Israeli settlers loose cattle on Palestinian barley and wheat fields

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Israeli settlers unleash cattle on Palestinian-owned farmlands

IMEMC/Agencies 15 Apr — Israeli colonial settlers unleashed their cattle, on Wednesday, onto Palestinian-owned farmlands in the northern Alghour area of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank. Local legal activist, Aref Daraghma, told Palestinian Wafa News Agency that tens of cows were released onto farmlands of wheat and barley, in the Umm al-Qaba village in the Alghour area. The legal activist believed that those cattle, which belong to Israeli colonists, living nearby, have been herded excessively, causing large quantities of wheat and barley to be destroyed. Palestinian farmlands have recently been frequently exposed to attacks by nearby illegal Israeli settlers in the Alghour area of the Jordan Valley, which is considered to be a rich farming region.


In ironic twist, Palestinians count on Israel’s separation barrier to keep out coronavirus

16 Apr by Suha Arraf/+972 Mag — It’s a story that even a screenwriter would have a hard time coming up with: fearing that Palestinians employed inside the Green Line will bring the new coronavirus back into the West Bank, Palestinians are reporting breaches in the separation barrier that divides Israel from the occupied territories. Members of the Popular Committees, who for the past two decades have coordinated non-violent demonstrations against the concrete wall and metal fences that make up the barrier, are themselves trying to fix the holes. Palestinian officials are claiming that the Israeli government is failing to properly maintain the barrier, thereby allowing Palestinian laborers to freely cross into Israel via damaged parts of the metal fence and drainage canals, and return without any kind of medical checks. According to Israeli media, almost two-thirds of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the occupied territories can be traced back to Palestinian laborers returning from Israel. In a strange twist, some have even begun to see the barrier as a protective measure, arguing that it has helped prevent the wider spread of COVID-19 across the West Bank, and has enabled the Palestinian Authority to keep the number of cases under control.

Rafaa Rawajbeh, the governor of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank, accuses Israel of intentionally trying to spread the coronavirus in the occupied territories. “It’s a deliberate conspiracy by Israel,” he says. “Why is it that now, of all times, they’re opening gates and drainage canals without deploying soldiers? It’s a clear attempt to harm us and our efforts [at stopping the spread] so that there will be a disease outbreak.” Rawajbeh is not the only one making this claim, which Israel has forcefully denied, calling it “racist incitement.” An Israeli defense official threatened to reduce freedom of movement for Palestinian security personnel should the “incitement campaign” continue — the same Palestinian officers who have been stationed at checkpoints across the West Bank for weeks to try to prevent a further spread of the disease. In other words, if the PA does not stop accusing Israel of allowing the virus to spread, Israel will interfere with the PA’s ability to combat that virus…

Jenin Governor Akram Rajoub rejects the claim of an Israeli conspiracy aimed at worsening the coronavirus outbreak. If the virus does spread in the occupied territories, he says, Israel will also be affected. … Aside from weakening the PA, which has so far been relatively successful in preventing the spread of the virus (at the time of writing, there are 308 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths in PA-controlled areas, compared with 11,868 cases and 117 deaths in Israel), Rajoub believes that Israel’s other main aim is to spare damage to its own economy. This, he says, is why the government is taking “every available measure” to ensure that Palestinian laborers are able to get to their jobs inside the Green Line.


Settlers assault Palestinian farmers and activist

20 Apr by Ali Salam/IMEMC — Israeli settlers attacked, on Saturday, several Palestinian villages in the Masafer Yatta area, in the southern occupied West Bank, physically assaulting residents, according to a local activist. Activist Fouad Amour told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that illegal Israeli settlers attacked farmers in Khirbet al-Khrouba as they harvested their crops. Israeli soldiers were said to have done nothing to help the Palestinian civilians under attack, however they ensured the safety of the colonial settlers, and helped to force the Palestinian farmers to leave their own land. Amour added that an activist with the farmers, who was filming the incident, had his camera confiscated by the settlers. In another village, a Palestinian man was reportedly assaulted and his donkey was stolen by the colonists.


Israeli settlers assault shepherds, injure one

19 Apr by Ali Salam — A Palestinian shepherd was injured on Friday when illegal Israeli settlers attacked herders grazing sheep near the village of Tuwaneh, near Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank a local official reported. Palestinian official, Fouad al-Amour, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that settlers, under the cover of Israeli soldiers, assaulted the sheep herders and chased them out of the pastures, injuring Akram Raba‘ee, 20.

Also on Friday, Israeli forces ordered several agricultural facilities in the Palestinian villages of Jiftlik and Furush Beit Dajan in the Jordan Valley, a local source said. Aref Daraghmeh, who monitors Israeli violations, told WAFA that an invading Israeli force broke into the two villages, and announced to the owners, the military order to remove the structures within a specified time.


On Easter Sunday, Jewish settlers uproot hundreds of olive saplings near Bethlehem

Palestine Chronicle 12 Apr — Illegal Jewish settlers on Easter Sunday uprooted about 350 olive saplings belonging to Palestinian farmers in the town of al-Khader, near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to a local source. Head of the Colonization Resistance Commission in Bethlehem, Hasan Breijieh, told WAFA that settlers from the Jewish settlement of Sidi Boaz, nearby, uprooted about 350 olive saplings belonging to local villagers. Earlier today, another group of settlers chopped off about 50 olive saplings belonging to Palestinian farmers in the same area. Attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian farmers and their properties have been on the rise during the current state of emergency in the West Bank due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic…


Coronavirus under occupation: Israel continues arrests and raids during coronavirus pandemic

B’Tselem 16 Apr — The entire world has ground to a halt, but the Israeli military is carrying on its violent routine of occupation throughout the West Bank. From 1 March 2020 to 3 April 2020, Israeli security forces raided 100 homes in the West Bank and arrested 217 Palestinians, 16 of them minors. Forty percent of the individuals detained, and 60% of the minors, were arrested between 12 March and 3 April 2020 – after Israel and the Palestinian Authority had tightened restrictions on movement in the West Bank. B’Tselem field researchers documented night raids on 12 homes, eight of which belong to members of an extended family. In every case, soldiers forced their way in, waking the entire family. In some instances, the soldiers trapped all the members of the family in a single room while they turned the rest of the house upside down. Some of the raids lasted about three hours. Armed soldiers invading your home, an inherently violent affair – and in the middle of the night, to boot – is always terrifying. The “usual” terror is now compounded by the specific fear of contracting coronavirus from strangers who break into your home and stay there for some time. The fear does not abate once the soldiers leave. Every family whose home was raided continues to worry both for those who remain and for those arrested and taken away. The military’s practice never to inform people where their loved ones are being held or when they will be released ramps up the anxiety…

Link: coronavirus_pandemic

Israeli troops shoot, wound Palestinian teen in Tulkarem

IMEMC/Agencies 19 Apr — Israeli troops reportedly shot and wounded a Palestinian teen, on Sunday, in northern Tulkarem city in the occupied West Bank. Local Palestinian media sources reported that Israeli soldiers stationed near the Israeli Apartheid Wall, west of the Shweika neighborhood of northern Tulkarem city, opened fire with live ammunition and tear-gas canisters at a group of local Palestinian youth. The sources said that as the Palestinian youth were set to protest the Apartheid Wall that divides the neighborhood, Israeli forces, stationed near the wall, responded to the peaceful protesters with live ammunition and tear-gas canisters. They added that the Israeli live fire caused injury to the feet of an unidentified 19-year-old young man, who was transferred to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. No further details were reported.


