In 2 weeks, Israeli forces kill Palestinian, injure 200, detain 100, demolish 16 structures, displace 35 people, bulldoze road
JERUSALEM, Saturday, March 21, 2020 (WAFA) – In the weeks between 3 and 16 March, and as the Palestinians were battling to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease in their vulnerable territory, Israel killed one young Palestinian, injured 200 others, detained over than 100 people, demolished 16 homes and structures displacing 35 people, and bulldozed a vital road connecting remote Palestinian villages, according to a United Nations report. In its biweekly “Protection of Civilians” report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories said that on March 11, Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old boy [Mohammad Abdul-Karim Hamayel] in Beita town, in the north of the West Bank, and injured 132 Palestinians, including 17 children, as Palestinians attempted to prevent Israeli settlers from taking over a vital mountain in their town. Another 67 Palestinians, including 20 children, were injured by Israeli forces in multiple clashes across the West Bank during these two weeks. Israeli forces also carried out 78 search and arrest operations across the West Bank, and arrested 110 Palestinians, including 16 children, said OCHA….
Israeli soldiers kill a young Palestinian man in Ramallah
IMEMC 23 Mar — Israeli soldiers killed, on Sunday at night, a young Palestinian man near the entrance of Ni‘lin village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Medical sources said the soldiers shot Sofian Nawwaf al-Khawaja, 29, causing a very serious injury that resulted in his death shortly afterward. They added that the soldiers stopped and held a Palestinian ambulance while rushing to render aid to the Palestinian. Instead of allowing the Palestinian medics to render the urgently needed aid to the critically wounded young man, the soldiers called for an Israeli ambulance while al-Khawaja continued to bleed. The Israeli army claimed that the soldiers opened fire at several Palestinians who reportedly hurled stones at their jeeps. However, Palestinian sources said the slain Palestinian was not among the protesters but happened to be passing through the area along with his cousin. Israeli daily Haaretz quoted a military spokesperson stating that the soldiers opened fire at two Palestinians who were “hurling rocks at Israeli vehicles at the Ni‘lin junction,” and added that the soldiers “killed one of them, while the other Palestinian managed to escape.” Haaretz added that the army initiated a search campaign in the area.
Israeli troops shoot, injure a Palestinian teen in Qalqilia
21 Mar by Rami Almeghari — Israeli troops reportedly shot and wounded, on Friday, a Palestinian teenaged boy in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, local Palestinian sources reported. Sources told media outlets that Israeli troops, positioned on the northern checkpoint of Qalqilia, opened fire indiscriminately on a group of Palestinian youths. The Israeli army fire came in response to protests by local youths, near the Israeli army checkpoint. Medical sources reported that the Darweesh Nazzal hospital in Qalqilia, received a wounded teen boy on Friday afternoon, his injury was described as moderate.
Israeli settlers assault, injure Palestinian farmer in West Bank
21 Mar by Ali Salam — A Palestinian man was injured Friday after being beaten by illegal Israeli settlers who broke into the site of abandoned Homesh settlement, south of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, a Palestinian official reported. Ghassan Daghlas, a local monitor of illegal settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli settlers attacked and assaulted local villager, Mustafa Abu Za‘bal. Abu Za‘bal, who was working on his farmland near the abandoned settlement of Homesh, suffered minor injuries from the attack, and also had his horse stolen by the illegal colonists, according to Daghlas.
In related news, a group of armed Israeli colonists stormed Palestinian-owned farmlands, on Monday, near the illegal Gush Etzion settlement, south of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.
Dozens of Jewish settlers break into Aqsa Mosque
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 22 Mar — Scores of extremist settlers on Sunday morning forced their way into al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem under tight police guard. Local sources said that dozens of Jewish settlers stormed al-Aqsa Mosque through al-Maghareba Gate, roamed the site and performed Talmudic rituals. The Israeli police a few days ago decided to close most of al-Aqsa Mosque’s doors and put more restrictions on the Palestinian worshipers visiting the site for prayers, claiming it was a protective measure against coronavirus. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers have not stopped their daily raids into the holy site.
Vehicles smashed in apparent hate crime targeting Palestinian town
Times of Israel 15 Mar by Jacob Magid — Police on Sunday opened an investigation into an apparent hate crime in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of Hawara, where a group of masked, hooded suspects were filmed entering a parking lot and vandalizing at least 15 vehicles. Security cameras caught the suspects slowly walking into the lot just after midnight on Sunday, then hurling stones, smashing windows with crossbars and slashing tires. The Yesh Din rights group said in a statement that witnesses heard the suspects firing in the air while destroying the vehicles. Hawara was the scene of a clash between settlers and Palestinians last week, during which an Israeli teen suffered a serious head injury and a Palestinian teen was moderately injured. Police opened an investigation into the incident but no arrests have been made. Sunday’s incident came less than three weeks after another apparent hate crime that targeted the nearby village of Yasuf. In total, tires on 13 cars were slashed in Yasuf, according to Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group. The village is located adjacent to the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank and near a handful of settlements known as extremist hotbeds. Graffiti was also spray-painted on the walls of two structures in Yasuf, pictures shared by Yesh Din showed. “There will be a war over Judea and Samaria,” referring to biblical names for the West Bank, was found written in Hebrew on one wall, while a Star of David was seen on the other. Police opened an investigation into the Yasuf incident, but arrests have yet to be made.
Israeli forces shoot, injure one Palestinian in Kufur Qaddoum
15 Mar by Ali Salam — A Palestinian young man suffered a shrapnel wound in his back, on Saturday, when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) fired towards a peaceful group, marching in Kufur Qaddoum town, east of Qalqilia, a local official reported. Morad Eshteiwi, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Colonies, said Israeli soldiers opened fire at the participants, injuring one Palestinian man in the back with shrapnel from live ammunition, Days of Palestine reported. A Red Crescent ambulance crew stabilized the injured man before transporting him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus city, located east of the town.
Settlers attack herders east of Ramallah
RAMALLAH, Saturday, March 14, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli settlers today attacked Palestinian herders while grazing livestock near the village of al-Mughayir, to the east of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, according to a local source. Ameen Abu Alia, mayor of the village, told WAFA that settlers attacked herders and chased them out of the pastures and attempted to steal some of the livestock. He said Israeli soldiers in the area did not intervene to stop the settlers, rather they provided them with cover and protection. Shepherds live off raising livestock and they often take their sheep to the open pastures for their food.
Soldiers abduct five Palestinians, including two children, in Salfit and Jerusalem
IMEMC 23 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Sunday evening, five Palestinians, including two children, in Salfit, in central West Bank, and in the occupied East Jerusalem. Media sources in Salfit said several army jeeps invaded the az-Zawiya town, west of the city, before storming and searching homes. They added that the soldiers abducted three Palestinians, identified as Mo’taz Mashhour Shqeir, Ibrahim Hasan Shqeir, and Nour Amin Abu Laila. In addition, several army jeeps invaded the Jerusalem town of al-‘Issawiya, before abducting two children, identified as Daoud Aa’ed Atiya, who was taken prisoner near the al-Arba‘in Mosque, and Qais Haitham Mustafa, who was in front of his home. Local sources said the soldiers also fired a barrage of gas bombs and concussion grenades at Palestinian protesters in the area.
