Land theft / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
During the Coronavirus crisis, Israel confiscates tents designated for clinic in the Northern West Bank
B’Tselem 26 Mar — This morning, Thursday, 26 March 2020, at around 7:30 am, officials from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank arrived with a military jeep escort, a bulldozer and two flatbed trucks with cranes at the Palestinian community of Khirbet Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley. They confiscated poles and sheeting that were meant to form eight tents, two for a field clinic, and four for emergency housing for residents evacuated from their homes, and two as makeshift mosques. The force also confiscated a tin shack in place for more than two years, as well as a power generator and sacks of sand and cement. Four pallets of cinder blocks intended for the tent floors were taken away and four others demolished.
As the whole world battles an unprecedented and paralyzing healthcare crisis, Israel’s military is devoting time and resources to harassing the most vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank that Israel has attempted to drive out of the area for decades. Shutting down a first-aid community initiative during a health crisis is an especially cruel example of the regular abuse inflicted on these communities, and it goes against basic human and humanitarian principles during an emergency. Unlike Israel’s policies, this pandemic does not discriminate based on nationality, ethnicity or religion. It is high time the government and military acknowledged that now, of all times, Israel is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the five million Palestinians who live under its control in the Occupied Territories.
In addition to the shocking destruction of the clinic under construction, the Civil Administration is continuing its demolition routine. Today, it demolished three seasonal homes of farmers who are residents of Jerusalem, in the village of ‘Ein a-Duyuk a-Tahta west of Jericho.
Palestinians in Jordan Valley ordered by Israeli army to stop installing solar panels
JORDAN VALLEY, Wednesday, March 25, 2020 (WAFA) – The Israeli military authorities today ordered residents of the Jordan Valley to stop installing solar panels in their village, according to a local official. Mutaz Bisharat, from the Tubas governorate, said soldiers raided Khirbet al-Dir in the northern Jordan Valley and handed residents an order to stop work on installing solar panels gift of the Italian humanitarian aid and development group GVC. He also said that the soldiers banned a resident from installing a caravan for farming purposes on his land in the same village.
Palestinian shed and water well destroyed by Israeli forces in West Bank
27 Mar by Ali Salam — Israeli forces, on Thursday, demolished a farming shed and a water well in Deir Ballut town, west of Salfit city, according to a local official. Governor of Salfit, Abdallah Kmeil told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli forces escorted a bulldozer into Wadi Sarida area, where the heavy machinery tore down a farming shed and a water well belonging to Aziz Yusef Abdullah, a villager. Kmeil noted that Israeli forces were exploiting the lockdown enforced on the occupied territories over the spread of coronavirus, to secure the implementation of the seizure of more Palestinian land.
Three Palestinian homes demolished by Israeli forces near Jericho
27 Mar by Ali Salam — Israeli forces, on Thursday, demolished three Palestinian-owned homes in the village of al-Diyouk, west of the occupied West Bank city of Jericho, under the pretext they were built without permits, local sources said. The sources told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli soldiers and police accompanied bulldozers as they invaded the village in the early morning, and proceeded to demolish the three houses, each 120 square meters in area, owned by Palestinian citizens from occupied Jerusalem and from the West Bank city of Hebron. Israel uses the pretext of a missing building permit to destroy Palestinian homes, while at the same time denying Palestinians the permission to build.
In order to expand settlement, Israeli forces raze lands in north of West Bank
NABLUS, Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today razed Palestinian lands near the northern West Bank village of Jalud, south of Nablus, in order to expand a nearby illegal Israeli settlement, sources said. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told WAFA that the razed land is located several hundred meters from Jalud high school and is intended to expand the illegal Israeli settlement of Shvut Rachel and to build a road connecting it to other Israeli settlements and outposts. He noted that Jalud is a village surrounded by a number of Jewish-only settlements, warning that the majority of its lands has been taken for the settlements. Daghlas said that these settlements pose a real threat to the Arab and Palestinian population as the Israeli government has seized over 10,000 dunums of land in favor of settlements, while 85% of the village’s lands were declared military zones to provide protection for the settlers.