Israeli soldiers shoot, injure three Palestinians in Kufur Qaddoum

19 Apr by Ali Salam — At least three Palestinians were injured, on Saturday, by Israeli forces as troops invaded the northern West Bank village of Kufur Qaddoum, local sources reported. Morad Eshteiwi, coordinator of the popular resistance in Kufur Qaddoum, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that the Israeli army stormed the village, provoking resistance from local Palestinians. Occupation forces fired live rounds at the protesters, injuring three of them. Israeli troops also fired tear-gas towards protestors, causing many others to choke. According to local sources, Israeli forces suppressed the weekly demonstration held every Friday in Kufur Qaddoum village in the Qalqiliya district. Morad Eshteiwi, a local activist, told the Palestinian Information Center that the soldiers and attacked peaceful demonstrators with live rounds, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear-gas canisters and stun grenades, causing some to suffer inhalation injuries, who were treated at the scene. Since 2002, the citizens of Kufur Qaddoum have been staging weekly demonstrations in an expression of their opposition to Israeli settlements, the annexation wall, and the closure of the main road leading east to Nablus City.


Israeli troops abduct 3 Palestinians in the West Bank, spit on walls and floors

IMEMC/Agencies 12 Apr — Israeli troops abducted, on Sunday, a number of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, local media outlets reported. According to Wafa News Agency, among those arrested is a Palestinian child in the Beit Ummar village, north of the West Bank city of Hebron. Wafa quoted media activist, Mohamad Awwad, as saying “Israeli occupation troops stormed the Sah’b Alsir’ neighborhood, south of Beit Ummar and broke into civilian homes, before they arrested the 17-year-old child, Baha’ Raed. Right after the arrest, the troops transferred Raed to the Karmi Etsour colonial Israeli settlement, which was erected on Palestinian-owned lands”. Concurrently, local sources in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, said that Israeli troops abducted two young men, including one with special needs. Mayor of Nahaleen village, Sobhi Zeidan, told Wafa that “Israeli troops abducted both Mohammad Taha, who suffers from speech disabilities, after having broken into his home”. Zeidan added that some of the invading Israeli soldiers spat all over the floors and walls of Taha’s home. Other local sources in Bethlehem confirmed that Israeli troops invaded and vandalized the home of another young man, identified as Diya’ Zaghloul, before abducting him from the village of Husan, west of Bethlehem city.


Israeli forces arrest 8 Palestinians in West Bank despite coronavirus lockdown

Palestine Chronicle 14 Apr — Israeli forces arrested eight Palestinians from the occupied West Bank over the past 2 days despite the complete lockdown in place to combat the coronavirus, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club reported. The group said in a statement that Israeli forces have continued with their arrest campaigns which target “patients, the elderly and children” despite the coronavirus pandemic ignoring warnings that the spread of the coronavirus would have dire consequences in jail. Among those detainees was a former member of the Palestinian parliament who has been deported from Jerusalem, Muhammad Abu Tair. The 68-year-old man has spent a total of nearly 34 years inside Israeli prisons. According to the statement, the detainees are from the governorates of Ramallah and Al-Bireh, Qalqilya, Nablus, and Bethlehem


Hamas denounces Israel’s arrest of Palestinian MP in West Bank

RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 14 Apr — Hamas has strongly condemned Israel’s arrest of its representative in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). “The Israeli forces in Ramallah and al-Bireh arrested PLC member Mohammed Abu Tir from his home residence,” Hamas said in a statement reported by the German News Agency. According to the statement, Israel transferred Abu Tir away from Jerusalem in 2011. After that, he was administratively detained several times, noting that he spent almost 30 years of his life in Israeli prisons. Abu Tir joins six other Palestinian MPs currently detained by Israel, including three Hamas members and a Fatah member. Meanwhile the rest are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.


Israeli settlers escape quarantine, attack Palestinians, injure one

IMEMC/Agencies 17 Apr — Israeli media reports said on Thursday that around 20 Israeli settlers, who represent an extremist Jewish organization called Hilltop Youth, reportedly escaped from quarantine, in the Jordan Valley, near the Dead Sea, and attacked several local Palestinians. Israel Today Arabic online paper, reported that the 20 settlers, who are Coronavirus patients, were able to flee the quarantine and carry out an assault on Palestinian residents in the area, injuring one. According to the paper, the incident took place at 11 PM on Tuesday, as some Palestinians were quarreling with two Israeli settlers. Some time later, around twenty other illegal settlers came from a nearby quarantine center and engaged in the clash with Palestinians. A young female Palestinian was wounded after being beaten by the illegal colonists, and was subsequently transferred to an Israeli hospital for treatment, the source added. The source also noted that the same settlers also attacked Palestinians with stones and tear gas canisters and set fire to two Palestinian-owned vehicles, parked nearby. The Hilltop Youth organization has recently been reported to have attacked Palestinian-populated areas, near the Dead Sea, mainly the fertile Palestinian agriculture region of Alghour…


Settler extremists quarantined in West Bank abscond with IDF-supplied tents

Times of Israel 16 Apr by Judah Ari Gross & Jacob Magid — After being accused of attacking three Palestinians, ‘hilltop youth’ allegedly steal equipment from facility specially set up for them by military and flee scene; two arrested — A group of Jewish extremists on Thursday morning allegedly stole military tents and other equipment worth tens of thousands of shekels from a quarantine facility that the military had established for them in the northern West Bank, police said. The group of radical settlers staying at the facility was also suspected of attacking a group of Palestinians with tear gas and rocks and then firebombing their cars on Tuesday. Police launched a manhunt and officers arrested two people suspected of being in possession of the stolen military equipment, later releasing them to house arrest. Police said the officers arrested the two suspects as they were driving down the Route 90 highway. They said stolen military equipment was found in their car. It was not immediately clear how many suspects remained at large or if all the stolen military equipment was recovered. The two suspects were reportedly not part of the group that had been staying at the quarantine facility, but had instead met up with them and taken the stolen tents from them, according to Channel 13 … Police were investigating whether the gasoline used to torch the Palestinian vehicles came from the fuel that the army supplied to the youth to run the generator at their quarantine outpost, a police official told The Times of Israel, despite the gag order, confirming a Kan public broadcaster report.


Israeli settlers flood Palestinian vineyards with sewage in occupied West Bank

BETHLEHEM (PNN) 15 Apr — For the second time in less than a fortnight, Israeli settlers have opened wastewater drains to flood Palestinian farmlands in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Palestinian media activist Mohammad Awwad said several armed Israelis from Gush Etzion settlement, located directly south of Jerusalem, caused flooding of Palestinian-owned vineyards in Beit Ummar town, located eleven kilometers northwest of al-Khalil (Hebron), with sewage on Monday. Awwad, citing the Palestinian grape farmers affected in the incident, added that Israeli settlers have been intentionally deluging Palestinian farmlands with huge volumes of wastewater over the past few years, causing a great deal of financial losses. The media activist estimated that the latest sewage flooding has damaged more than four acres of land. On April 5, Israeli settlers pumped wastewater into Palestinian farmlands in the same West Bank village.