Nearly 1,600 trees vandalised by Israel settlers in the West Bank since the start of 2020
MEMO 20 Mar — Nearly 1,600 trees have been vandalised by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank since the start of 2020, according to UN OCHA. According to the agency’s latest fortnightly report, during the period 3-16 March, Israeli settlers vandalised at least 385 Palestinian-owned trees and vehicles in the West Bank. Three such attacks involved settlers cutting down or uprooting some 200 olive trees and 150 grape vines “belonging to farmers from Al Khader and Khallet Sakariya villages that are planted next to the Gush Etzion settlement area (Bethlehem), and 35 olive trees next to Bruchin settlement (Salfit)”. Meanwhile, five additional attacks in the Nablus governorate “involved slashing the tires of 11 vehicles in Huwwara town, stoning and damaging two houses and four vehicles in ‘Einabus village, and vandalising an uninhabited house in Burin village.” In addition, UN OCHA stated, Palestinian residents of the ‘Ein ar Rashash herding community near Ramallah reported 25 lambs “stolen by a settler residing in an adjacent settlement outpost”. On top of the numerous incidents of attacks on Palestinian-owned property and livestock, Israeli settlers “physically assaulted and injured three Palestinians”, including a woman, in three separate incidents in Al Auja town and the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2). “Additional settler attacks not resulting in injuries or damage were reported in the H2 area on 10 and 11 March, during celebrations of a Jewish holiday (Purim),” the UN OCHA report added. The UN OCHA report is issued once a fortnight….
Israel uncovers ring smuggling arms to West Bank
RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 17 Mar — The Israeli authorities said on Monday they arrested a ring that was smuggling weapons from Israel to the Palestinian Territories. A police spokesperson said an investigation team of Israeli military, police and Shin Bet security service arrested 21 people suspected of running a weapon smuggling ring in which ammunition and gun parts were stolen from military bases and sold on the black market. Some of those suspects were indicted on Monday, while others were being kept in custody before being charged in the near future, police added. The investigation, dubbed “Brothers in Arms,” was launched when police officers stopped last December, a car that drove through a checkpoint from Israel into the southern West Bank and found a large amount of ammunition inside. The police uncovered that the ring included soldiers, Israeli civilians and Palestinian citizens who come from the Bedouin community in the Negev Desert. The soldiers who were part of the ring would steal ammunition and gun parts from their bases and then easily move the stolen goods and hand them over to their co-conspirators who would then sell the bullets and weapon components to Palestinians in the West Bank. The investigation found that the soldiers stole large quantities of ammunition from the military and even stole working gun parts and then replaced the weapons’ original parts with replicas manufactured in the West Bank. The police uncovered that the originals were sold at a price of hundreds or thousands of shekels per unit and that both Israeli citizens and Palestinians purchased the stolen goods. Meanwhile, the Israeli security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle a stock of 4,000 bullets through the Meitar checkpoint. Investigators believe that this incident and the weapons trafficking ring are linked.
B’Tselem: Abuse of Palestinians overrides fear of COVID-19
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights 19 Mar — Despite the unprecedented health crisis requiring residents of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to take extreme social isolation measures, the Israel Police have chosen now, of all times, to escalate their abuse and collective punishment of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-‘Issawiya, as part of an operation that began in April 2019. Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers invade the crowded neighborhood daily, even at night, and more so on weekends, for no apparent reason and initiate friction with the residents. In the ensuing confrontations, the police act violently, firing sponge rounds, tear gas canisters and stun grenades. They also close off the entrances to the neighborhood. During these incursions, the police arrest residents, mostly minors, and take them to a police station where they are interrogated alone. Most minors are released after a short period, sometimes after spending all night in custody. The police abuse of Palestinians in al-‘Issawiya, by now a permanent feature of life in the neighborhood, is illegal and cannot be justified even under the usual routine of occupation. Yet at this sensitive time, such conduct exposes residents to substantial, completely unnecessary health risks, as it encourages gatherings and forces arrested residents, including many minors, to leave home and be around strangers. The police conduct is jeopardizing public safety (including the health of the police officers) and violating the medical guidelines on social isolation. The fact that Israeli authorities disregard the lives of al-‘Issawiya residents, including children and teens, is nothing new. Yet continuing and even escalating such conduct during a pandemic is an especially appalling manifestation of this policy.
A day in the life of a coronavirus quarantined volunteer at Angel Hotel
RAMALLAH, Saturday, 14 March 2020 (WAFA) by Ihab Rimawi — Before March 5, no one would think that vibrant Angel Hotel in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus Christ, would become the main quarantine in the occupied West Bank for patients of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. But this became a fact when about seven guests and staff tested positive for the virus on that day. From that moment, Antwan Saqqa and three of his friends, who work at the hotel, decided to volunteer to help the patients and the other people quarantined at the hotel. Saqqa, the three volunteers and five of the hotel staff all tested negative for COVID-19. Nevertheless, he and three of this friends decided to remain at the hotel to help their colleagues stuck there, both the infected and the not-infected. They are currently staying in the ground floor of the hotel, while the quarantined staff and guests, who also tested negative, are staying in the second floor. Those who tested positive for the virus are quarantined in the third floor. Ever since the start of the crisis, the volunteers in the ground floor have divided themselves into two groups, with the first group providing quarantined guests and patients with breakfast in the morning and vitamins to improve immunity. Two sterilized wagons are used for delivery of food, vitamins and other supplies, and are placed outside the hotel every time after their use for sterilization and ventilation….
White dress and matching mask: Palestinians brave virus to wed
Bethlehem (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 20 Mar — A wedding in the West Bank on Friday saw a twist on a familiar scene: the Palestinian bride wore a long white dress, but with a matching face mask and gloves to protect against the novel coronavirus. As the COVID-19 illness sweeps the globe, public events have been cancelled in droves, including many weddings. Those seeking to plough ahead with their nuptials have had to radically alter their plans. Baraa Amarneh and her fiancé, Imad Sharaf, decided to carry on with their wedding, despite the bride coming from Bethlehem, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the West Bank. Almost all of the 48 COVID-19 cases among Palestinians have been in the Bethlehem governorate. The couple’s wedding had been planned months in advance and Sharaf, 25, said they decided not to postpone, to show fellow Palestinians that life could continue, despite the pandemic. The city where Christians believe Jesus was born has been under lockdown, with no one allowed in or out without a permit, for more than two weeks. Sharaf, who comes from a village near Hebron, around 20 kilometres south of Bethlehem, had to get special government permission to enter the city to pick up Amarneh and bring her to his hometown for the wedding on Friday. The ceremony was supposed to include dozens of guests, but in the end, the bride and groom were flanked by just a few family members each, standing at a safe distance. “The conditions and the spread of the virus meant we had to marry without guests and without anyone except my family and the bride’s family,” Sharaf said. As Amarneh has left the locked down area and is therefore considered at risk of having contracted the disease, she will now have to self-isolate for 14 days. Sharaf said that wouldn’t be a problem, treating it as a staycation honeymoon. “We are talking about 14 days. I would stay in quarantine with my wife a month or more.”