One year after Trump handed occupied Syrian lands to Israel, Golanis still suffering
MAJDAL SHAMS, Thursday, March 26, 2020 (WAFA) – One year after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order recognising Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, southwest Syria, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in 1981 in a move the international community unanimously rejected, the Syrian residents of the Heights are still suffering the consequences of that order. In the subsequent period since Trump’s order, an emboldened Israeli government is not only seeking to cement its illegal occupation of the Golan, but also to silence those voicing concerns about human rights violations in the region, according to a press statement by Al-Marsad, a human rights organization based in the occupied Golan Heights. Just over a week after Trump’s announcement, it was reported that Israel was pursuing a tenfold increase in its settlement population in the Golan while hoping to build 30,000 new settlement units, it said. Not long after this, Israel announced plans for a new illegal settlement in the region named ‘Trump Heights’ to thank the US president for his decision. Currently, there are just over 27,000 Israeli settlers living in 34 illegal settlements in the Golan– many of which are built on top of Syrian villages and farms destroyed by the Israeli army following the 1967 occupation. In June 2019, an Israeli energy company, Energix, which is seeking to build wind turbines in the Golan, sued Al-Marsad under Israel’s controversial ‘Anti-Boycott Act.’ Al-Marsad – the only human rights organisation operating in the Golan – had the unfortunate honour of being the first organisation under Israeli control to be prosecuted by this law, said the press statement….
Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip: Hamas takes additional steps to contain spread of virus
MEE 23 Mar by Adam Khalil in Gaza, Palestine — The Hamas government has stepped up its measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip following the announcement of the first two confirmed cases in the enclave … “We have been used to living on our own and living in extreme conditions for many years”, said Nawal Eliwa, 55, as she shopped for groceries. “But this pain afflicted the whole world this time, not only Gaza. We do not know if it will help the world understand what is happening in Gaza after the crisis ends.” With only a fraction of Palestinians in Gaza able to enter or leave, the territory has been somewhat isolated from the coronavirus outbreak. Over 1,300 people returning from abroad have been placed into quarantine centres, mostly set up in empty schools and hotels. The Hamas government has imposed additional restrictions, including the closure of all restaurants and cafes, as well as wedding halls, the suspension of Friday prayers and calling worshipers to pray in their homes, but without a complete closure of mosques. The authorities are also preventing weekly markets in all cities. Fear of widespread infection intensified among the population in the strip, prompting many to stay in their homes. Despite being cash-strapped, people are stocking up on supplies. “I am buying some of the goods that I need at home for at least a week, but because there is not enough money I try to buy only the basic needs, but I am afraid that a shortage of food will take place,” said Eliwa … Despite the Ministry of Economy’s assurances that there are enough basic commodities to last for weeks, the intensity of purchasing essentials has significantly increased, and prices for vegetables and foodstuffs have also increased. “The goods are still flowing as usual from Karm Abu Salem crossing, in spite of the lack of cash, which prevents a shortage of goods in the markets,” said ministry spokesman Abdel-Fattah Mousa …
With help from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the health ministry has turned a school in Rafah into a centre for fighting Covid-19, complete with an intensive care unit with 36 beds for infected people and 30 other beds for patients with any mild symptoms, according to Majdi Thuhair, a second health ministry spokesman.
On the brink of its own coronavirus crisis, Gaza appeals to Israel and the world
[behind paywall] Haaretz 24 Mar by Jack Khoury — Faced with shortages, poor equipment and a sore lack of protective gear, Gaza’s doctors work in fear, with everyone betting on underfunded prevention — Gaza’s Health Ministry issued an urgent appeal to the World Health Organization for critical medical equipment in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, with senior officials warning of catastrophic consequences if the virus manages to spread in the coastal enclave. “We are asking the UN and the international community to give us immediate support, including ventilators and intensive care equipment to deal with the epidemic,” Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra told a press briefing on Tuesday. The ministry said there is an immediate need for some 150 ventilators to cater for Gaza’s two million people. According to a senior ministry official, there are currently only 65 machines, and they are already in very high demand. Most of the equipment used in hospitals is in poor condition, he warned, and there just won’t be any means to treat those who are ill if the virus spreads …
“We know there is a worldwide shortage,” a doctor at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital said, “but we expect the World Health Organization will be able to provide at least a few dozen machines immediately, and Israel as well, as the power in control of the border crossings. We expect Egypt too and other Arab countries to provide immediate aid, before it is too late,” he added.
Officially, Gaza should be receiving aid from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, but according to senior officials in the Gaza health system, and Israeli officials familiar with the matter, no assistance has been sent to fight the spread of the coronavirus. For the Hamas government, the matter is clear: “Israel bears full responsibility for the lives of 2 million civilians in the Gaza Strip,” al-Qudra told journalists on Tuesday. Israel acknowledges there’s a significant shortage in equipment, but besides several hundred testing kits and 1,000 protective suits for medical crews that were sent to Gaza via the WHO, there are no estimates for if and when further equipment will be provided, particularly ventilators, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories told Haaretz. No medical equipment will be transferred from any Israeli hospitals to Gaza….
