli air strikes. Approximately 46 per cent of essential drugs and 33 per cent of essential medicines were rendered unusable.
With the already meagre resources for cancer treatment in Gaza being rerouted due to the pandemic and depleted further by tightening restrictions on import, more patients have been forced to seek treatment outside of the enclave. According to Dr. Muhammad Abu Nada, head of the Al-Rantissi Oncology Department, between 50-60 per cent of cancer patients in Gaza require urgent treatment outside of Gaza, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and atomic scanning, which are not available in the Strip. Although the occupation state opened the Erez-Beit Hanoun crossing on 3 June, individuals are forced to go through a complex and lengthy referral and permit system to obtain approval to leave Gaza. The referral may be issued within weeks, or in many cases they are rejected by the Israeli authorities, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
“They have to obtain a medical referral from the doctor, they have to go to the referral’s office after that, then they have to obtain an appointment from an outside hospital that’s willing to accept them for the treatment that’s not available, and they have to apply for a permit from Israel to be able to leave to get to that appointment, they have to have many weeks’ notice for the appointment…,” Dr. Selman explains. “So it can take weeks or longer to go out and leave Gaza if they’re missing some piece of their care, and this leads to huge delays in treatment, if they get the permit they requested. They’re not always approved.”
The permit system creates bureaucratic barriers to timely access to health care for patients. As a result of the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza in 2007, about 60 per cent of patients have been denied access to the specialised hospitals required for their care this year, the ministry says. A report conducted by the WHO entitled ‘Right to Health‘ stated that in 2018 almost 39 per cent of patient permit applications were unsuccessful; they were either denied outright or delayed, with patients receiving no definitive response to their applications by the time of their hospital appointment. Research from the report details that in 2019, cancer patients requiring chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy who were initially denied or delayed permits between 2015 and 2017 were 1.5 times less likely to survive in the years after application compared to patients who were initially approved permits.
“We just know that there are so many barriers to reaching the 80% cure rate [which we see in the United States],” Dr. Selman says. “[…] We can always try and build capacity but because of this very complicated permit and referral system, so many things are out of our hands even as people who want to help build up services available locally.”
Calls for international support
At a press conference held last week, Dr. Abu Nada attributed the barriers faced by cancer patients in Gaza to the blockade. “The retention of the Israeli siege on Gaza, which is the reason for the lack of medicines and putting restrictions on the movement of the patients who need treatment in the West Bank, Jerusalem or Israel, has resulted in the deaths of many cancer patients.”
The conference, which was held by the Ministry of Health at the Al-Rantissi hospital, included the participation of many children with cancer. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of their ongoing suffering, and to call on all international humanitarian bodies and institutions to support the right to treatment for patients in Gaza and provide them with sufficient medicine and equipment to recover. Dr. Abu Nada also requested the international community pressure Israel to lift the restrictions imposed on travelling for patients from Gaza to allow access to hospitals in the West Bank which can put them on a road to recuperation.
With a third of cancer patients in the Strip minors, the lack of access to the necessary medical care is not only increasing patient agony, it is another tool used by the occupation to destroy the lives and future of Palestinians. As an occupying power, Israel has a legal obligation to ensure Palestinians’ right to health, and that is the least Gaza’s population deserves.
The Israeli occupation army, on Tuesday, accompanied by heavy machinery, razed land near the al-Ibrahimi Mosque, in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
Sheikh Hifthi Abu Isneineh, the Imam at the historic site, told Quds News Network that Israeli military vehicles leveled the grounds adjacent to the holy site, implementing the occupation state’s plan to construct an elevator and road exclusively for use by illegal Israeli colonists.
Local Islamic groups have called for local Palestinians to mobilize in defence of the holy site, to protect its Islamic features, and prevent the occupation authorities from altering the character of the mosque.
“The plan is very dangerous and it aims at changing the religious and historic features of the mosque, ignoring international law as the mosque is at the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.”
– Jamal Abu Iram, Director of the endowments of Hebron
“We call on everyone to come and pray at the mosque in order to defend it from the occupation and its settlers.”
– Jamal Abu Iram, Director of the endowments of Hebron
On February 25, 1994, an American-born Israeli settler named Baruch Goldstein, opened fire from his army-issued automatic rifle at hundreds of Palestinian Muslims as they were performing the dawn prayer during the month of Ramadan.
Goldstein killed 29 worshippers and wounded 150 others, before the worshipers were able to overcome the gunman.
Israeli soldiers abducted, on Wednesday at dawn, a young man, while illegal colonizers assaulted a Palestinian family, in the Hebron district, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.
Media sources said several army jeeps invaded the al-Jawaya community, east of Yatta town, south of Hebron, searched homes, and abducted a young man, identified as Saddam Ahmad Shawaheen, 21.
They added that the soldiers also installed roadblocks at roads leading to many towns and refugee camps in Hebron, before stopping and searching dozens of cars, and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.
Furthermore, illegal Israeli colonizers, squatting in the Ramat Yoshai colony, which was built on stolen Palestinian lands in the Tal Romedia neighborhood in Hebron, attacked the home of Bassam Ali Abu Aisha, before assaulting him and his family.
Israeli soldiers were in the area and did not attempt to stop the assailants, eyewitnesses said.