Israeli forces ‘steal coronavirus food aid for needy Palestinians, beat aid workers’

The New Arab 1 Apr — Occupying Israeli forces have confiscated food and medical aid trucks being sent to Palestinians under COVID-19 lockdown in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli forces on Tuesday evening withheld a convoy of food aid for Palestinian families in need who have been left without income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The food truck was delivering aid to families in the southern Jerusalem town of Sur Baher, before it was raided by Israeli forces. After stealing the aid, the army distributed the food between themselves and other policemen, a volunteer told The New Arab’s Arabic language service. Four of the volunteers were arrested and were beaten by the occupying forces. East Jerusalem is in Area C, which means it is under full Israeli administrative and military control. Palestinian Jerusalemites have repeatedly complained of Israeli neglect during the coronavirus crisis. Because the Palestinian Authority is unable to coordinate, Jerusalemites have launched civilian relief initiatives for those under lockdown.


Sick Palestinian worker abandoned outside settlement near Salfit

13 Apr by Ali Salam — A Palestinian worker showing coronavirus symptoms was abandoned, on Sunday by Israeli settlers, outside the illegal Burkan settlement, near the town of Salfit in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian WAFA News Agency reported. Abdullah Kmail, the Governor of Salfit, said the worker, who had remained at his workplace in Israel for several weeks, was found dumped near the Burkan colony, in the central West Bank. He added that the Palestinian Ministry of Health picked up the sick man, tested him for the coronavirus and moved him to safety. The governor denounced the inhumane practice of dumping sick Palestinian workers at Israeli checkpoints or outside illegal settlements. There have been some incidents where Palestinians employed in Israeli settlements in Palestine and inside Israel, that have been discarded for showing signs and symptoms of the infectious disease.

Link: near-salfit/

Spreading the virus of occupation: spitting as a weapon in the hand of colonial Israel

MEMO 14 Apr by Ramzy Baroud — Spitting at someone is a universal insult. In Israel, however, spitting at Palestinians is an entirely different story. Now that we know that the deadly coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva droplets, Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers are working extra hard to spit at as many Palestinians, their cars, doorknobs, and so on, as possible.

If this sounds to you too surreal and repugnant, then you might not be as familiar with the particular breed of Israeli colonialism as you may think you are. In all fairness, Israelis have been spitting at Palestinians well before the World Health Organization (WHO) lectured us on the elusive nature of the COVID-19 disease and on the critical need to apply ‘social distancing’. Indeed, if you Google the phrase ‘Israeli spitting’, you will be inundated with many interesting search results, the like of “Jerusalem Judge to Jews: Don’t Spit On Christians“, “Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to Stop Spitting on Them“, and the more recent, “Israel Settlers Spitting on Palestinian Cars Raises Concern over Attempt to Spread Coronavirus”. Interestingly, most of this coverage throughout the years has been carried out by Israel’s own media, while receiving little attention in Western mainstream media.

One could easily classify such degrading acts as yet another example of the Israelis’ false sense of superiority over Palestinians. But the deliberate attempt at infecting occupied Palestinians with the coronavirus is beneath contempt, even for a settler-colonial regime. Two particular elements in this story require a pause: First, that acts of spitting at Palestinians and their properties, by both occupation soldiers and settlers, have been widely reported in many parts of occupied Palestine. This means that, within a matter of days, the Israeli army and settlers’ cultures so swiftly adapted their pre-existing racism to employ a deadly virus as the latest tool in subjugating and harming Palestinians, whether physically or symbolically. Second, the degree of ignorance and buffoonery that accompany these racist and degrading acts. The power paradigm that has governed the relationship between colonial Israel and colonized Palestinians has, thus far, followed a typical trajectory, where Israel’s bad deeds often go unpunished…



Coronavirus response stirs Jerusalem sovereignty struggle

AFP 18 Apr — Israel’s arrest of senior Palestinian officials for “illegal” efforts to contain coronavirus and the Jewish state’s closure of a clinic have exacerbated a long-running row over the status of east Jerusalem. Since the onset of the health crisis, Palestinian officials allege the Arab population of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem has been overlooked by Israeli efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Israeli police recently shuttered a COVID-19 screening facility in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan — the testing was unauthorised, they said, because it was only overseen by the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel. “Our goal is to provide aid to the people of east Jerusalem who are intentionally being neglected” by Israel, Fadi al-Hadami, the Palestinian government’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, told AFP. But meetings with “hospital doctors in Jerusalem, interviews with media calling on people to stay at home to fight corona(virus) — they (Israel) consider these things violations,” he lamented. Earlier this month, Hadami and Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinians’ governor of Jerusalem, were detained by Israeli authorities amid their on-the-ground response to the coronavirus crisis. Both men were released within 24 hours. But the spread of COVID-19 in predominantly Palestinian east Jerusalem risks exacerbating political tensions that could put lives at risk.

At the heart of the dispute is the status of Jerusalem — one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel captured that part of the city in a 1967 war and later annexed it in moves considered illegal under international law. It views the entire city as its undivided capital, banning any Palestinian government activity there. The Palestinian Authority considers east Jerusalem the capital of its own future state and tries to maintain a presence on the ground…

A total of 81 people have tested positive for coronavirus in east Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel recently doubled the number of its screening centres in Palestinian neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem from three to six following a petition to the supreme court by a rights group…

Since 2001, the height of the second bloody Palestinian intifada, Israel has closed more than 80 Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem,[Ghaith] said. And since the US broke with decades of diplomacy and international consensus by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, the Jewish state has “escalated the pace of its activity”, he added. Israel prevents “any visibility of Palestinians in Jerusalem or activity of any kind.”…


First coronavirus death in East Jerusalem amid Israeli ‘neglect’

Al Jazeera 18 Apr — An elderly Palestinian woman has become the first fatal victim of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in occupied East Jerusalem, health officials have said. Nawal Abu Hummus, 78, died on Saturday, said Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem in a statement. Abu Hummus, from the ‘Issawiyah neighbourhood, had pre-existing chronic illnesses, he added. The Palestinian Minister of Health May al-Kayla also announced the registration of six new infections in the occupied Palestinian territories, including two workers from the town of Qatana, northwest of Jerusalem, raising the number of cases in East Jerusalem to 105 … Since the onset of the health crisis, Palestinian officials allege the Arab population of East Jerusalem has been overlooked by Israeli efforts to curb the spread of the virus that has killed more than 150,000 people worldwide…


Abandoned by Israel, Jerusalem’s refugee camp is left to fight COVID-19 alone

+972 Mag 12 Apr by Yuval Abraham — During these days of the coronavirus pandemic, the vast majority of the residents of this land are worried about their health and their economic and psychological state. Those worries are just as relevant for the residents of Shuafat Refugee Camp, situated within the municipal bounds of Jerusalem, yet located on the other side of the separation wall. Adnan, a young hi-tech worker, says his body is slowly fraying after weeks without hugging anyone. Aysar, a chef at a local restaurant, can hardly sleep since his business shut down. Ilham, the daughter of a family of refugees from Jaffa, is worried about her aging mother who spends her days at home in her apartment. But the residents of the camp suffer from an additional, especially cruel and unique problem: Israel has completely abandoned them behind the wall. “The separation wall has disconnected us from Jerusalem and disconnected Jerusalem from us,” says Kamel Ja‘abri, who helps run a youth organization in the camp and volunteers with Kulna Jerusalem, a local NGO that connects Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the city. “Right now, under the shadow of the coronavirus, that disconnect is dangerous.” The central problem, says Ja‘abri, is that the authorities have neither built a testing station in the camp nor established an isolation zone for people who have been infected. This kind of infrastructure is critical due to the immense population density of Shuafat, which makes effective social distancing difficult, particularly when considering the possibility that Israel may put the camp under lockdown — by shutting down the checkpoint at the entrance to Shuafat — in the case of an outbreak…


Israeli forces shoot, injure on Palestinian, detain another in Jerusalem

12 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians in the northwest of Jerusalem on Friday, wounding one young man and causing others to suffer the toxic effects of tear-gas. Local sources told Quds News Network that Israeli forces shot the young man, 20, in the thigh; the young man, who remained unidentified at the time of this report was transferred to hospital in stable condition. The young man was reportedly shot as he approached the apartheid wall in the village of Qatanna, in the Jerusalem District, southern occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Israeli police in al-‘Issawiya attacked a Palestinian young man, brutally assaulting him at the entrance to the village, before arresting him.