PHRI calls on the Israeli authorities to provide Gaza with missing equipment and assist patients needing treatment
24 Mar — Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) has called on the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide Gaza with the equipment it urgently needs to combat COVID-19, including basic antiseptics, intensive care beds, and ventilators. PHRI’s further urged COGAT and the MoH to find alternatives for patients in Gaza who need critical surgery or treatment that is currently unavailable in the Strip and who, as a result of restrictions placed to limit the spread of COVID-19, are unable to leave to access this treatment elsewhere. There are around 2,700 Gazans in quarantine, including 1,271 in 20 isolation units which were converted from schools, hotels and hospitals. As of today, 99 people have been tested and 2 have been tested as positive. Yet even prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Gazan healthcare system has been unable to meet the needs of the local population.
World Health Organization officials visit the besieged Gaza Strip
23 Mar by Ali Salam — A delegation from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, after announcing that two people were infected with Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Hebrew newspaper “Yediot Aharonot” reported that a group of representatives from the WHO arrived in the Gaza Strip, through the Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing. The newspaper noted that the World Health Organization delivered hundreds of Coronavirus kits to Gaza, a short time ago, with additional supplies expected to be delivered in the near future… The UN official said they are working to raise $7 million to meet Gaza’s urgent humanitarian needs, and have been in contact with the Palestinian administration as well as the World Health Organization, to work together to improve the state of health care in the Gaza Strip.
Israel says Gaza militants fired rocket at Israeli town
JERUSALEM (AP) 27 Mar — Israel says Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired a rocket into the country’s south. There were no reports of casualties or damage. The military says the rocket fell in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Friday evening. In response, Israeli tanks and aircraft attacked three sites belonging to the Hamas militant group. The Israeli military said the targets were “infrastructure used for underground activity,” without elaborating. The fire shattered weeks of a rare total calm along the often-volatile frontier between Israel and Gaza, a coastal territory ruled by Hamas. No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the launching but Israel usually blames Hamas for any attack originating from the enclave it controls.
Air attacks: Gazan rockets and Israeli airstrikes
IAK from B’Tselem Statistics — The media frequently report that “thousands of rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza.” This is correct. Gazans have fired approximately 14,000 rockets into Israel. Media reports, however, contain little additional information. Here we will examine when the rockets began, how many Israelis they have killed, and the nature of the rockets. Gazan rockets have killed a total of 30 Israelis (listed below). During the same period, Israeli air strikes have killed more than 5,800 Gazans. According to the Israeli military, the first rocket by Gazan resistance groups was fired on April 16, 2001. This came after Israeli forces had shelled and invaded Gaza (photos here), killing 570+ Palestinians….
Gaza medics switching focus from border protests to coronavirus
GAZA CITY (Reuters) 26 Mar by Nidal al-Mughrabi & Stephen Farrell — Scarcely two years ago Gaza’s border with Israel was a deadly front line, with black smoke swirling around thousands of Palestinian protesters as they faced off against Israeli troops firing live ammunition. The border fence is much quieter now in the run-up to the two-year anniversary on March 30 of The Great March of Return – protests by Palestinians seeking to regain access to land, now in Israel, from which their ancestors fled or were forced to flee during the country’s creation in 1948. And with the highly contagious coronavirus spreading, organizers and Palestinian militant factions are discussing whether to cancel or scale down commemorative events. Whatever they decide, Gaza’s medical facilities have already switched their focus from protest casualties to the pandemic. With nine coronavirus cases already confirmed in the Gaza Strip, hospitals that were once overwhelmed by gunshot wounds and amputations are now gearing up for a very different challenge in a densely populated, coastal enclave of two million Palestinians, many living in refugee camps. A new quarantine center has been set up in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, and the 42-square-metre (452-square-feet)tents donated by the World Health Organisation that once served as border Trauma Stabilisation Points have been moved to tackle the new threat….
Coronavirus doctor warns of ‘incoming disaster’ in Gaza
MONTREAL, Canada (Al Jazeera) 26 Mar by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours — For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a simple principle: All patients, no matter where they live, should have equal access to high-quality healthcare. But it is obvious to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor that this ideal is not yet a reality. “I practised in Canada, and I practised in Gaza, and I could see that my patients in Gaza weren’t receiving the same care,” he told Al Jazeera this week, as the blockaded Palestinian territory confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus. The global coronavirus pandemic has thrust stark global disparities in access to healthcare and medical equipment into the spotlight, as some countries are ravaged while others are succeeding so far in staving off a crisis. The Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places in the world, is expected to be among the hardest-hit areas, as experts fear chronic shortages and an already strained healthcare system will exacerbate the spread of the virus. Medical workers in Gaza are preparing for the worst, said Loubani, who spent two weeks working there last month. “People were so terrified because they knew that they were living in a powder keg,” he said. “And even these two cases represent such an incoming disaster.”… “The most frustrating part about the health system in Gaza is [that] we actually know the answer, and the answer is an immediate end to the blockade, even if for a short period so that we can get through this crisis,” Loubani said. “There’s some amount of the coronavirus that’s inevitable in Gaza, but the disaster we’re about to watch unfold is not inevitable.”