Film review: ‘Mayor’ shows the West Bank as we rarely see it
LA Times 13 Mar by Mary McNamara — The mayor is busy all the time. A local school needs better plumbing and doors that stay shut. A new plaza threatens the destruction of a public restroom for women. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony is in its final festive planning stages. There is a sewage issue in the valley, and the city is still trying to figure out its brand. “That’s not a brand, that’s a slogan,” the mayor says in a meeting he leaves early to make yet another meeting. “I don’t think we understand what branding is.” Although this mayor appears to be particularly beloved — and indeed after just a few minutes it is difficult not to fall a bit in love with him — this could be any city, really. Except for the language, which is Palestinian Arabic. This mayor, the titular character of “Mayor,” a documentary by David Osit that premiered at this year’s True/False fest, is Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah, the small West Bank city that is the de facto capital of the Palestinian National Authority. As the film shows, Hadid travels the world promoting his city — this month Ramallah became the twin city of Oxford, England — and calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine … But as the film also shows, he spends much of his time taking care of this city of 57,000. High in the Judean hills, 10 miles south of Jerusalem, a Muslim majority lives peacefully with a strong Christian minority. Bars, cafes and fast-food chains abound; women walk with their heads uncovered. The city’s slogan, We Ramallah, has a hashtag and a sign that unapologetically echoes the I Amsterdam sign, and there isn’t a camel in sight. It’s an ancient and secular city, which, though surrounded on all sides by Israeli settlements and soldiers and containing its own refugee camps, bears little resemblance to the strife-filled and often sinister depictions of the Middle East that fill American film and television. A city where, as depicted in “Mayor,” the Muslim call to prayer occurs literally alongside the pealing of a church’s bells….
“Mayor” debuted to a full-house standing ovation in the 1,700-seat Jesse Auditorium [in Columbia, Missouri, at the True/False Film Fest] “I was astonished at the reaction,” Osit says. “An Israeli woman came up to me and said she had been nervous about coming to the movie, but she was so glad she did, and an Arab woman told me she was grateful to be seen for once. “I was devastated that Mayor Musa missed it — I’m not sure how many chances a Palestinian politician can have to see over a thousand Americans in the Midwest standing and cheering for them.”….
First 2 coronavirus cases confirmed in Gaza
The Media Line 22 Mar — Palestinian health officials said on Sunday that the first two cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the Gaza Strip. The two patients are both Palestinian men in their 30s who returned late on Saturday from Pakistan via Egypt. Both are in stable condition and are being held in quarantine in Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Gaza Health Ministry said. An undisclosed number of people who were in contact with the men are also being quarantined. Over the past two weeks, public spaces such as markets, event halls, and schools have been shut throughout the strip – home to around 2 million Palestinians – to help prevent the spread of the virus. As of last week, Hamas, the de facto government in the strip, was only allowing residents to cross into Egypt or Israel for urgent medical care. Israel also closed its side of the border crossings with Gaza, allowing exceptions only for medical and humanitarian reasons….
In Gaza, 51 returnees placed under quarantine
GAZA, Monday, March 16, 2020 (WAFA) – Palestinians returning to Gaza were placed under quarantine immediately after crossing Rafah border crossing with Egypt, reported WAFA correspondent. He said that 51 returnees were placed in a two-week mandatory quarantine at a school in Rafah city in the south of the Gaza Strip as a precautionary measure applied to all returnees from abroad to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The Rafah crossing, which has been closed for some time, was opened for one time to allow Gazans to return home.
PHOTOS: Using humble means, besieged Gaza prepares for the coronavirus
Palestine Chronicle 16 Mar — Despite its limited resources, the Gaza Health Ministry and international aid agencies operating in the besieged Gaza Strip, are taking precautionary measures to protect the Palestinians in the Strip from the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease. Palestinian photojournalist Fawzi Mahmoud visited the Al-Shati refugee camp, located on the outskirts of Gaza city. His photos below illustrate some of the measures taken to shield the refugees of the camp from the deadly virus.
Coronavirus imposes calm on Gaza front
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (Al-Monitor) 17 Mar — The Gaza Strip has witnessed, since the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, a complete calm, especially in relation to Israel, as the launch of incendiary balloons and rockets into Israeli towns has ceased. The tension along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel has persisted over several months amid mutual accusations related to the implementation of the truce recently reached under Egyptian auspices. Since the beginning of 2020, the Gaza Strip has experienced repeated military escalations between the Palestinian resistance factions and Israel, the last and most dangerous of which took place Feb. 23, after the Israeli army killed an Islamic Jihad militant and dragged his body with a military bulldozer on the security fence in the town of Khuzaa, in southern Gaza … But the tension has disappeared. Israel has not taken major and exceptional measures to ease the siege, and balloons and rockets have disappeared. Calm has returned to the scene. Many changes had occurred, the most prominent being the spread of coronavirus, and the fear that it would spread in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip … Despite the confirmation of the Great Marches of Return commission that a mass demonstration will still take place on Land Day on March 30 — the first protest since the commission’s activities were suspended in early 2020 — a source told Al-Monitor that it would probably be canceled….
Gaza implements distance education over virus fears
GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) 20 Mar by Zehra Nur Duz — The Gaza Strip continues its education activities with live broadcasts on radio and social networking sites after schools have been closed as part of the measures to stem the spread of coronavirus in the city. Efforts to implement distance education have started immediately after the closure of schools, Lulu Harara, an English teacher in Palestine, told Anadolu Agency. Harara said that distance education is an appropriate method for overcoming the current crisis and sustain educational activities in the city. Hani Ismail, director of Radio Programs at Gaza’s Education Ministry, said distance education has positive effects on students. Noting that online broadcasting started about one week ago, Ismail said their broadcasts have been watched more than two million times on social networking sites. Around 40 Palestinian teachers prepared these lesson videos of 20 minutes each, together with a technical team of experts, he said. Ismail stressed that poor internet connection and power outages are among the most critical problems with respect to e-learning in Gaza city, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.