Link: another-in-jerusalem/

Israel imposes fines on Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem

IMEMC/Agencies 18 Apr — Israeli authorities in the internationally recognized occupied East Jerusalem, where Israel has wrestled control for five decades now, reportedly imposed on Friday many fines on Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The local Palestinian Wadi Hilweh Information Center (Silwanic) reported that the fines were imposed on local Palestinians who participate in a weekly protest against the continued illegal Israeli settlement activities and confiscation of Palestinian-owned lands, across East Jerusalem. The center said that at least seven Palestinian activists from the same neighborhood, received fines and were forced to sign a commitment that they will not take part in any future protests. Each fine, according to the center, was 35,000 New Israeli Shekels (10,000 US Dollars). One of the protestors was quoted as saying, on condition of anonymity, that the participants staged their weekly protest, based on current precaution measures to fight the Coronavirus and that the number of those who took part, was based on the Israeli authorities’ instructions.


Holy Fire lit as Orthodox Easter bells echo over near-empty Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) 18 Apr by Rami Ayyub, Stephen Farrell — The Holy Fire ceremony symbolising Jesus’ resurrection was lit in a deserted Jerusalem on Saturday, without the joyful throng of Orthodox Christian pilgrims who normally attend a spectacle that brings the Easter season to a colourful climax. Bells tolled above a near-empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilos III, emerged carrying the flame from the crypt where Christians believe Jesus was buried. This year, amid coronavirus precautions in a locked-down Jerusalem, he was accompanied only by a handful of mostly Orthodox clergy, some wearing face masks. Outside in the medieval courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre, by tradition the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, the plaza was empty of all but a few Israeli police and clerics maintaining social distancing. The Holy Fire ceremony typically draws tens of thousands of worshippers to the imposing grey Edicule in the Holy Sepulchre that is believed to contain the tomb where Jesus lay two thousand years ago. Sunbeams that pierce through a skylight in the church’s dome are believed by worshippers to ignite a flame deep inside the crypt, a mysterious act considered a Holy Saturday miracle each year before Orthodox Easter Sunday. Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch then lights a candle with the Holy Fire and disperses it to the faithful. In normal years this would be to the thousands of tiny candles held by cheering worshippers packed into the passageways of the building…


Prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque suspended for Ramadan — Muslim clerics

JERUSALEM, April 16 (Reuters) – Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound will be closed to Muslim worshippers throughout the holy fasting month of Ramadan due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Jordan-appointed council that oversees Islam’s third-holiest site said on Thursday. The decision extends a ban on Islamic prayers at the holy compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount that has been in effect since March 23. The council “decided to extend its decision to suspend the gathering of worshippers from all gates of the (compound) during the blessed month of Ramadan”, in line with clerical guidance and medical advice, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs said in a statement. (Reporting by Roleen Tafakji, Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Hugh Lawson)


Land, property theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

NRC: Israel’s destruction of Palestinian property undermines efforts to curb COVID-19

AMMAN, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 (WAFA) – Israel’s recent targeting of homes and even water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in the occupied West Bank violates international law and undermines efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic, today said the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Ongoing demolitions and threats of forcible transfer, amid plans for Israel’s next government to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, jeopardizes the health and safety of thousands of Palestinians, it said in a statement. A land grab would not only disenfranchise Palestinians and erode their hopes for genuine self-determination, but also sever coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities necessary to counter the spread of Covid-19 among both peoples, it added. “It is Israel’s legal obligation to protect the health and life of Palestinians under occupation,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “We urge Israeli authorities to immediately cease the unlawful destruction and seizure of property in the West Bank, including humanitarian relief items. This is not the time to undermine global efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.” … Since Israel confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on 21 February, the United Nations reported that the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) demolished 69 structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This forcibly displaced 63 people and affected 417 others. The structures included 28 residential properties and seven water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Donor states had provided a third of the destroyed or seized structures as humanitarian relief.


In an attempt to seize land, Israeli settlers set up mobile home in West Bank village

NABLUS, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 (WAFA) – In a step Israeli settlers often follow as a prelude to seizing Palestinian land, several settlers today set up a mobile home in the northern West Bank village of Qaryout, south of Nablus, according to a local official. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the north of the West Bank, said settlers from the illegal Shilo settlement placed a mobile home on Qaryout village land. He said the settlers are taking advantage of the lockdown in the West Bank in light of the coronavirus outbreak to seize Palestinian land and establish a settlement outpost. Settlers yesterday also chopped down 36 olive trees in the same village, said Daghlas.



Despite the Israeli blockade, Gaza is tackling Covid-19 with typical determination

MEMO 14 Apr by Eman Abusidu — While the developed world has advanced technology to tackle the coronavirus Covid-19, the Gaza Strip stands alone using simple and primitive methods, having been devastated by an Israeli-led blockade since 2007. It is one of the most densely-populated places in the world, and one of the poorest; hundreds of thousands of people live in ramshackle refugee camps and bombed-out buildings … Nevertheless, the Palestinians in Gaza prove to the whole world that it is impossible to be broken despite all the obstacles they face. With simple and limited capabilities, the authorities in Gaza have built 1,000 quarantine rooms in the Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, the quarantine centres are in Rafah, Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis. “More than 1,270 people are quarantined at hospitals, hotels and schools after crossing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt,” explained the ministry. “We are working now with all our efforts to complete the construction of the quarantine centres.” This is expected to be done within 10 days. From the beginning, the authorities in Gaza have taken sweeping steps to contain the virus. “The two men who returned to Gaza and were found to have the virus,” said the ministry, “were placed in quarantine immediately after crossing into Gaza and did not mix with anyone.” Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, the authorities closed all wedding halls and restaurants, and banned street markets…


Gaza resumes coronavirus testing amid shortages

GAZA (Reuters) 13 Apr by Nidal al-Mughrabi — Coronavirus testing has resumed in the Gaza Strip after Israel allowed five testing kits purchased by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the enclave, a Gaza health ministry spokesman said on Monday. But the spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra, said the kits would be of “limited immediate help” because they could be used to test only about 500 people in a densely populated territory of two million. “We began testing immediately after receiving the kits late (Sunday) night,” Qidra said. “We need to carry out these tests all the time and therefore, we are in need of thousands of testing kits.” On April 8, health officials in Gaza said they had run out of testing kits and voiced concern that a shortage of medical supplies could lead to the rapid spread of infection in the territory. Gaza has 13 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, all in quarantine.