Video: Gaza turns to e-learning as schools shut
MEE 24 Mar by Sulaiman Lkaderi, Sofia Aboudari — Teachers in Gaza have swapped classrooms for radio broadcasts and social media to teach their lessons, as schools in the besieged Strip close down in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Qatar to send coronavirus relief package to Gaza Strip
Ynet 224 Mar by Elior Levy — Qatar has begun distributing aid to hundreds of residents in the Gaza Strip who are in isolation centers as part of the continued effort in the coastal enclave to deal with the coronavirus. The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Muhammad al-Amadi said that the aid is part of the $150 million aid that the Emir of Qatar recently announced, which will be distributed over six months. The assistance provided includes food dishes, appliances and basic furniture. The amount of fuel required to secure the power supply to the isolation centers will also be provided.
UN’s Palestinian refugee agency suspends Gaza food aid
Ynet 24 Mar — The United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees has temporarily suspended aid to the Gaza Strip after the detection of two coronavirus cases in the territory. “Food aid will be temporarily suspended until finding a safer way to deliver aid,” UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) spokesperson Adnan abu Hasna said in a statement. “The suspension is a precautionary measure to maintain the safety of [UNRWA]’s staff and beneficiaries,” he said. UNRWA said that it would arrange other locations to distribute the food in an orderly and safer manner through other distribution points, which may reportedly include its schools.
Gaza virus cases attended conference in Pakistan
GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 23 Mar — Gaza’s first two confirmed coronavirus patients attended a conference with 250,000 Muslims in Pakistan last month that went ahead contrary to government advice, an official and family members said Monday. Pakistani authorities had urged the cancellation of the five-day Tablighi Ijtema congregation, or Tablighi Jamaat in Arabic, hosted annually near Lahore. But organisers from the conservative Sunni Muslim evangelical movement ignored government advice to postpone. It was unclear where the two Palestinians — who returned to Gaza from Pakistan via Egypt earlier this month — contracted COVID-19. But a statement from the Palestinian embassy in Islamabad said the two attended the event which took place “despite the warning of the Pakistani authorities against conferences”.
Omar al-Tabatibi said his 79-year-old grandfather Mohammed and friend Amer Doghmosh had attended the Lahore event. Previous statements from health officials had misidentified the men as being between 30 and 40. “My grandfather learnt about the conference by chance from a friend while he was in Pakistan so he wanted to attend,” Tabatibi said. After returning from Pakistan his grandfather stayed several days in Egypt before taking the long journey overland to Gaza, Tabatibi said. “Maybe my grandfather caught corona in Egypt and not Pakistan, no one knows,” he added. He said the family had already been subjected to abuse on social media and in person since the news broke. “My little brother went to a games shop today and the owner told him to go home as his grandfather has corona.” Gaza’s health ministry said the two men were placed in quarantine immediately after crossing into Gaza and did not mix with the population. It described them as being in stable condition. Omar said his grandfather has pre-existing conditions of high blood pressure and diabetes.
West Bank / Jerusalem
As coronavirus spreads, Friday prayer held at Al-Aqsa with no worshipers
JERUSALEM, Friday, March 27, 2020 (WAFA) – For the first time in years, the weekly Friday sermon and prayer was held at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem with the absence of any worshipers, as per the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf’s decision on March 23 banning prayers at the holy site in attempt to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The buildings and the courtyards of the compound were seen empty of any worshipers for the first time, with the exception of around 50 personnel of the Islamic Waqf who performed the prayer while leaving significant spaces between each other as a preventive measure against infection. Sheikh Yousef Abu Sneineh, who delivered the Friday sermon at the holy site, called on the Muslim believers to stay at their homes at this critical time to prevent the spread of the novel disease.