PHOTOS: Gaza decides to close border to protect against coronavirus
MEMO 16 Mar by Mohammed Asad — Authorities in the besieged Gaza Strip agreed to close all crossings into the enclave in an effort to prevent a coronavirus pandemic. In a meeting yesterday, the bodies said the movement of people in both directions through the crossings would be suspended until further notice except in emergency cases. As a result, the Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt and the Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossing into Israel were closed and only critical cases were allowed to travel though.
Gaza pleads for emergency medical aid amid coronavirus
GAZA (AA) 21 Mar by Mohammad Majid — The blockaded Gaza Strip pleaded Friday for emergency medical aid from humanitarian organizations around the world to combat the novel coronavirus. “We want international aid organizations to meet urgent medical needs such as respiratory and intensive care devices, medicines and protective equipment as part of combating COVID-19,” said the Health Ministry in Gaza. Nearly 1,200 travelers who entered Gaza from abroad are being kept in quarantine in 18 different centers. The Strip continues education activities with live broadcasts on radio and social networking sites after schools were closed to stem the spread of virus known as COVID-19.
Coronavirus: Families of Palestinians in Saudi prisons plead for their release
GAZA CITY (MEE) 21 Mar by Adam Khalil — The families of dozens of Palestinians and Jordanians who are languishing in jails across Saudi Arabia have pleaded with the kingdom to have them released, citing the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. According to multiple sources, at least 68 Palestinian and Jordanian citizens are being kept in four prisons across Saudi Arabia over charges of having ties with Palestinian resistance group Hamas. Families of the detainees, some of whom are in their 80s, have told Middle East Eye that the accused have been denied access to lawyers and visitation rights, and authorities have recently begun reducing phone call access. Meanwhile, sources within Hamas leadership have told MEE that in their most recent court appearance, the detainees stood trial in hastily arranged hearings in groups of five. According to one source, the charges against the accused ranged from the bizarre to the indefensible. One person is accused of possessing bottles of Palestinian olive oil, a second is being charged with sending sheep to people in Gaza for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and a third is accused of possessing a book on the history of Palestine by Kuwaiti writer Tareq al-Suwaidan. Umm Qusai al-Haddad, who was born in Saudi Arabia but now lives in Gaza City, said she feared for the safety of her father Suleiman, 67, and her two brothers, Yahya, 40, and Muhammad, 38, all of whom have been in detention since 2018. She told MEE that Saudi authorities had repeatedly withheld information from the family, including their recent court session on 8 March….
PCHR calls for the expedited release of investigation results on tragic Nusairat Camp fire
17 Mar — The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights continues to monitor, with great pain, the consequences of the catastrophic fire at Nusairat camp that took place on 05 March 2020 in a densely populated area at the heart of Nusairat refugee camp market. As a result of the unfortunate event, 19 civilians, including 4 children and 4 women, died and 66 others were wounded. Additionally, the fire caused grave damage to properties, including shops, vehicles, and street vendors. PCHR investigated the incident thoroughly; its fieldworkers met with dozens of eyewitnesses. Accordingly, it appears that the fire was the result of blast explosion of a gas tank (capacity 2000kg), that was at 1,340kg; the tank was used as a reserve at al-Bana Bakery, and it was stored approximately 20m behind the bakery. The gas tank was the property of al-Mashharawi Gas Company. The fire extended into a nearby carpenter shop, which had incendiary materials inside and then expanded onto nearby shops, manufacturing establishments, houses, street vending stalls, NGOs and vehicles. The fire caused grave damage to citizens’ properties, including 20 manufacturing and trade establishments, 42 street vendors and 16 vehicles. Eyewitnesses confirmed that they heard a blast explosion, followed by pillars of white smoke shooting up the sky, before the big explosion of the gas tank and expansion of the fire …
The Ministry of Interior and National Security in the Gaza Strip issued a press release on 05 March 2020, that clarified that concerned bodies are conducting necessary investigations to identify the causes of the incident. According to former Nusairat Mayor Mohammed Yusuf Abushekan’s statement to a PCHR fieldworker, the fire was caused by a gas leak from al-Bana Bakery’s reserve, which is in a densely populated area. He added that the High National Technical Committee for Work Safety, members include Nusairat Municipality, Civil Defense, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, and the Ministries of Health, Work and National Economy, had conducted a field inspection visit to all bakeries in Nusairat on 25 February 2020, including al-Bana Bakery. This visit is part of the standard protocol for renewing licenses, which aims at ensuring the bakeries are in line with the health and safety standards. He added that al-Bana Bakery’s owners were asked to conduct several safety measures, including using gas cylinders daily, refrain from storing multiple gas cylinders in the bakery and to improve the electric network. The Bakery was given 2 weeks to meet the Committee’s conditions and obtain concerned authorities’ approval in order to renew their annual license, to which the owners provided a written pledge; however, the incident took place within the 2-week grace period….
Butchered with a bulldozer
EI 17 Mar by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — Like many other people in Gaza, Mervat al-Naem watched a horrific video on 23 February. It showed Israeli soldiers crushing a man who had already been wounded with a bulldozer, then turning over his body to confirm he was dead. Soon after she saw those images, Mervat learned that the victim was her youngest son Muhammad. “When they told me it was Muhammad, I watched the video again,” she said. “I could feel every blow to his body. I still have a pain in my heart.” Early that morning, Muhammad had brought his baby boy, Hamza, to the door of Mervat’s bedroom. Muhammad informed her that he had to go out but would be back before long. “He waved, smiled and then he left,” Mervat said. It was the last time she saw him. He was killed in the Khan Younis area, near the fence separating Gaza and Israel. Israel has alleged that he and another man tried to plant a bomb next to the fence. In response to the killing, Islamic Jihad fired a number of rockets into Israel. The Israeli authorities then bombed Gaza repeatedly for two days.
Muhammad kept his involvement in armed resistance secret from his mother. She only learned about it when Islamic Jihad published a tribute to him on the day he was killed. While Mervat said that she was surprised to learn her son was an Islamic Jihad fighter, she added that joining a resistance group “is normal in a place like Gaza.” Muhammad’s life had been shaped by Israeli brutality. He was only a teenager when Israel imposed a full blockade on Gaza in 2007; since then he had survived three major Israeli attacks on the Strip.
The video of Muhammad’s killing was made by Muthana al-Najjar, a journalist. Muthana al-Najjar insists that Muhammad and another man were approximately 200 meters away from the boundary fence when they were injured by Israeli troops. His testimony contradicts Israel’s allegations that the men had planted an explosive device at the fence. “The driver [of the bulldozer] wasn’t acting spontaneously,” said Muthana al-Najjar. “It was like an organized military operation.” According to Muthana al-Najjar, eight Israeli soldiers “were shooting at everyone who approached the two men.” A drone flew above the men at low altitude. Rich Gal, a senior figure in the Israeli military’s Horev Brigade, has been identified as the commander on the scene at the time of the killing….