Link: resumes-coronavirus-testing-amid-shortages-idUSKCN21V0V5

Opinion: Israel trading in ventilators for helpless Gazans is inhumane

[behind paywall] 15 April/Haaretz, Gideon Levy — If Israel had even a hint of human feeling toward the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, at least during the coronavirus pandemic, it would immediately lift all the bans and allow unlimited medical and economic aid into the enclave. If it showed more generosity and less haggling, it could also achieve a prisoner exchange with Hamas. But in Israel, where the coronavirus has turned everything upside down, only one thing remains as it was, cruel and hermetic: the Gaza blockade. The entire world has changed except for the biggest prison of all, which anxiously awaits an outbreak with only 65 ventilators, without testing kits for over 2 million people and with shuttered gates whose key is in the hands of the Israeli jailer. The height of the humiliation: Early this week, Haaretz reported that Hamas may give Israel information on the two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers held in Gaza in exchange for ventilators. Israeli sources were quick to deny the mere contemplation of such a delivery, prompting Hamas to issue its own denials … Gaza has just 65 ventilators because it has been imprisoned by Israel for nearly 15 years. It is intolerable that an Israeli general decides what, and above all what will not, be allowed in. It’s nothing short of evil. By what right does an Israeli general decide how many ventilators Gaza will have? What’s the source of this evil? When Turkey wants to aid the Strip, Israel puts up obstacles. Instead of rushing to bring in a few of the ventilators that the Mossad stole from the rest of the world, as the espionage agency’s leaders have bragged, and instead of calling on the world “Don’t forget Gaza,” the Strip is left to choke with 65 ventilators, which are only a symbol of its distress. In the background is the possible prisoner exchange. Someone thought an agreement could be extorted under the cover of the coronavirus. Gaza has held its fire since the outbreak of the pandemic. They aren’t even sending over incendiary balloons. Israel should have responded with a goodwill gesture. But in Israel, a gesture is a sign of weakness…


Qatar continues providing aid to Palestinians quarantined in Gaza

QNA 17 Apr — Chairman of Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee, Ambassador H E Mohammed Al Emadi said that the committee, in coordination with Qatar Fund for Development will continue to provide aid to hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza’s health quarantine centers. His Excellency said that the aid includes providing daily meals and water to those isolated, in addition to basic electronic appliances and furniture. He added that the committee gave meals to hundreds of families that are undergoing the health quarantine and to families in need. H E the Ambassador Al Emadi said he witnessed the conclusion of providing financial assistance to 100,000 poor families, with $100 to each family. His Excellency said that the money was provided over the last two weeks using a new mechanism to ensure the safety of those receiving the money and maintaining safe distancing practices and other precautionary measures aimed at contained the spread of coronavirus.


Israeli troops open fire on Palestinian farmers in southern Gaza

IMEMC/Agencies 12 Apr — Israeli troops opened fire, early on Sunday morning, on a number of Palestinian farmers in the southern besieged Gaza Strip. Local Palestinian media sources and witnesses said that Israeli troops, stationed on watch towers, near the border fence with Khuza‘a village, southeast of the coastal territory, opened fire with their machine guns indiscriminately towards a number of local farmers, while they were bending down in labor. Sources added that the Israeli troops’ fire caused no causalities, but spread panic among farmers, forcing them to leave their farmlands immediately.


VIDEO: Spearfishing in Gaza

EI 14 Apr — Palestinian fishers in Gaza must sometimes resort to creative means to make a living under Israeli siege. Spearfishing is an ancient method of diving and catching fish using a sharpened metal object. Contemporary methods use spearguns. Israel currently restricts fishers to waters up to six nautical miles off of Gaza’s northern coast and between nine to 15 miles off its central and southern coasts. In 2019, Israeli forces shot at Palestinian fishers, who typically use boats, 347 times. Equipment for freediving and spearfishing is hard to come by in Gaza. “Diving equipment is really expensive and is not available due to the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip,” Mahmoud al-Housh, a spearfisher in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada. Israel considers these items to be “dual purpose,” meaning they could serve as weapons – a pretext it uses to ban a wide range of goods from entering the territory. “So it’s a big problem for us as divers and professionals,” Muhannad, a spearfisher who asked not to be fully named, told The Electronic Intifada … To circumvent those difficulties, fishers in Gaza make do with what they have. Using old rifles and wood, they make their own spearguns to catch fish. “At first, we would fish with light nets,” Ashraf al-Amoudi, a fisher who prepares spearguns, told The Electronic Intifada. “Then we wanted to fish using spearguns. We started inventing and doing research on the internet and YouTube.” Common catches by spearfishers include sea bass, mullet and mackerel. Video by Mohammed Asad.


Egypt opens Gaza border for returnees stranded by outbreak

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 13 Apr — Egypt reopened its border crossing on Monday with the Gaza Strip after nearly three weeks, allowing hundreds of Palestinians stranded by the coronavirus pandemic to return home. Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, has coordinated the timing of Rafah crossing’s one-way reopening with Egypt to coincide with the completion of 1,000 rooms to place the returnees into mandatory quarantine. The arrivals were taken into buses, without their luggage, under police escort into the quarantine centers. Sick returnees would be placed in hospitals and the old at hotels. Security forces and medics waited for the arrival in full protection clothes. Hamas and its governmental bodies are struggling to keep the COVID-19 threat at bay after its spread in neighboring Israel and Egypt. Only 13 cases have been diagnosed in the Palestinian enclave that the two countries blockaded following Hamas’ violent 2007 takeover. Nine have recovered. The cases were discovered among travelers who returned from abroad via Israel and Egypt in March. But experts say the numbers could be low owing to the limited testing capacity … The Rafah crossing will remain open for four days to allow for the return of some 2,000 Palestinians from Egypt.


Row in Gaza over arrests for Zoom chat with Israelis

GAZA CITY (AFP) 14 Apr — A fierce dispute has divided the Palestinian community after Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, arrested six local activists for chatting by video conference with left-leaning campaigners in Israel. Islamist group Hamas bans all communications with Israel and last week arrested the six members of the Gaza Youth Committee on charges of “treason” and “normalisation” of relations with the Jewish state. The arrests have sparked a fierce free-speech row that has drawn in a former Gaza-based contractor with human rights group Amnesty International who had criticised the activists online. In the two-hour call via video conference service Zoom — the latest in a format they have called “Skype with your enemy” — the participants had discussed their daily lives and expressed hopes for better leadership for both Israelis and Palestinians. Rami Aman, 36, the founder of the Gaza Youth Committee, and the five others were detained, accused of “treason”, after speaking to the dozens of Israeli activists online. Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said that “establishing any activity or communication with the Israeli occupation under any excuse is a crime punishable by law, and is treason against our people” … A key player in the row has been the former Amnesty activist Hind Khoudary, who on Facebook criticised Aman over the alleged act of “normalisation” with Israel …

Debate has flared on social networks, with some Palestinians condemning the latest arrests and others congratulating Khoudary for working against normalisation. Collaborating or even communicating with Israelis is controversial among Palestinians, with many seeing such dialogue as a waste of time. Others argue that shutting down dialogue makes a solution between the warring parties even more unlikely. “Palestinian for the most part reject normalising activities because they contribute to a narrative that all that is needed is dialogue,” said Yara Hawari, senior policy fellow at the Al Shabaka Palestinian think-tank. “In actuality what is needed before any kind of reconciliation process is an end to the continuous and structural violence — which in this case is the violent Israeli military occupation.”