UNRWA shutters health center in village suffering from coronavirus outbreak
JERUSALEM, Thursday, March 26, 2020 (WAFA) – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has decided to shutter its health center in the village of Biddu, northwest of Jerusalem, as a precautionary measure to track confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, Covid-19, reported in the village who apparently had visited the center. UNRWA said in a press release that its health center in Biddu, where a woman in her 60s died yesterday after she tested positive for the virus and 15 infected cases were confirmed, would be closed down as part of the process of tracking confirmed cases of Covid-9 in the town in line with the Palestinian Health Ministry’s instructions. The UN agency went on to elaborate that after confirming that some of those who visited the center tested positive for the virus, it has instructed its staff to enter self-quarantine until their samples are tested, which would take several days. It expressed its hopes that the health center would be open as soon as possible after the test results are obtained and the whole building is sprayed with disinfectants. In contrast, all other 14 UNRWA-run health centers in Ramallah and other West Bank districts would continue to operate normally … The UNRWA-run health center in Biddu provides primary health care services to over 2,400 patients every month, with the majority of patients coming from Beit Surik and Biddu besides the cluster of Palestinian villages, east of Ramallah.
Palestinian volunteers barred by Israeli soldiers from disinfecting old town of Hebron
HEBRON, Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli soldiers in control of the old town of the divided southern West Bank city of Hebron today barred Palestinian volunteers from disinfecting the neighborhoods and educating the local population on the coronavirus pandemic, according to a local activist. Muhannad Jabari, member of Fatah movement in Hebron, told WAFA that the soldiers prevented the volunteers trained by the health ministry from spraying the Palestinian neighborhoods with disinfectants and educating the residents on the deadly disease. He said the soldiers forced the volunteers to leave the area without completing their mission. Jabari said the volunteers wanted to help the local population living under Israeli military rule in that part of the city on how to deal with the disease and how to avoid it when they were forced to leave the area.
Palestinians leave jobs in Israel, citing coronavirus risk
JERICHO/RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 25 Mar by Adel Abu Nimeh, Ali Sawafta — The Palestinian government has ordered home Palestinian laborers in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying their jobs exposed them to risk of the coronavirus. The edict, announced late on Tuesday by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, could effectively shut down Israel’s construction industry, heavily reliant on Palestinian labor. Israel had made special arrangements for many of the about 100,000 Palestinians who typically cross daily from the West Bank to instead stay overnight in Israeli cities before shutting the border on Sunday to curb the spread of the virus. But while most workers found temporary housing in empty hotels and apartments, several thousand others have had to sleep in buildings still under construction – often the sites where they work, according to industry groups and activists. Cautioning that improper living conditions could lead to the spread of the coronavirus, Shtayyeh said all Palestinian workers must return home “to protect them and preserve their safety”. Palestinian workers earn more for equivalent work in Israel than in Palestinian cities. But officials have voiced concerns in recent weeks that they could contract and spread the disease when they return home.
More than 2,000 cases of infection and five deaths have been reported in Israel, and around 60 cases in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) has limited self-rule. Early on Wednesday, some 500 Palestinian laborers waited to have their temperature taken by medical authorities at the entrance to the West Bank town of Jericho after returning from an industrial park in a settlement near Jerusalem. “To maintain our safety, we abided by the instructions … We are now heading home, and will stay in quarantine for 14 days,” said Amin al-Asali, 55, who had been staying overnight at the Mishor Adumim industrial park. The repatriation decision followed a public outcry among Palestinians over the alleged mistreatment of a Palestinian laborer whom Israeli authorities sent back to the West Bank this week.. Videos posted to social media showed the visibly ill Palestinian sitting on the roadside at an Israeli military checkpoint on the West Bank border….
Palestinians report first death from coronavirus
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 25 Mar — The Palestinians reported their first death from the coronavirus on Wednesday, a woman in her 60s who lived in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “The woman had experienced symptoms and was later hospitalised” before succumbing to the illness, said Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank. The woman was from Biddu, a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem and southwest of Ramallah, Melhem added. There are 62 confirmed coronavirus cases among Palestinians in the West Bank, and two in the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre shuts as Israel ups anti-virus measures
JERUSALEM (AFP) 25 Mar — Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by Christians to house Christ’s tomb, was shut Wednesday, as Israel tightened movement restrictions and the Palestinians announced their first novel coronavirus death. The church, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, was closed shortly after 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), as Israel applied a series of new restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting down places of worship. “We have been informed of the closure. Our understanding is that it is for one week. We hope (the church) will reopen as soon as possible,” said Wadie Abunassar, a spokesperson for the local clergy. The new restrictions in Israel, announced in a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, prohibited leaving one’s home except to buy essentials, such as food and medicine, or to seek medical treatment. “Individuals aged 60 and over, especially the elderly and at-risk groups, must remain at home and avoid risking themselves by going out,” the statement said. “Violating the prohibitions will constitute a criminal offense” it added, noting that police were tasked with enforcing the orders, which will be in place for seven days. The church’s closure, a short time before Easter celebrations, comes days after Muslim authorities closed the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site.