Gaza doctors lead Friday prayers to warn about coronavirus
MEMO 21 Mar — A number of Palestinian doctors led Friday prayers in several mosques across the Gaza Strip to spread awareness about the coronavirus. This came after a joint announcement made by the Ministry of Health and the Endowment Ministry in Gaza, stating that doctors would lead the Friday prayers in order to raise awareness about the coronavirus among the Gaza residents. The doctors wore their work uniforms while they led the prayers, and informed of recent information regarding the virus, and explained how to protect from the virus. In addition, the doctors advised on how to deal with anyone who appears to suffer from symptoms that could be related to the coronavirus. [Did they actually lead the prayer itself, or just deliver the sermon/talk?]
QFFD grants $2m for operations at St. John’s Eye Hospital in Gaza
GAZA 17 Mar –St. John’s Eye Hospital in the Gaza Strip conducted 3,020 eye operations and medical procedures for ophthalmic patients in the Gaza Strip as part of the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) grant to the hospital worth $2m. The two-year grant started in May 2019, with the aim of contributing to the costs of patients coming to St. John’s Eye Hospital from needy cases and focusing on eye and surgical services. This grant, which is supervised by the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, comes in light of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions experienced by the residents of the Strip and the urgent need to support the health sector through the support of the hospital in order to continue to provide service and treatment to patients and difficult humanitarian cases in the Strip.
Israel urged to facilitate maximum activity at Gaza’s sole commercial crossing
MEMO 17 Mar — Israeli authorities are being urged to “facilitate maximum activity” at the Gaza Strip’s only commercial crossing, a demand made all the more urgent in light of the coronavirus-triggered economic downturn. Publishing a new factsheet on the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) crossing, freedom of movement-focused Israeli NGO Gisha said that authorities have “a responsibility to allow the flow of vital items and humanitarian aid to the Strip, as well as foster conditions to allow for as much economic activity in Gaza as possible, even in these exceptional circumstances”. Gisha noted that, in the case of the occupied Palestinian territory, restrictions on movement related to containing the spread of the coronavirus, “come in addition to severe restrictions on movement of both people and goods that Israel has enforced for decades as a matter of policy”. According to Gisha, its new factsheet is based on “ongoing monitoring of movement and current research”, and “provides analysis of the costs associated with Kerem Shalom Crossing serving as the exclusive route for movement of goods between Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank” … Urging Israel to “remove the sweeping restrictions on movement of goods it enforces at Kerem Shalom”, Gisha is recommending “a number of measures that can be implemented at the crossing to alleviate the economic crisis” in Gaza, “until the closure is lifted and the occupation is ended”. These measures include “opening additional commercial crossings in northern Gaza”, “removing restrictions on types of goods that can exit the Strip and restrictions on days/hours for exit of goods”, and “ensuring uninterrupted operations of the crossing and refraining from closing Kerem Shalom as a punitive measure”…..
UNRWA to turn schools into clinics for patients with respiratory diseases in Gaza
MEMO 17 Mar — UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza has decided to separate patients with respiratory diseases from other patients as part of its efforts to fight the coronavirus, Quds Net News reported yesterday. In order to carry out this measure, UNRWA converted a number of its schools into clinics and has started to install the necessary equipment, in a precautionary procedure to guarantee the safety of Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Meanwhile, the international organisation stressed that it would not receive any of the patients of respiratory diseases in any clinics where other patients are being treated. UNRWA said the schools would be sterilised before the resumption of classes.
Canadian doctor who works in Gaza makes 3D-printed face shields for COVID-19
CBC Radio 19 Mar — A Palestinian-Canadian doctor is using the skills he picked up working in the Gaza Strip to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home. Dr. Tarek Loubani, a London, Ont., emergency room doctor, is using equipment from his medical supplies charity, The Glia Project, to make 3D-printed face shields for his colleagues in Canada. “As we started to see the numbers increasing, it became obvious that Canada will very much have the same trajectory as everywhere else,” Loubani told As It Happens host Carol Off. “That’s when we realized if everybody else is running out of face shields and other personal protective equipment, then so will we.” So he turned to his international charity, which produces low-cost, 3D-printed medical supplies like stethoscopes and tourniquets for conflict zones and impoverished areas. He and his colleagues at Glia got to work designing a face shield that can be printed by the hundreds. It is made from plastic, Mylar and elastic, and covers the whole face, protecting the nose and eyes from droplets that may contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. They can be used as well as, or as an alternative to, the N95 face masks that health-care workers usually wear … Loubani says the atmosphere on the front lines of the crisis feels very similar to working in a conflict zone. “It really does feel right now like when we’re sitting in Al-Shifa Hospital, the biggest hospital in Gaza, and we know that there is a bombing coming and we’re just waiting. That’s exactly how it feels like now,” Loubani said. “Everybody’s gloved, everybody’s gowned and everybody’s waiting.”….
COGAT coordinates the delivery of more coronavirus equipment into Gaza
JPost 21 Mar by Celia Jean — Once again, large amounts of essential coronavirus products were delivered into Gaza through the Erez border crossing by the Defense Ministry’s military unit COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), on Friday. “COGAT and the PA are cooperating closely and effectively to manage the outbreak of the virus,” said the head of the coordinator’s civil affairs department, Col. Sharon Biton, in a meeting with representatives of international organizations to evaluate the ongoing situation. “The coronavirus, like other viruses, does not recognize geographic borders.” Included in the delivery were hundreds of coronavirus testing kits, and 1,000 protective medical gear kits. The coordination was performed through the Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Gaza Strip. COGAT also coordinated the delivery of an additional 1,000 protective medical gear kits, together with 100 liters of ‘alcogel,’ with hygiene maintaining and virus prevention uses. With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, concern is growing in Israel over an outbreak occurring in the Gaza Strip. The concern comes from the likelihood that should Gaza experience an outbreak of the virus, its weak healthcare infrastructure will be overwhelmed. “All this is part of a continuing series of efforts that COGAT has been advancing together with the Health Ministry in order to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, and to eradicate the outbreak in the West Bank area,” COGAT said on Friday. In the last month, COGAT has been seen delivering hundreds of testing kits into Gaza, as well as 20 tons of disinfectants used to maintain hygiene and sanitation into the West Bank.
Opinion: Palestinians would die for the Israeli kind of lockdown / Gideon Levy
[behind paywall] Haaretz 19 Mar — The heavens have darkened and everything is closing in around us. Only fate, God or the shaper of history are laughing at us from up high, a bitter, ironic laughter. The irony of fate: For the first time, Israel is tasting some of the hell it has been dishing out for decades to its subjects. With alarming speed, Israelis have entered a reality known to every Palestinian child. Even the terms have been borrowed from the occupation: Israel is on its way to a lockdown, the army is taking over hotels, the Shin Bet security service is taking over our cellphones, and the Border Police and its checkpoints are right around the corner. It’s no coincidence that Haaretz’s military analyst has been recruited to serve as the coronavirus analyst. In a day or two Tel Aviv will resemble Jenin and Israel will be like the Gaza Strip. What is routine there has become a frightening dystopia here. Of course, the differences are many. What for us constitutes the end of the world would for them be an easing of the closure, with the pandemic looming over everyone. Still, we can’t but marvel at the similarities. First, the state of siege. The gates are practically locked. No one leaves or enters. Think of Gaza for 14 consecutive years. Young people who have never seen a passenger plane, even adults who have never been inside an airport, not even dreaming of a vacation abroad. Israelis have difficulties with life without Ben-Gurion Airport even for a moment. Gazans don’t know about a life that includes trips abroad. Where’s that? What does it look like?….