Gaza weddings revive traditional Palestinian ceremonies

GAZA, Palestine (MEE) 18 Apr by Tareq Hajjaj — In the humble courtyard of their home, trilling cries of joy and the voices of women singing traditional Palestinian songs reverberated as the family celebrated two young newlyweds set to begin their life together. The pair were greeted at the husband’s home with the familiar faces of their close friends and family, away from the hustle and bustle of wedding halls, loudspeakers and modern music. With the closure of wedding halls in the Gaza Strip as part of coronavirus measures, couples have resorted to celebrating in their homes, particularly those who were engaged to be wed before the outbreak. The Ministry of Health banned all gatherings in mid-March and ordered the closure of all halls, restaurants and hotels. For the older women in the family, the return to wedding ceremonies that are more intimate is even more reason to celebrate. “These weddings take us back to the past; this is how I got married,” says the groom’s mother, Ezdihar Yaseen, who also goes by Umm Mohammad. “My husband’s and my female relatives gathered around me, singing to me, their voices merging with the music of the oboe and drums, clapping and singing. I really felt like a bride amongst them,” she tells Middle East Eye, describing her wedding 53 years ago. “I got married here, in this house, grew older, gave birth to my children, and here I am, marrying my son off in the same place. This is how joy enters into a home – not by taking our joy and celebrating it in a rented hall, then returning to our empty homes without instilling memories of happiness in them.” Umm Mohammad believes modern-day weddings have caused the humbler ceremonies to become “absent from the Palestinian imagination” and to lose their “traditional Palestinian identity”…


Gaza produces millions of face masks for Europe

Palestine Chronicle 17 Apr — Sewing factories in the Gaza Strip have been busy manufacturing face masks for the local and international markets in response to the coronavirus crisis. Abdullah Shehadeh, one of the administrators at the Hasco sewing factory, said 40 workers have been working hard to make the masks. They are continuing to operate in spite of the difficult situation in the Strip as a result of the ongoing 14-year Israeli imposed blockade and the coronavirus pandemic, he explained. They are doing this to help people in Europe and support their efforts to tackle the virus, Shehadeh added, because human life is above all political differences. The factory will continue to operate for as long as the occupation allows the necessary materials into the Strip.


PHOTOS: ‘One bicycle, one life’: Gaza refugee youth bring smiles to confined children

Palestine Chronicle 15 Apr by Fawzi Mahmoud — Palestinian volunteers with the Women’s Program Center launched the initiative ‘One Bicycle, One Life’, where they distributed crafts, children’s toys and reading material to families confined due to the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative began in the central Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and is scheduled to last for several days.


A doctor who honed his skills in Gaza is 3D-printing face shields in his basement for Canadian hospitals

LONDON (Buzzfeed) 17 Apr by Megha Rajagopalam — Tarek Loubani has spent years 3D-printing simple medical devices with a team of engineers to help patients in the Gaza Strip, one of the toughest places in the world to source medical equipment. But now the coronavirus pandemic has left hospitals around the world short of the most basic medical supplies, and Loubani, an ER doctor, is printing face shields back home in Canada. Loubani has so far printed 1,000 face shields in two weeks, working mostly by himself from the basement of his house in London, Ontario. The 39-year-old describes himself as “one of your friends who was a geek in his basement in high school.”

Loubani, along with a group of engineers and other doctors, started an organization in 2013 called the Glia Project that 3D-prints medical supplies. He came up with the idea while working in Gaza — a place where hospitals frequently lack basic medical and surgical supplies in part because of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. (Loubani has worked in the region on and off since 2011.)… Loubani was working at a hospital in Gaza when he came up against a problem he’d never encountered before: Though the doctors he worked with were highly trained, they simply could not access basic medical equipment. Hospitals would try to order even something as simple as a stethoscope, but found they would take months to arrive, or never show up at all..


Will coronavirus crisis spur Hamas-Israel swap deal?

GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 17 Apr by Ahmad Abu Amer — Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar’s expression of his movement’s readiness to hold prisoner-exchange negotiations has stirred mixed reactions in Israel. Shortly after Sinwar’s announcement and far from the media spotlight, Russian and Egyptian mediators seized the opportunity to move forward a file that has been on hold for more than five years. In a televised interview with the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa channel on April 3, Sinwar expressed Hamas’ willingness to make partial concessions to Israel regarding a deal to release Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, specifically the elderly, the sick, children and women. He added, “However, Israel should pay the highest price in this prisoner-exchange deal.” On April 7, as soon as Israel received Sinwar’s surprise announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel’s Coordinator for Captives and Missing Persons Yaron Blum and his team, in collaboration with the National Security Council and the defense establishment, are “committed to acting constructively with the aim of bringing back the soldiers’ bodies and missing civilians and putting an end to the issue.” He called for “immediate dialogue between mediators.” Hamas detained two Israeli soldiers during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza and has refused to disclose their fate. Israel claims the two soldiers were killed in battle, while Hamas claims they are alive. In 2015, Hamas announced the arrest of two Israelis in the Gaza Strip…

An Egyptian member of parliament close to Egyptian intelligence told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Egyptians took action after Netanyahu’s office announced the negotiation team’s readiness to engage in serious talks through mediators. He noted that the current situation in Israel and the region, with the coronavirus pandemic, might move things forward. The source added that Egypt is interested in a prisoner exchange because it is convinced that the negotiation process would resolve many disputes between Israel and Hamas and and contribute toward ending the blockade on the Gaza Strip. He expects more action from Egyptian intelligence in the coming days. In an April 10 op-ed, Haaretz called on Netanyahu to take Sinwar’s overture seriously. The newspaper asked Netanyahu to adopt a humanitarian stance. Alaa Rimawi, director of Al-Quds Center for Israeli and Palestinian Studies in Ramallah, expects the prisoner exchange file to advance in the coming months, citing both parties’ desire to settle it. Both will likely capitalize on the humanitarian aspect, given the coronavirus pandemic, which might make concessions more palatable to their populations, Rimawi told Al-Monitor…

Link: exchande-deal-talks.html

As coronavirus crisis looms, Israelis launch Gaza solidarity campaign

+972 Mag 2 Apr by Yaara Benger Alaluf et al. — As COVID-19 arrives in Gaza, Israelis launch a campaign raising funds and calling on their government to take responsibility for the crisis in the Strip. — The new coronavirus has reached Gaza, and it is terrifying to imagine the potential outcome of a mass spread of COVID-19 in the besieged Strip. This is true not only because of how deadly the virus can be in the absence of a vaccine, but also because of the specific conditions in Gaza. The enclave has an extremely high population density and a dilapidated infrastructure, the result of lethal and disproportionate military attacks that Israel carries out every few months — most recently only a few days ago. That is why we, a group of Jewish Israelis, have launched an independent campaign called “Epidemic in Gaza” to raise awareness and express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Our hope is that in a moment of crisis, when we are anxious about the health and well-being of those closest to us, we can nonetheless find room to acknowledge our responsibility for the reality taking place just a few miles away. It is our duty to provide instant aid and, more importantly, to call for an immediate shift in Israel’s inhumane policies toward the people of Gaza…