How a Palestinian shoemaker started the West Bank’s only mask factory overnight
+072 mag 23 Mar by Suha Arraf — What started as an experiment days after the coronavirus outbreak in the West Bank is now a factory producing thousands of masks a day. — Two days after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Bethlehem, Amjad Zaghir, a shoe factory owner from the Palestinian city of Hebron, realized the West Bank would soon run out of face masks. Less than three weeks later, he is now the only mask manufacturer there. Zaghir’s factory, which he started overnight, now produces thousands of masks a day, and has made him a national hero for helping Palestinians protect themselves from the virus. Zaghir got to work as soon as news broke of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Bethlehem. He bought a mask and began studying it, tilting it left and right. He initially thought he could recreate it with some of the materials he uses in shoemaking. “I approached my friend, a pharmacist, and asked him what materials are used to make masks,” recalled Zaghir. “He explained that what we use in shoemaking is unsuitable, and pointed me in the right direction.” Zaghir then began looking for the right fabric around Hebron. He came across a vendor who had purchased the material from Turkey a year ago, but left it unused, because it was cheaper to import masks from China than produce them in Hebron. Zaghir bought the fabric, which his pharmacist friend confirmed was the correct material … The masks have been selling faster than hotcakes, said Zaghir. He is selling them to government employees, hospitals, even Palestinian police; on Saturday alone, he supplied 5,000 masks to police in Nablus. To these official institutions, he sells the masks at a symbolic cost of NIS 1.50 per unit — a price determined by Hebron’s governor. To pharmacies and other vendors, the rate is different….
Adalah demands Israel provide coronavirus health services to unrecognized Bedouin villages
HAIFA, Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (WAFA) – Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter on 22 March to Israeli authorities demanding access to essential medical services for more than 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel residing in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) region in southern Israel. These citizens, now facing the growing threat of coronavirus, are not receiving urgent care from Israel’s national emergency medical service, according to a Adalah press release. Israeli Health Ministry guidelines prohibit patients with fever and respiratory symptoms from leaving the home, except in medical emergencies. After the symptoms associated with coronavirus develop, Israel’s Magen David Adom national emergency medical service (MDA), under the guidance of the district physician, is supposed to reach out to the patient for an at-home examination and – if necessary – evacuation to hospital. However, residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab lack access to MDA urgent care services, said Adalah…
Jewish settlers attack Palestinian herders, injure one, near Hebron
Palestine Chronicle 27 Mar — Jewish settlers today [Friday] attacked Palestinian herders and other civilians in the village of Al-Tuwani, south of Hebron (Al-Khalil), according to a local activist. Fo’ad Amour, a local rights activist, told WAFA that Jewish settlers, along with attack dogs, assaulted herders in the village and injured one of them in his abdomen and hand. The man was moved to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Illegal Jewish settlers are notorious for their attacks on Palestinians, but assaults on Palestinian farmers and herders have been frequent over the past few months. Armed settlers and soldiers often prevent Palestinian shepherds from herding in the open pastures of the occupied West Bank in order to force them to abandon the area.
Palestinian man injured by Israeli forces in Kafr Qaddum
QALQILIA, Friday, March 27, 2020 (WAFA) – At least six one Palestinian man was injured by Israeli occupation forces today during the weekly protest against Israeli settlement construction, which takes place every week in the village of Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank, local sources said Morad Shtewi, coordinator of the popular resistance in the village, told WAFA that Israeli soldiers attacked the protesters by rubber-coated rounds and teargas, injuring a 50-year-old man and causing many cases of suffocation from gas inhalation. The man injured was treated at the scene. For years, villagers from Kafr Qaddum and neighboring villages have been protesting every Friday against illegal Israeli settlements, and to call on Israeli authorities to reopen the village’s main road, which has been sealed off by the occupation authorities since 2002.
Israeli colonists attack a young man in Northern Plains, homes in Nablus
IMEMC 24 Mar — Several fanatic illegal Israeli colonists attacked, on Monday evening, a Palestinian shepherd in Ein al-Hilwa area, in the West Bank’s Northern Plains, and attacked many homes in Madama village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian human rights activist, Aref Daraghma, said several colonists assaulted a young shepherd while herding his cows in Ein al-Hilwa. Daraghma added that the young man, identified as Moheeb Fathi Daraghma, suffered several minor cuts and bruises. Also on Monday evening, a group of colonists attacked homes in the southern area of Madama village, south of Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the assailants came from Yitzhar colony, which was built on Palestinian lands south of Nablus, and added that the locals intercepted them, and forced them away.