Gaza: Takeaways from the Coronavirus: ‘Dear World, How is the lockdown?’
PIC 22 Mar by Benay Blend — During the early days of Covid-19 lockdowns, a variety of social media posts from Gaza, such as the one above, appeared from the blockaded Gaza Strip. Ranging from satire to “schadenfreude,” as Zainah El-Haroun observes, these dispatches emerged from a population under Israeli-enforced confinement. For years Gazans have lived this way, so the irony is not lost on them that the borders they have fought to open might now contribute to denying entry to the virus. Referring to the abundance of “black humor,” Dpha al-Sadi, a 28-year-old school teacher, informed Middle East Eye that “almost every Palestinian in Gaza has gone through a life-changing experience during Israel’s military attacks or due to the suffocating life conditions in the Strip,” so it seems “normal” to her that their response would be sardonic. Are world-wide lockdowns similar at all to that suffered by Gazans for many years? The short answer, as Nada Elia notes, is “no.” While the rest of the world is living with insecurity, “social distancing,” “sheltering in place,” and shortages of necessary goods, there are no accompanying bombs, white phosphorus, or snipers shooting from across a border fence … Yet another Facebook meme, involves a takeoff on crisis hotlines: To all quarantined Israelis who are “restless in isolation. Not sure how to cope” — please call the following hotline to reach “highly- experienced, Gazan enclosure experts”— “1-800-266-KARMA.”….
Palestinian prisoners left in the dark by Israel’s coronavirus restrictions
+972 mag 22 Mar by Oren Ziv — With family and lawyer visits canceled due to coronavirus, Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including minors, are now completely cut off from the world — New emergency regulations issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to combat the novel coronavirus prohibit Palestinian political prisoners from meeting their lawyers or receiving family visitations. The decision, announced on March 15, determines that political prisoners, who are usually denied the right to use phones in prison, can only consult with their attorneys over the phone in the event of an upcoming court hearing. The order is in effect for a month, but can be renewed as required for month-long intervals at a time. In effect, this decision prevents thousands of inmates, including child prisoners, from receiving legal counsel or filing petitions and complaints against their terms of imprisonment. With family visits also canceled, prisoners are now completely cut off from the outside world. As of February, around 5,000 Palestinians are locked up in Israeli prisons, including 430 in administrative detention. “You can’t deny prisoners their rights absolutely only because of fear of a pandemic,” said Attorney Abeer Baker, an expert on incarceration who represents criminal and political prisoners. “They are entirely disconnected, and it can continue this way for months.” While criminal prisoners can regularly use public phones in prisons, the same cannot be said for political prisoners. Meeting with lawyers is therefore one of the only ways that prisoners, many of whom have been locked up for years, can communicate with the world….
Four Palestinian prisoners suspected to be coronavirus-infected
20 Mar by Rami Almeghari — Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs said on Thursday that Israeli media reports, suggesting that four Palestinian prisoners have been infected by the widely-spread cronavirus, are inaccurate. The committee said in a statement, that four Palestinian prisoners have been isolated under quarantine by the Israeli authorities, however, none of them show any signs of the virus. The statement explained that after having contacted the Israeli Prisons Authority and Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the committee learned that the four prisoners, in question, have [not?]been infected with the coronavirus. Those four prisoners, held in section 4 of the Majeddo jail, were placed in a special quarantine area, inside the prison. The Prisoners Committee blamed Israeli Prisons Authority for not having taken needed precautionary measures to protect the a 5,000 Palestinian prisoners inside various Israeli jails. Meanwhile, Abdelnasser Ferwana, Chief of Studies and Documentation Unit of the Prisoners and Former Prisoners Committee, said that the Israeli Prison System (IPS) mockingly said “let the prisoners use their socks” as safety masks, against the coronavirus.
Palestinian refugees / UNRWA
Swiss aid expert to head UN Palestinian refugee agency
United Nations (United States) (AFP) 18 Mar — Swiss humanitarian relief expert Philippe Lazzarini has been appointed to head the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday … “Mr Lazzarini brings to the position more than thirty years of experience in humanitarian assistance and international coordination in conflict and post-conflict areas,” a UN statement said. Born in 1964, Lazzarini has coordinated the work of the United Nations in Lebanon for the past five years. His career has taken him to Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the Palestinian territories. He also has had positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. Lazzarini replaces another Swiss national, Pierre Krahenbuhl, who was forced to resign in November 2019 amid accusations of mismanagement. Founded in 1949, UNRWA runs schools and provides humanitarian aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories. It employs 30,000 people, mainly Palestinians, and has an annual budget of $925 million. In December, its mandate was extended until 2023….
UNRWA urgently needs 1.4m for its action against coronavirus
MEMO 19 Mar — The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said yesterday that it urgently needed $14 million to prepare and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. In an appeal posted on its website, the agency outlined the immediate priorities and financial requirements for health and other services related to the pandemic in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. “Overcrowded living conditions, physical and mental stress and years of protracted conflict all make the vulnerable population of over 5.6 million Palestine refugees particularly susceptible to the ongoing threats of COVID-19,” UNRWA Acting Commissioner-General Christian Saunders was quoted as saying. “All of the Agency’s five fields’ host governments and authorities have announced a series of robust measures to cope with the spread of COVID-19, which UNRWA will follow and factor into its operations,” he added. Saunders added: “Countless individuals and every government are involved in the massive global efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and UNRWA, our staff and the Palestine refugee community we serve, are no different.” He continued: “I humbly call on donors, whether governments, foundations or individuals, to help UNRWA face what could become a disaster of unconscionable proportions in places like Gaza and Syria.”….
Coronavirus and other news
Increased preventive measures in Palestine as 6 new coronavirus cases confirmed
22 Mar by Ali Salam — Palestinian government spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem, announced six new confirmed cases of the novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) on Sunday, including four in Ramallah and two in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian WAFA News Agency. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced a new set of strict precautionary measures to stop the spread of the virus.
These measures include:
*No movement between the Palestinian governorates.
* Compulsory 14-day quarantine, as of 10:00 pm March 22, 2020, except those working in healthcare centers, bakeries, pharmacies and grocery stores.