Palestinian Israelis

In Israeli war on coronavirus, Arab doctors rush to the front

CSM 16 Apr by Joshua Mitnick — Yasmin Diab shuttles daily between self-quarantine at her home in the Arab village of Tamra and 24-hour shifts at Rambam Hospital in Haifa – the largest in northern Israel – where she was the first doctor on the coronavirus ward when it opened in March. Because of her work with coronavirus patients, Dr. Diab cannot have physical contact with her family – her birthday recently came and went without a hug from her parents. The stresses of work make it harder to sleep. Still, the internal medicine resident doesn’t regret the decision to volunteer for a job that puts her and her family at risk. “I believe this is a mission,” she says. “We are on the front line of this war.” With a stethoscope draped around her neck, Dr. Diab delivered a round of poised interviews to several Israeli news shows in the early weeks of the crisis. But she is just one of the tens of thousands of Arab health care professionals putting themselves on the line in Israel’s battle against COVID-19. Though Arab doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have over the past decade become a familiar presence at Israeli hospitals and state-supported HMO clinics, the pandemic has shown Arab Israeli citizens in a new light: as essential foot soldiers and field commanders in the country’s struggle against the virus…


24 hours in the Israeli Arab town hit hardest by the coronavirus

[behind paywall] Haaretz 15 Apr by Tali Heruti-Sover — Even though Jisr al-Zarqa has more confirmed COVID-19 patients than any other Arab community in Israel, many of its locals are disobeying social-distancing rules and refusing to self-isolate. And now Ramadan is coming — As of Sunday, the coastal town Jisr al-Zarqa had more confirmed COVID-19 patients than any other Arab community in Israel – not including mixed Arab-Jewish cities – 32. Out of a population of 15,000, the town south of Haifa had two patients for every 1,000 residents – including an 82-year-old woman who is in intensive care in nearby Hadera. Despite the grim statistics, on Sunday the town center was abuzz. A knot of people – mainly women, most of whom weren’t wearing face masks and thus were violating the Health Ministry directive that took effect that morning – stood and waited patiently for the bus to Hadera. A cafe was open – another violation of the emergency regulations – and men, women and children walked around outside, without masks and without maintaining the social-distancing guidelines when they visited the town’s tiny grocery stores.

The contrast between life under the coronavirus in Israel’s poorest town – where the average household is eight people – and nearby largely Jewish towns, cities and agricultural communities is enormous. The streets of the city Or Akiva are desolate, its shopping mall shut. In Caesarea there’s a short line at the post office, but everyone there is wearing a mask and keeping a distance. Moshav Beit Hanania has an automatic gate at the entrance and a big sign saying entry is prohibited for the sake of residents’ health. Jisr al-Zarqa, in contrast, a COVID-19 hot spot, is open to everyone…


Other news

UN OCHA: COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 4 (7-13 April 2020)

[long and detailed article, with map of cases] Situation Overview As of 14 April, a total of 284 Palestinians are confirmed to have COVID-19 in the oPt, 271 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem Palestinians), and 13 in the Gaza Strip, with 58 of these recovering. A 55-year-old man died on 10 April, bringing to two the total number of fatalities, both in the West Bank. The current number of people detected positive for COVID-19 in the oPt, especially in Gaza, remains low relative to other countries, but this may reflect the limited testing capacity. Of increasing concern is the lack of information regarding cases in East Jerusalem, as these are not covered by the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) and are not disaggregated in the overall figures by the Israeli authorities … West Bank Strict movement restrictions and social distancing measures remain in place. Currently, there are sixteen official quarantine centres and fourteen unofficial quarantine and medical facilities across the West Bank, where people who have COVID-19 are hosted, with additional community-based centres being established in refugee camps. The authorities have reported an acute shortage of medical equipment and supplies, including testing kits, as well as trained personnel … Protection Needs overview Across the oPt, there is an urgent need to provide adequate training on detection and referral of gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection cases to frontline staff at new quarantine sites. Unofficial quarantine sites recently opened in the West Bank lack basic monitoring and accountability systems, as well as recreational spaces for children, private breastfeeding spaces, female hygiene kits and adequate WASH facilities…


Coronavirus: For Palestinians, solidarity amid pandemic invokes spirit of the intifada

QIRA, occupied West bank (MEE) 19 Apr by Fareed Taamallah — From voluntary nurses to donating bread, Palestinian society has stepped in to tackle lack of medical and economic resources — “I can’t recall a difficult period in which our people didn’t stand together,” said Sami Mohammad. The Palestinian has witnessed many historic events in his 73 years of life, and the current coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the world has brought back memories of previous times of hardship and community cohesiveness, notably during the popular Palestinian uprising known as the [First] intifada from 1987 to 1993. “The social solidarity we witness nowadays due to the corona pandemic reminds me of the First Intifada when Palestinians were united to resist the other heavy virus,” the former political prisoner said, alluding to the Israeli occupation. Since the start of the pandemic, governments around the world have battled to persuade people to stay at home and have harnessed their economic capabilities and security forces to impose restrictions. But in the occupied Palestinian territories, the situation is very different. While the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers the occupied West Bank, is required to confront the coronavirus firmly, the Israeli occupation means it lacks many of the tools and the agency other states take for granted … The state of emergency declared in Palestine on 5 March has also exposed the modest economic and medical capabilities of the PA as it attempts to tackle the disease. Stepping into the breach to fill these gaps, Palestinians have exhibited increasing social solidarity as they volunteer for roles and create community groups to support Palestinian security forces and medical teams in fighting the virus. Many farmers have donated vegetables to infected areas, large stores in cities have published lists of goods they have at low prices, while some shops have written off the debts of some of their more vulnerable customers. Meanwhile, NGOs have introduced mechanisms that guarantee the arrival of basic materials to citizens either from donations or by directly linking farmers to consumers in their homes at fair prices…


Abbas contacts Arab leaders to confront Israel’s annexation of West Bank areas

RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 14 Apr — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a round of phone conversations with Arab leaders to urge them to oppose Israel’s possible annexation of parts of the West Bank, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said. In a tweet, Erekat said that Abbas spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the monarch of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; the emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah; and the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss “the Israeli plan of annexation and the need to prevent it.” The leaders also talked about the spread of the novel coronavirus and “other regional and international developments,” Erekat wrote. Palestinians fear that Israel will exploit the world’s distraction with the coronavirus pandemic to annex West Bank areas. The Palestine Liberation Organization recently warned against an agreement between Washington and Tel Aviv on the map of West Bank areas to be annexed to Israel. The organization said that Washington and Tel Aviv are close to finalizing the maps … Last Thursday, Erekat, also senior Palestinian negotiator in the conflict with Israel, tweeted that he had personally discussed the “consequences” of annexation with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, as well as Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a senior adviser to the Bahrain king.

Link: confront-israel%E2%80%99s-annexation-west-bank-areas

Palestinian Authority vows to meet market needs during Ramadan

RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 17 Apr — There is an abundance of goods and food supply that meet the needs of citizens for a period of three to six months, announced Minister of National Economy Khaled Osseili with the advent of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. “We have imported 21,000 tons of flour in March,” he told a press conference, pointing out that its consumption rate has decreased to 30 percent due to the closure of restaurants and the curfew imposed over the coronavirus outbreak. Rice consumption, meanwhile, has risen sharply during this period, revealed the minister. He said 1,884 tons of customs-free commodities were allowed to be imported within the quota, including various food commodities that meet the market needs, as well as 2,500 tons of customs-free frozen meat. Osseili stressed that the flow of commercial goods has been maintain between provinces to secure supplies, especially in regions that have been locked down completely. The instant electronic processing service has also been introduced to avoid any problem in import and export operations.