Israeli settlers attack Palestinian motorist in north of West Bank
JENIN, Monday, March 23, 2020 (WAFA0 – Israeli settlers today attacked with stones a Palestinian motorist in the north of the West Bank, causing damage but no injuries. A resident of Silat al-Dahr village, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, told WAFA that settlers threw stones at his car near his village breaking its windows and hijacking the car after he and his family were able to get out of it and run away. He said he filed a complaint with the Palestinian police, who contacted their Israeli counterparts and got the car back.
Palestine confirms seven new coronavirus cases
RAMALLAH, Friday, March 27, 2020 (WAFA) – Palestine Friday morning confirmed seven new novel coronavirus cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the occupied territories to 91. Speaking during a daily briefing in Ramallah, Government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said that the samples for 100 suspected cases from Biddu town, northwest of Jerusalem, were tested, and the test results showed that five cases tested positive for the deadly virus. He identified the five cases as a two-year-old female toddler, a ten-year-old child, two young men in their 20s, and a man in his 50s. The first four cases were transferred to al-Carmel Hotel in Ramallah, which functions as a quarantine center, and the fifth case to Hugo Chavez Hospital in TurmusAyya town, north of Ramallah. He pointed out that the samples of 227 Palestinian workers who returned from Israeli settlements and Israel were tested, and the test results showed that two cases tested positive for the virus. He noted that the total infected cases stood at 91, including 17 cases who fully recovered, in addition to a case that succumbed to her injury. The fatal case is that of a woman in her 60s from Biddu who died a day after she tested positive for the virus. He slammed as baseless and unfounded allegations that there were new confirmed cases in the besieged Gaza Strip….
Aid group says Mideast lockdowns hinder humanitarian efforts
CAIRO (AP) 25 Mar by Samy Magdy & Joseph Krauss — An international aid group said Wednesday that closures aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic are preventing it from reaching 300,000 people in conflict zones across the Middle East, as the virus arrived in war-torn Libya and case counts rose in Syria and the Gaza Strip, among the world’s most vulnerable places. The Norwegian Refugee Council said it was unable to reach people in Syria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip, where authorities have imposed strict measures to halt the spread of the virus. All have fragile health care systems that could be overwhelmed by an outbreak, and only Yemen has yet to report any cases. “While governments are taking tough and much-needed measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, millions of refugees and displaced people still depend on humanitarian assistance,” said Jan Egeland, head of the aid group.
In northwestern Syria, hundreds of thousands of people are crammed into unsanitary tent camps, sheltering from the government offensive on the war-torn country’s last rebel stronghold. On Wednesday, the U.S. urged the Syrian government to halt its campaign so those displaced can access humanitarian aid. The U.S. also urged the Assad government to release thousands of civilians arbitrarily detained in crowded jails who are especially vulnerable to the virus. On Wednesday, Syria’s tally of cases rose to five and testing began after weeks of obstacles in the rebel-held province. The crowded Gaza Strip reported seven new coronavirus cases late Wednesday among security workers, raising the total to nine and stoking concerns about the capacity of its weakened health system to manage coronavirus patients. Gaza has been under Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Hamas militant group took power in 2007….
Arab League demands Israel release Palestinian prisoners
23 Mar by Rami Almeghari — The League of Arab States, consisting of 22 Arab countries, addressed international human rights organizations and other relevant bodies, on Monday, what they describe as an imperative release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, from Israeli jails. A press release, issued by the Deputy-Secretary General of the Arab States’ League for the Israel-occupied Arab and Palestinian Territories’ Affairs, Said Abu Ali, was in response to a worldwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The statement read that all relevant international conventions and the international law consider providing protection for prisoners as imperative, especially in times of pandemics, such as the current global situation. Mr. Abu Ali called on key international countries to pressure Israeli authorities for the release of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of elderly with poor immunity, 180 juveniles and 43 women, to prevent the prison population from contracting and spreading the contagious disease. Abu Ali also called for ensuring protection and proper safety measures for the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, inside Israeli jails….
Most Palestinians support cooperation with Israel to combat coronavirus
JPost 26 Mar by Khaled Abu Toameh — Most Palestinians support the cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a public opinion poll published by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO). The poll also found that a majority of Palestinians are satisfied with the performance of the PA health authorities and security forces to combat the spread of the virus. Conducted during the period from March 12-15, the survey, the first of its kind since the outbreak of the virus, covered 583 Palestinians from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. CPCO president Nabil Kukali said the poll has a ±4.5% margin of error.