* Returning Palestinians must observe a 14-day quarantine at the Ministry of Health quarantine centers in each of the governorates.
* Banks to operate under emergency systems, provided that employees have their identity cards with them to and from the bank.
* Palestinian workers at Israeli settlements will be unable to work.
* Israel is requested to provide adequate accommodation for Palestinians working in Israel.
* All the directorates of the ministries will be closed, except for the ministries of Health, Social Development, National Economy, and Civil Affairs.
* The Palestinian National Security, the civil police and the rest of the security services will be deployed at the centers and entrances to cities and towns to maintain public order.
[check english.wafa.ps for further information and updates]
PA health minister announces 17 people in Bethlehem have recovered from COVID-19
Times of Israel 20 Mar — Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila announced on Friday that 17 people in the Bethlehem area have recovered from the novel coronavirus. “I congratulate… our people on the healing of 17 sick persons from COVID-19,” she told a press conference in Ramallah, noting they had been held at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala. Kaila said they underwent three separate tests for the disease in recent days, all of which came back negative, adding they would now be required to quarantine themselves in their homes. She also said they will be tested again for the illness in two weeks and if those tests come back negative, they will no longer be required to isolate themselves. The PA has diagnosed 48 cases, but with the recoveries are now treating 31. Kaila added that the recovered persons were all young and only experienced mild symptoms, noting none of them required intensive care….
Palestinians suspend prayers at mosques, churches, to fight coronavirus
GAZA/RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and Gaza’s Hamas rulers said all the enclave’s border crossings would be shut for travel. The Palestinian Authority’s Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home. “In light of the Health Ministry’s recommendation to minimize contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home,” a ministry statement said. In Ramallah, a prayer leader reciting the Muslim call to prayer at one mosque in the early evening added the words: “Pray at home, pray at home.”….
President grants amnesty to civil detainees who have completed more than half their sentences
RAMALLAH, Sunday, March 22, 2020 (WAFA) – As part of coronavirus containment measures, President Mahmoud Abbas granted today an amnesty to civil detainees who have completed more than half their imprisonment sentence, today said Nabil Abu Rudainah, spokesman for the President. Abu Rudainah said nevertheless, the amnesty, which aims to reduce crowding at penitentiaries during the current health crisis, retains the right of the victims to a civil claim. He added that the amnesty does not apply to those convicted of certain felonies of a serious nature.
Palestinians defy leaders’ health crisis ban on work in settlements
RAMAT GIVAT ZEEV, West Bank (Reuters) 19 Mar by Rami Ayyub & Ammar Awad – – Palestinians on Thursday defied their government’s call to cease work in Israeli settlements over coronavirus concerns, saying bringing money home to their families came first … Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh asked the some 25,000 Palestinians who work in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – areas Israel captured in a 1967 war – to stay home from Thursday as part of efforts to reduce transmission. But in the West Bank settlement of Ramat Givat Zeev, Palestinian day laborers dismissed the PA’s order and shrugged off virus fears. “You have to adapt, put yourself in a bit of danger so you can provide food for your children,” said Omar Hamad, a construction supervisor from Ramallah. “We have rent, we have expenses, we have lots of things.”… Khalidi was skeptical the PA would enforce the settlement work ban, which would be hard to implement without cooperation from Israel. “The (PA) cannot pay the price of cutting off the livelihoods” of Palestinians working in settlements, he said, especially with unemployment in Palestinian cities in the West Bank hovering around 15%….
Suppliers raising prices of basic products to be barred: official
RAMALLAH, Sunday, March 22, 2020 (WAFA) – Minister of National Economy, Khaled Ossaili, said yesterday that suppliers who raise the prices of essential goods that are urgently demanded by the public at this critical health crisis will be banned from the market. Speaking to a meeting of the suppliers of basic commodities at the headquarters of the Ministry of National Economy in Ramallah, Ossaili said a standardized price cap list of essential commodities will be mainstreamed and made available to the public so that suppliers who breach the price cap will be held accountable. Fears of a growing coronavirus crisis in Palestine in recent days ushered in a greater public demand for essential goods such as rice, oil and other basic items, with some complaining about higher prices in some areas in the West Bank.
Jerusalem alliance fills gap in coronavirus awareness
Al-Monitor 18 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — The coronavirus has triggered a badly needed alliance in East Jerusalem. Al-Tajamu al-Maqdisi (the Jerusalem Alliance) was launched March 15 to confront the novel coronavirus by volunteers and Jerusalem-based nongovernmental organizations with the aim of raising awareness and providing emergency needs for the city’s 350,000 Palestinians. Ahmad Budeiri, the coordinator of the alliance, told Al-Monitor that the group is made up of 36 Jerusalem-based organizations and volunteers and is not a political entity. “We are dealing with the issue of the coronavirus strictly from a humanitarian point of view and we are basing all our efforts on sound advice from professionals, especially the World Health Organization [WHO], which is part of our alliance,” he added. A number of international NGOs are part of the alliance …
The alliance organized the cleaning and disinfecting of public locations, including Al-Aqsa Mosque. Wasfi Kailani, director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Al-Monitor that the coordinators of the alliance reached pragmatic solutions for the issue of prayer at the holy mosque. “Working with them, the Jerusalem [Islamic] Waqf agreed to keep all prayers in outdoor locations after the disinfection and to ensure worshippers keep distances from each other,” Kailani said. He said the decision allowed Palestinians in Jerusalem to keep their spiritual connection with the holy shrine without endangering worshippers. “Palestinians of Jerusalem were able to make this pragmatic compromise that ensured both their ability to worship and to keep people safe,” he said.
Meanwhile, 12 Palestinians who were involved in the disinfection of the mosque area were reported to have been arrested by Israeli security March 16. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, head of the Jerusalem-based PASSIA think tank and member of the Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the Israeli reaction is aimed at fighting every Palestinian community effort. “This is a home-grown movement of Jerusalemites concerning their community and wanting to serve their people,” Hadi said….
Update: Another West Bank town on lockdown until villagers tested for coronavirus
22 Mar by Ali Salam — The Governor of Salfit, Abdallah Kmeil, ordered on Friday, a temporary lockdown of Qarawat Bani Hassan town, northwest of Salfit city, over fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to the Palestinian WAFA News Agency, Kmeil ordered the Palestinian villagers to stay in their homes indefinitely until paramedics complete the testing of 250 suspected COVID-19 cases in the town, after they were exposed to a confirmed case, contracted in Pakistan. The Governor ordered the closure of all cafes, beauty salons, barbershops, to suspend all gatherings and to avoid contact with Israeli settlers.