He made his remarks as authorities continued to report more coronavirus cases, meaning the preventive measures will remain in place throughout Ramadan, which begins next week. The PA has announced, however, that it would ease restrictions in Bethlehem, which had reported the first virus case 44 days ago. But the detection of more cases on Thursday forced it to reverse its decision. Security forces closed all entrances to the Dheisha camp in Bethlehem after cases were reported there. Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said six cases were reported as of Thursday noon. The patients were in stable condition. The latest cases take to 294 the number of people infected with the virus, including 81 in Jerusalem alone. Kaila said 61 patients have recovered.


Israel loans PA money; FM warns against Palestinian COVID-19 crisis

JPost 16 Apr by Tovah Lazaroff — Israel loaned money to the Palestinian Authority to help avert a COVID-19 economic and humanitarian crisis.“The situation with [coronavirus] in the West Bank worries us all and could cause a humanitarian crisis,” Finance Minister Moshe Khalon (Likud) said on Thursday after he met with President Reuven Rivlin and UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun and Chief of the UNESCO Coordination Unit, Jonathan Lincoln were also involved in the conversation on how best to help the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. According to the World Health Organization, there are 278 cases of COVID-19 among Palestinians in the West Bank, with two deaths. In addition, there are 13 cases in Gaza. But officials fear an outbreak and want to ensure that the Palestinians are equipped to handle that crisis. Coronavirus “does not differentiate between peoples and geographical areas. The breakdown of health in the Palestinian Authority would impact Israel severely and it is in our interest to assist the PA in this complex situation,” Kahlon said … Thousands of COVID-19 test kits and protective equipment were transferred to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the Finance Ministry said in a statement to the media after the meeting…


In first, Palestinian woman said to receive Covid-19 treatment in Israel

i24NEWS 11 Apr — A Palestinian woman from the West Bank city of Bethlehem was recently admitted to an Israeli hospital for treatment after suffering from complications stemming from the coronavirus. It is the first time that Israel has allowed a non-Israeli coronavirus patient to enter the country for treatment. The Palestinian woman returned to the West Bank after receiving care at the medical facility, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, which did not publish the dates or location of her hospitalization, according to Israeli online publication Ynet. Israeli officials have generally been reluctant to admit Palestinian patients for treatment, citing fears of overcrowding.


Health Minister confirms 6 new Covid-19 cases in West Bank

RAMALLAH, Sunday, April 19, 2020 (WAFA) – Six new COVID-19 (coronavirus cases) were confirmed in the West Bank today raising total in Palestine to 320, Minister of Health Mai Alkaila announced today. She said during the daily briefing that the six new cases were of a woman from the village of Shuqba, near Ramallah, who contracted the disease from her husband who works inside Israel. Four other cases were for four sisters from Kafr Aqab town, north of Jerusalem, who contracted the disease from their husband who works in Israel. The sixth case was reported in Tulkarm, in the north of the West Bank. With the new cases, the number of infected cases in the West Bank has reached 306 in addition to the 13 in the Gaza Strip. Plus, 111 cases have been reported so far among the native Palestinian population in occupied Jerusalem. Alkaila said the number in occupied Jerusalem is not final or official due to lack of exact information from the Israeli authorities about the city’s Palestinian population. Of the total infected, 248 are still active cases after recovery of 71 patients in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Two deaths have been confirmed in the West Bank so far. A total of 22,800 corona tests were also conducted so far, said the Health Minister, and 15,500 are in quarantine.


COVID-19 offers new opportunities for Israel-Arab relations

Al-Monitor 16 Apr by Rina Bassist — In the multitude of headlines over anti-coronavirus masks being purchased by Israel across the globe, news about Israel donating 5,000 medical masks to Jordan drew little attention. Perhaps it was because the foreign and defense ministries kept it low-profile, informing simply that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will oversee the delivery of the medical gear. Still, discretion does not mean inaction. Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Amir Weissbrod, facilitated on March 26 the passage of some 200 Israeli Arab university students studying in Amman back to the country, after the Hashemite Kingdom closed movement across its borders. The latest news signals that even while engaged in a world battle over medical equipment — the last shipment of coronavirus test kits landed in Israel April 15 from South Korea — Israel does not forget its neighbor to the east. Israel is obviously concerned about an outbreak in Gaza and, in this case as well, contacts are ongoing with another neighbor of Israel: Egypt. Israeli and Egyptian senior officials keep an open dialogue channel on the issue.


Pro-Israel group warns Israeli leaders that West Bank annexation would damage US-Israel alliance

WASHINGTON (JTA) 13 Apr by Ron Kampeas — A pro-Israel group is warning Israeli leaders that reports of planned annexations of parts of the West Bank would cause “long-term damage” to the U.S.-Israel alliance. “Such a move would make a two-state solution harder — if not impossible to achieve — and would likely have far-reaching negative consequences for the U.S.-Israel alliance,” Mark Mellman and Ann Lewis, the president and the co-chairwoman of the Democratic Majority for Israel, wrote to the three leaders negotiating to form a new government in Israel. The warning letters, obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, are notable because the Democratic Majority for Israel has pushed back openly against left-wing Democratic critics of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The DMFI has an affiliated political action committee. The letters were sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two of his rivals, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Annexation of parts of the West Bank may be on the table as part of a coalition agreement, according to reports, although negotiations have fallen apart. The new letters come around the same time a similar warning to Gantz and his fellow party leaders from more than 130 American Jews, including a number who have long been involved in the pro-Israel mainstream…


US gives $5 million to Palestinians amid pandemic after years of aid cuts

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 16 Apr by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub — The United States is giving $5 million to the Palestinians to help them fight the coronavirus epidemic, a U.S. envoy said on Thursday. The donation announced by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman follows years of aid cuts by President Donald Trump’s administration to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. “I’m very pleased the USA is providing $5M for Palestinian hospitals and households to meet immediate, life-saving needs in combating COVID-19,” Friedman wrote on Twitter. “The USA, as the world’s top humanitarian aid donor, is committed to assisting the Palestinian people,” he added. The $5 million will be international disaster assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the State Department’s website. There was no immediate comment from the Palestinians. The Trump administration since 2018 has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. The cuts have largely been seen as a bid to pressure them back to the negotiating table in peace talks with Israel…


Jesus’ supposed baptismal site mine-free after 53 years

i24NEWS 12 Apr — The minefield covered around 250 acres and contained an estimated 2,600 landmines — After 53 years of being a vast minefield, the holy site of Qaser al-Yahud, where John the Baptist is thought to have baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, has finally been cleared of landmines. After the 1967 Six Day War, the border between the West Bank and Jordan was heavily mined, including churches belonging to major sects of Christianity at Qaser al-Yahud, located in the Jordan River Valley in the West Bank. The last mine was cleared on April 9, allowing safe access to the churches and compounds that had been off limits to worshippers and the clergy for more than five decades. Thanks to a campaign that the UK-based charity the HALO Trust, whose mission is to “help war-torn communities recover by making their land safe,” initiated in 2016, the Qaser al-Yahud is mine-free just in time for Easter. The demining process officially began in March 2018 and was made possible by donations from church leaders, philanthropists, congregations and the Israeli President’s office…