Asked if they support or oppose the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent the spread of coronavirus, 68% of respondents said they supported it at various extents. Another 80% expressed different approval of the efforts of the PA government in combating the virus spread. More than 60% expressed support for the way the PA security forces have been handling the crisis. The poll found that 84% of the Palestinians are worried about the spread of the virus in the Palestinian territories. The results showed that 43% of respondents believe the threat of coronavirus is “exaggerated,” as opposed to 55% who disagree with this assessment.
Muslim and Jewish paramedics pray together in Israel in a rare moment of rest
France 24 News 27 Mar — Muslim and Jewish paramedics in Israel prayed together in a rare moment of rest to care for patients with coronavirus. Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama had just answered a call from a 41-year-old woman who had breathing problems in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. When he arrived at 6 p.m., the two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency response service, realized that this may have been their only shift interruption and therefore pause to pray. Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama stopped to pray in the Israeli town of Beer Sheva. Mintz, 42, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem and Abu Jama, 39, a Muslim, kneeling opposite Mecca, with his prayer rug beneath him. A photo of the two men taken by a colleague quickly went viral and now has thousands of likes on social networks. One user replied on Instagram: “I am proud of all the emergency services, regardless of community or religion. ”… Mintz is a father of nine who lives in Beer Sheva and is a full-time employee of MDA who trains volunteers … Abu Jama, father of seven from the nearby Bedouin town of Rahat, was one of those volunteers trained by Mintz.. … The two paramedics prayed for approximately 15 minutes before returning to their ambulance and returning to work….
Israel releases post packages for Palestinian territories
26 Mar by Rami Almeghari — Israeli authorities released on Thursday a large shipment of postal packages sent to the occupied Palestinian territories, from abroad. A statement, released by the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, said that the released shipment includes posts, delivered directly by three new countries to the Palestinian Authority’s postal department. “For the first time, the new shipment involves posts, delivered directly from three new countries, increasing the number of countries that already deal directly with the Palestinian Authority, to eight”, the statement explained without identifying the countries. Upon arrival of the shipment that contains 1600 postal packages, the concerned Palestinian post authorities subjected all packages to necessary sterilization, in light of the current internationally-spread Coronavirus. The packages will be delivered to various destinations in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, by next Sunday. Often, according to Palestinian sources, Israel, the occupying power, delays delivery of postal items shipped to the Palestinian territories, from abroad.
Survivors of world conflicts offer perspective amid pandemic
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 25 Mar by Joseph Krauss & Fares Akram — As Western countries reeling from the coronavirus pandemic awaken to a new reality of economic collapse, overwhelmed hospitals, grounded flights and home confinement, it’s tempting to think the end of days is at hand. But for millions across the Middle East and in conflict zones farther afield, much of this is grimly familiar. The survivors of recent wars, too often dismissed as the pitiable victims of failed states, can offer hard-earned wisdom in times like these. Few have more experience with lockdowns and closures than the Palestinians. During the uprising known as the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, Israel shut down parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza for weeks on end, using checkpoints and curfews to try to quash it. In 2002, Israel imposed an around-the-clock curfew in Bethlehem for weeks as troops battled Palestinian militants holed up in the Church of the Nativity, built on the site revered by Christians as Jesus’ birthplace. Jamal Shihadeh remembers being stuck in his home for 25 days before he slipped out and fled to a nearby Jewish settlement in order to work. He ended up sleeping in the factory until the closures were lifted. Now he is stuck at home again. Israel and the Palestinian Authority sealed off Bethlehem and severely restricted movement after several residents and tourists tested positive for the coronavirus …
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. Travel in or out is heavily restricted, and many Palestinians were trapped in their homes for days or weeks at a time during the three wars Hamas has fought with Israel. During the 2008-2009 war, Mohammed al-Attar awoke one morning to the sound of tanks, aircraft and gunfire. By then, much of his extended family had gathered on the ground floor, with about 80 people sleeping in the living room, kitchen and other areas away from outer walls or windows. The family had stocked up on mattresses and basic goods, but after five days they raised white flags and were evacuated to a school that had been turned into a shelter. “We were just praying for it to stop and that we would stay alive,” he said. “Other things were not important.”….
US senators urge providing assistance to the Palestinians to prevent a humanitarian disaster
WASHINGTON, Saturday, 28 March 2020 (WAFA) – Eight senior United States senators urged the US Administration to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza to help them overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump recently offered assistance to other countries fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic, including North Korea and Iran. This principle of providing humanitarian aid to those in need should also apply to the Palestinian people,” said the senators in their letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “We write to urge the Administration to take every reasonable step to provide medicine, medical equipment, and other necessary assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) to prevent a humanitarian disaster.” … The letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Patrick Leahy, Tom Udall, Thomas R. Carper, Bernard Sanders, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Thomas R. Carper and Sherrod Brown.