Israel tightens grip on Palestinian workers to limit COVID-19
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 20 Mar by Ahmad Melhem — Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett decided March 17 that as of March 18, Palestinian workers and merchants from the West Bank would be allowed into Israel provided they sleep for one to two months in Israel with the employer providing lodging. Meanwhile, on March 17, the Palestinian government called on workers in Israel to arrange accommodation with their Israeli employers within three days, after which the Palestinian government will cut off movement between the Palestinian territories and Israel. The continuous increase in the number of coronavirus cases in both Israel and the West Bank, and the Israeli measures taken to confront the virus and prevent its spread have taken a toll on Palestinians working in Israel. On March 11, Israel announced that Palestinian workers and merchants over the age of 50 would not be allowed in from the West Bank. The measures entered into effect on March 12. Ghalib al-Saleh, 55, from Jenin, works in the construction sector with an Arab contractor in the city of Caesarea. On March 12, he went to al-Taybeh crossing in Tulkarm, one of the largest crossings between Israel and the West Bank, to enter Israel, but the soldiers at the crossing did not allow him in. “This decision applied to all workers above the age of 50,” he told Al-Monitor. Palestinians over the age of 55 are usually allowed to enter and work in Israel without a permit, unlike other age groups that need permits from the Israeli authorities, such as work permits often issued for constructors, or commercial and agricultural permits … The Israeli authorities decided to prevent those older than 50 from entering Israel because the elderly are at higher risk than other age groups. The Israeli authorities are also seeking to alleviate crowding around the crossings to prevent the transmission of the virus. It seems the Israeli move to allow tens of thousands of Palestinians to spend one to two months inside Israel aims to avoid a blow to the Israeli economy, especially the construction sector….
Due to corona, Israel to let Palestinian workers stay in workplaces
17 Mar by Rami Almeghari — Israeli Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett, decided on Tuesday to let many thousands of Palestinian workers working inside Israel to stay for several weeks in Israel. Bennett’s statement, reported by Israeli media, suggested that Palestinian workers, who work in the various sectors with recruitment by Israeli contractors, can stay for a period of one to two months, provided that their contractors produce a statement of guarantee to the concerned Israeli authorities. “Starting Wednesday, those West Bank-based Palestinians, who happen to work or trade in vital sectors, such as health, agriculture and building, can reside in Israel”, Bennet was quoted as saying on Israeli radio. The Israeli official added that regarding the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the coastal Gaza Strip, a closure of border crossings will remain in place, except for the southern Gaza commercial crossing of Kerem Shalom, of which Israel has exclusive control.
Israel to employ anti-terror tech to combat coronavirus spread
redherring 16 Mar — Israel will use counter-terror technology to curb the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – in a move critics say could have a damaging effect on personal privacy. The measures, announced by Netanyahu in Jerusalem Saturday, may include tracking Coronavirus-infected individuals’ smartphones, to monitor breaks in quarantine. Cabinet members must ratify the changes. Netanyahu used bellicose language to describe the virus as an “invisible enemy that must be located.” Yet Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, has denied in a statement that it will police isolations via handheld devices. “There is no intention of using said technologies for enforcement or tracking in the context of isolation guidelines,” it claims. “In all my years as prime minister I have avoided using these means among the civilian public but there is no choice,” Netanyahu said during his announcement, causing consternation among the nation’s privacy advocates. Avner Pinchuk, of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the measures seemed “potentially like overreach.”
Israel didn’t publish coronavirus guidance in Arabic, so Palestinians stepped in
+972 mag 17 Mar by Suha Arraf — Up until a week ago, the official website, Facebook page, and messenger group of Israel’s Health Ministry barely contained a single word in Arabic on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus across the country. [Arabic is the mother tongue of 21 percent of the Israeli population] MK Sami Abu Shehadeh (Joint List) sent a letter to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on March 8, demanding that all information on the outbreak be made readily available to Israel’s Arab citizens. “Unfortunately, most of the information that is published in Hebrew alone and on the Health Ministry’s website and social networks, it is only partially published in Arabic,” Abu Shehadeh wrote. “Thus, for instance, in the last day, there have been eight different updates in Hebrew on the Ministry’s Facebook page, while there has not been a single update in Arabic.” Following Abu Shehadeh’s letter, members of the Joint List, mayors, and heads of Arab local councils, and NGOs joined in demanding that all coronavirus-related information published by the Health Ministry be made available in Arabic. Following the letters from Adalah and Abu Shehadeh, the Health Ministry began last Sunday to publish content in Arabic … However, the gap between the number of publications on the coronavirus in Arabic and Hebrew, and the quality of materials in both languages, remains large….
Due to coronavirus Israel to transfer tax funds to PA
23 Mar by Rami Almeghari — Israeli media said on Sunday that Israeli authorities decided to deliver a fund of 120 million New Israeli Shekels (30 Million US Dollars), to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The fund is a part of tax money, collected by Israel on behalf of the PA, on Israel-controlled commercial crossings. Israeli TV channel 13 said that Israeli Finance Minister, Moshe Kahaloun, approved the funds’ transfer, after having heard security assessments by Israeli security intelligence and military officials that the Palestinian Authority could face some serious financial crisis, with the Coronavirus reported to have plagued Palestinian-populated areas. The TV channel’s report, reposted by local Palestinian media outlets, suggested that Israeli army officials, including chief of staff, Avi Kokhafi and others, had earlier warned that the spread of Coronavirus might create a financial deficit within the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials expressed deep concern that in the case of such a financial crisis, the PA could possibly collapse, a result not in Israel’s best interest….
Mossad brings 100,000 incomplete coronavirus test kits to Israel
JPost 21 Mar by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman & Yonah Jeremy Bob — The Mossad brought 100,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel from abroad overnight Wednesday, but according to Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto, “unfortunately, what they brought is not exactly what we were lacking.” There are various components that are involved in the tests, and the Mossad did not bring them all back, he said … The Mossad searched for test kits wherever possible and procured the 100,000 from two different countries, Ynet reported. Later, Al Jazeera quoted a source at Reuters who said the kits came “from one of the Gulf states” that do not recognize Israel “but coordinates with it at low level on issues related to security challenges in the region, such as Iran.” In the last few years, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have had some contact with Israel, although ties have not been formalized … Part of the reason for the Mossad’s involvement in obtaining the kits was that some of the countries involved do not have diplomatic relations with Israel or have other complex reasons for wanting to sell the kits under the radar.
Sixty Congress members oppose Israeli displacement of Palestinian families
Washington, DC 16 Mar – Today, Reps. Khanna, Eshoo, and Cohen penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with more than 60 Members of Congress urging the Trump administration to take immediate action to oppose the Israeli government’s acceleration of home demolitions and displacement of Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Writing to Secretary Pompeo, the letter requests the State Department to examine Israeli compliance with the requirements applied by the Arms Export Control Act in order to ensure that U.S.-supplied equipment is not being used to destroy Palestinian homes. The signers note that the United States “should work to prevent unlawful home demolitions and the forcible transfer of civilians everywhere in the world and prevent the use of U.S.-origin equipment in this destructive practice.” [List of signatories and text of letter follow]